May 27, 2014

Morrisons Preston Review

Those pictures do not give justice to the fresh section in the new Morrisons. Please bear that in mind. Pictured (by my Mom, it had been a very tiring day but I needed the photos before someone committed Rudolphicide - so thanks Mom) is Morrison's Rudolph Bread, which is so cute, a Tiger Bread Bagel, and then Tuscan Black Cabbage, a Candy Beetroot, a Golden Beetroot, (very red) Cherry Tomatoes, Mini Peppers, and Organic Shallots, going clockwise in the middle picture. As if that ain't confusing. By the way, if you haven't already guessed, these are old photo's. 

So, a new Morrison's has opened up just down the road from me. Well, it did in December. But it takes me a while to get round to things. That, in itself, is more than just a bit stupid. Now, within a generous ten minute walk from my house, is a big Sainsbury's, an Aldi, a Marks and Spencer's food hall, and a Morrisons. There is also a big Asda a short-ish drive away. Which is kind of overkill if you ask me. And a lot of people to be honest. You would think, that having so many supermarkets in such a small area would mean that they are all a bit worse off as the same amount of custom is now spread out more thinly, but no. Apparently it's a good idea to add in another supermarket. 

So, the new store. It's built on a site which has been waiting for something to happen to it for years. And we mean years. I couldn't say exactly, but I'd say at least 5. Then we hear that we're getting a Morrison's there (after we hear of several other proposals) and nothing happens for a while. And I mean a while, then all of a sudden, work starts happening there. Due to chemo brain, it's hard to remember quite when, but for arguments sake, lets say that it was summer. By November/December, the site has been cleared, and a store has been built and is ready to go. This includes adding a pedestrian crossing and set of traffic lights that allow people on and off the Morrisons sight (not so good for traffic in the area). All in less than 6 months, I'm pretty sure. Not bad. Just shows that you can get something done if you put your mind to it. 

From what I can tell, the store has generally been described as a bit weird. Shoppers should bear in mind that it is a 'Retail Warehouse' and not a typical supermarket. I'm not entirely sure what the actual difference is, but you can tell there is one there. With the exception of the fresh section, which has included some things that I've not seen in other supermarkets, there is a more limited choice then in most supermarkets of comparable size. But they do have lots (in quantity) of the choices that they do have, for example, they mainly have Dairylea brand cheese spread/'snacking' cheese, but they do have a lot of that one choice, rows and rows of the stuff, which is a shame cause I personally don't like Dairylea. Dad says that it's designed for bulk buyers. The kind of people who would like to buy a litre of lemon juice for 50p. 

On a side note while we're talking about cheese, they have finally started selling Laughing Cow brand, but not the purple triangles. So close my friends, so close. Also, they have Cheezly - a brand of  vegan/dairy free cheese substitute - in. Only one type, the white cheddar block, but its the only type of 'fake' cheese that I have ever seen in any supermarket. It does get a bit lost amongst the rest of the cheese though. I'm quite excited to try it though, vegan mac and cheese here we come! (I'm sorry people.) 

The deli counter/butcher counter/fish counter la di da are also not done as they are in other supermarkets. Or done as it says it is done on the Internet. Instead of say, going to the cheese counter, asking for 100g of brie, and it being cut up there and then for you, they portion and package all the meat/fish/cheese/olives and you can choose from those. It is done fresh every day though, and any produce not sold that day is clearly marked down and sold the next day. Also, the deli counter is basically just olives, they don't do sliced sandwich meats etc. like they do in most places. 

They do however have a large salad bar and a "we'll make your pizza how you want it" bar. They do work how you expect, and are both a bit more extensive then they are in other stores.

The two bits where I think that the store really excels is the Fruit and Veg, and the ethnic section. These are the main reason why I continue to trek (get a parent to push me) that little bit further to go their (now the 75p pot noodles have stopped). 

The fruit and veg section is really big. Maybe half a dozen very large aisles plus extra bits? If I walk round all of it, it's big enough so that my parents are happy enough I've had a good walk. Not thrilled, but happy enough. Some of the aisles are even refrigerated. It's at least twice as big as the fruit and veg section in Sainsburys. Maybe a bit more.  They have a good selection from the 'Savers' range to the posh range, with a lot of loose produce so you can pick what/quantity's you want, especially with things like ginger and chilli's (and apples). They also have things that other places just don't. A much greater variety of things in general, but 'specialty' produce as well. Think cassava and plantains, and when we went today, they not only had aubergines, but white aubergines and graffiti aubergines. They have a lack of peaches/nectarines though, very disappointing. And don't know what to do with that brown knobbly thing in your hand? They have small cards with a small 'blurb' with their more 'exotic' vegetables. They don't give you a great deal of information, but it's still a nice and useful touch, and sometimes they have basic information on how to cook the vegetables (steam/boil etc). They also have a stand where they put the seasonal produce. This is where the kale was (I want kale). This is where the tomatoes and asparagus and jersey royals are now. 

Is there nothing else in season in Britain apart from jersey royals and asparagus? And rhubarb?

The one problem I have found with the produce section, is that sometimes you will go, and although there will be a lot of fruit and veg, you look around and think "they need a delivery and restock". There can, all to often, be bare patches. You can see where there should be a load of mushrooms, lets say, but there is just a few boxes. My Dad often finds a lack of apple bags terribly frustrating. Is it really too much to ask that they keep their shelves stocked?

