I love the way that food is so strongly linked to memories. For me, it has the same effect as smell and can mentally regress you to a time when life was good,
with no bills to pay, major life changing things yet to come and your whole existence just waiting for you.
Oddly enough this rather dramatic thought, especially for a humble foodblog like this one, has a profound effect on me when I visit places; especially when they’ve
been a part of my life previously, and the Haldon Forest Diner is one of those places.
But it wasn’t The Haldon Forest Diner, it was a Happy Eater.
Happy Eater restaurants were founded in 1973 as a rival to the vast monopoly that Little Chef restaurants had. They were more family orientated and had outside play
ground equipment, normally large fibre-glass creatures with a slide down their trunk/nose. They ceased to exist in 1995 when they were amalgamated in to Little Chef which
ceased to exist in 1997. For me I had memories of coming up here whilst it was a Happy Eater with my grandmother, and scoffing down English Breakfasts chosen from a brightly coloured, lamenated menu.
Two were established on the northbound and southbound carriageways of the A38 on the summit of Haldon Hill. For a while they both lay derelict, but the southbound restaurant was converted back to a restaurant. The latest incarnation of this conversion is the Haldon Forest Diner which we visited last week whilst procrastinating an inevitable visit to Trago Mills.
These funny roadside restaurants have a very eighties feel to them, and I remember an excessive use of indoor plants and lots of play equipment strewened across the floor when it was a Happy Eater. Oddly enough I also remember the whole restaurant having a very grubby and unloved feel to it, which bizarrely has now gone.
The first thing that strikes you is how clean it looks. The carpet looks well kept, the tables were all clean and even the window sills looked like they were dusted regularly. The setup was simple, order at the till and your food comes to you. Mostly caff-stuff, fried breakfasts, fish n chips, pies etc.
I had an All Day Breakfast for £4.99 with a £1.20 mug ‘o’ tea. Happy with price, the service was polite but a little apathetic to my existence, tinged with that sense of doom that you get on a rainy Saturday lunchtime.
The food came very quickly, and as soon as it landed on the table, we devoured it like ravenous starved tigers eating a fried breakfast.
The whole thing was very good, the food was top-notch and from spying at some of the portion sizes from other meals available the value looked good. I felt that the £4.99 was reasonable for what the meal was, it wasn’t dirt cheap but the bacon was thick and the sausages were suprisingly nice too.
Conclusion. Perfect pit stop grub.