The last time I was in a Co-op cafe was in Lincoln when I was about six-years-old and out shopping with my Nan.
It offered exactly the sort of thing that she wanted – good but simple food with no fuss.
As I sit surrounded by ladies with their grandchildren, nattering families and old friends leisurely watching the day wind away, I can see that very little has changed.
The menu at the Co-op also offers a lot more variety and choice than you might expect.
They offer main meals at impressive value, including a large Yorkshire pudding with mince and vegetables or chicken casserole for just £4.75, a roast dinner for £6.55, and home-made cottage pie, lasagne, beef cobbler, quiche or jacket potato with salad - all for just under £6.
I saw some nearby diners enjoying the ‘roast of the day’ and a beef cobbler, and I must admit they weren’t half tempting - especially when hungry and creeping in from the harsh winter winds.
There’s also a lovely range of all the usual sandwiches, snacks and treats that you’d expect from a cafe - including some mouth-watering desserts - both the cheese cake and coconut sponge with custard looked particularly appetising.
Chilly winter weather was starting to kick in, so I fancied something homely to warm me up.
I went for the soup of the day - chicken and mushroom. The soup was almost everything you could want - chunky, tasty and unwholesome, but unfortunately it was a wee bit cold.
Then I went for a hot beef baguette with salad to fill a hole.
It may not have been spectacular, but it certainly did the job and I have had much worse.
As I sipped away the last of my steamy coffee and indulged in the warm, family-friendly atmosphere and people calm, eyeing up the low numbers on my receipt, I felt certain that I might well pop back one day.
There are far superior cafes and restaurants in the area, but for a quick snack and chat without breaking the bank, the Co-op should see you right.
So if you’re meandering around the Market Place and fancy something cheap and cheerful in a soothing and familiar environment, then you can’t go wrong with the Co-op cafe.
By Andrew Trendell