The other section that I think they (generally) do very well on, is the ethnic foods section. I mean, come on, it has its own freezer! and not a diddy one either. There is a large Asian community in Deepdale, and Dad says that Morrisons have obviously done their market research and added a decent section accordingly. They have loads of halal foods (not that this really concerns me), freezer sections full of premade Indian breads, samosas and snacks, and vegetables- think garlic cloves, okra and mango pulp. They have massive bags of rice. Like 5/10 kg bags of rice. They also have loads of cheap beans/pulses, both canned and dried. For example they currently have 12 cans of chickpeas on at £1.50. Mom's not happy - "and where are we going to store them?!?!?!?!?".

The kitchen table evidently.

I know. And it isn't just when items are on special offer, there's all sorts of little 'cheaper' wonders that you can find, like spices and gram flour, that is more expensive when found in the rest of the store. The canned beans are salted, but we just wash them don't add any extra salt to a recipie, and they have a good variety. Think WHITE kidney beans (33p). 

The store itself is a bit dark, a bit dingy, but not in a bad way. More, light airy and cool. Think warehouse. Big, high ceilings, but a bit dark. Not dark as in you need a torch, but not flooded with artificial light either. 

Maybe they're just using energy saving light bulbs. 

A note on the checkouts: we haven't got the hang of them yet. I have got the hang of how they are supposed to work- you load, they scan, you pay, then you pack. While you pack, someone else's shopping gets scanned and directed into another area. It's supposed to speed the whole process up and get through queues quickly. But we haven't got the hang of them yet. Maybe we just need more practise. Maybe we'll get it eventually. Maybe we won't. At least we know how it's supposed to work. 

A note on the loos: I've only been in once (it was the accessible one), but when I went, it was clean. Now, I didn't take a swab and send it off to the lab to get tested, but by general appearances, it was clean. No loo paper on the floor, no overstuffed bin, no worrying marks of worrying color, no puddles. I'd say it was of average or above cleanliness. 4-5 stars. (Can I give it five stars? I didn't send off samples to a lab...)  It was also, what I found to be, a good accessible loo. Yes, some are better than others. Now, I know that everybody's different, and what's useful for me might be very unuseful for someone else, but for me, it was a good set up. And the dryer was next to the sink. I can't work out who, if they have mobility issues, would find that a dryer as far away as possible a good thing, but everyone has individual needs... Or maybe people just don't think. Wet hands = slippy = can't use crutches safely = can't get to dryer = wet hands... But this dryer was appropriately placed. 

It was however, a noisy experience. Think fans that go off when the doors open, a loud flush, hissy pipes when you run the tap, and an air blow dryer. They were all noisy, and loud, and Dad could here them outside. Also, the pipes etc. were not hidden behind walls, which I personally think they should be. I don't know if they get hot, but I wouldn't want to brush against one by accident. Also, it just looked a bit unfinished, it reminded me of when we were having the bathroom done. 

I did also notice that they didn't have a male and female loo, they just had a couple of male and female loos off the main corridor, like the disabled one (think Costa). I can't tell you what they were like, but this generally doesn't bother me, I share a loo with the rest of my family at home, why not outside, as long as only one person is using it at a time! I do know that this does bother some people though. 

Oops, just written 3 paragraphs on the loos :S

And finally (yeah, I know you're glad to hear that, well done on staying with me this long) we come to 'the Eatery'. Which does not sell water. Here that people? It does not sell water!!!!!! IT DOES NOT SELL WATER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have a serious issue with that. You can get hot drinks, or you can get soda drinks from the fountain. Coffee or coke? Yeah, I know. Mom assures me that if you asked, she's sure they'd give you a cup of water. Maybe I should have tried that out. Seriously though, they should sell bottles of water or something, because their limited options are not what you'd call the best options. 

They do have decaf though. 

Now get this into your heads, this is not the cafe that you find in other supermarkets, this is an eatery. Smaller choice of options, and none of them come on a plate. Good for the atmosphere they are going for, not good for the environment, but hey ho. Think those New York holes that you see on American shows. come in order, eat simple but good food, go. Please dispose of rubbish on the way out. A system a bit like in Subway, but your choice consists of more than sandwiches. Though don't be expecting gourmet. From memory, I think they do pizza, fish and chips, 'proper sausage' hot dog, breakfast and a couple of other things, but I can't remember. A very limited selection of baked goods, and a soft whip ice cream machine. They have a kid menu, which is basically a representation of all that is wrong with kids menus, but it does match the type of food served their. No nutritious healthy veg filled pasta dish, but then neither does the 'adults' menu. Think of it as the bridge between "a proper restaurant" and a fast food joint. 

Thankfully, they have introduced more seating, because to start off with they only had those high-bench-and-stool things. The type of things that they often put in cafe windows. They did not have any 'normal' tables. Or any tables at all really- think high counter tops. They did have an option for those in a wheelchair though - a shelf attached to the end at wheelchair friendly height. That's right, I ate my meal at a one foot square shelf with a great view of Dad's knees. Like I said, the introduction of tables and chairs is a great bonus. I might go there again now. 

The food, by the way, is actually pretty good. (What we had anyway.) 

In conclusion (yeah, you can have a conclusion after the 'and finally') it's a pretty good store. I, personally, like it. It would not be my 'be all end all' shop - some things I get frequently in Sainsburys they don't do, some things are cheaper in Aldi. But I like it. Maybe every few weeks. Or more when they have kale.  

So, has anybody else been to the new Morrisons?
What do you think of it?

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