Monday, 22 February 2016

Biddy at Metro Bank

I had the need to open a new savings account and the husband (my personal and magnificent internet researcher) discovered that the best rate for what I needed just happened to be at Newbury’s newest bank … Metro Bank.

Now anyone who, like me, knew and loved Waterstones bookshop on the site now inhabited by Metro Bank in Northbrook Street will be hard pushed to recognise the place. I must admit I always thought that, when it was Waterstones, it was a bit dark in there, and am very happy that the bookshop has relocated to Parkway, so do step inside Metro Bank if only for a look … and the warm welcome.

First up was an immediate greeting from a member of staff; a big, welcoming smile from a young lady who was genuinely friendly and asked how she could help me today. Once this was established, and on finding out that this was my first visit to the bank, she took me on a quick tour of the banking hall … after checking I had a few extra minutes to spare. Oh yes, and she had already made me a cup of coffee.

As I’ve said, you wouldn’t recognise the building of old, for now it is light, bright, spacious and very 21st-century. Without exception the staff who were not already engaged with other customers were eager to look up from what they were doing and say ‘Hello’. This really did feel like a special place, where the people working there are clearly happy in their work.

Just some of the things that I thought made Metro Bank special, before even getting down to business, are dog biscuits on the counter – Metro Bank pride themselves on being dog friendly, and whilst I don’t think my country-loving four-legged friend would want to go into town, it’s a great thing to know for those who do.

Then there are the vaults – a rarity in banks these days, and always good to know about should I ever inherit some family heirlooms. (Though quite where from goodness only knows.)

The child-friendly aspect is special too, and something Metro Bank prides themselves on, with, amongst other things, plenty of space for buggies. (A quick look on Google later told me that they have several times been awarded the Mumsnet Family Friendly Award.)

The Magic Money Machines are great for anyone who has a load of coins that need counting, whether you are child or adult, and even if you are not a Metro Bank customer you are welcome to use them – and free of charge.

And then down to business, which was dealt with very pleasantly, very efficiently – in fact completely pain free. Transaction finalised, I was asked if I could wait a moment as a Manager always likes to take a few minutes to meet new customers. Over came a young man, one of the Assistant Mangers, who had a brief chat and asked me how I would rate my visit. What else could I say but ten out of ten?

Nuff said.

Biddy x

Monday, 8 February 2016

Biddy at The Real Macaron Company

Macaron or macaroon? The coconutty cakes of my childhood were definitely macaroons with a double ‘O’. But the gorgeous, pretty, colourful, flavoursome delights at The Real Macaron Company in Newbury are surely only a distant, and far more sophisticated, Parisian cousin.

Having passed The Real Macaron Company on the way into town many times, I had been meaning to stop off and treat myself to a box of macarons for ages. Anyway, with a special tea-time planned for some of my nearest and dearest, I decided now was my opportunity.

The Real Macaron Company is on the corner of Newtown Road, close to its junction with Andover Road on the St John’s roundabout. There is on-street parking but I as I needed to be in town anyway, I decided to walk from there – and it only took me 15 minutes from Parkway.

They open at 10am (Wednesday to Saturday) and I arrived a few minutes beforehand, so on an unseasonably warm day sat and watched the world go by on the outdoor table and chairs until the lovely owner arrived to open up.

What I had not appreciated was that this macaron shop is also a lovely little café too, serving hot and cold drinks (very good coffee, and you know how I love my coffee), along with the essential macarons, home-made brownies and cupcakes, as well as fresh croissants and pan au raisins. Heaven!

Despite all the other temptations, including the smell of baking coming from the oven, I was determined not to be swayed and plumped for a macaron – a pistachio one, such a beautiful green, how could I resist? And very delicious it was too.

The café is tiny – but cosy, fresh and contemporary. I was surprised how many people arrived while I was there. A young woman who was also trying it for the first time, followed by a couple of regulars, and then a family of four. It was fairly bursting at the seams by now, and there was a lovely, friendly atmosphere. There are macaroon cookery books to browse through while you enjoy your treat, and on display are some fabulous ideas for wedding or party cakes – brilliant fun and a perfect way to ‘theme’ to whatever your colour scheme is as you can get macarons made to order in more or less any colour or flavour you fancy.

The owner, Gaye, was more than happy to describe all the macarons available that day, so before I left I bought a box of delights (lemon, chocolate, vanilla, coconut … and another couple of pistachio which were sooo good) to take with me. She also let me know about the macaron workshops that she runs regularly. I am planning on adding one to my birthday wish list …

Biddy x