After a night of too many vodka and cokes, it was no surprise that I had woken up with a pounding head and an incredibly dry mouth. But as I dragged myself out of bed, I remembered some advice my friend told me when I first moved to Portsmouth, “if you are ever hungover, go to Mumms.”
Fast forward several months later, to last weekend, I finally understood why she told me that.
The décor inside Mumms is strange, an odd mix of various styles that I’m not too sure work together. The walls are painted red and white but on the walls are classy black and white portraits of Hollywood stars. They have retro American route signs yet, at the same time, 60’s style diner tables with little, plastic ketchup bottles.
Moving on, quite literally, to the till where I read the worn down, dog-eared menu and ordered my breakfast. They serve what you would expect – paninis, breakfasts, sandwiches and jacket potatoes – and although there are no surprises they are all cheap, very cheap.
I ordered a Full English with eggs, sausages, bacon, toast and beans for just £3.50 and a baguette with a mug of tea. I paid in cash as they had no card machine and noticed how they make their coffee. There is no fancy equipment with steamers or fresh coffee beans but rather a push of a button coffee maker where you put your cup underneath and wait for the result. As a tea drinker, I don’t mind as boiled water is the same wherever you go but I know one or two coffee snobs that would. But, if you can buy a mug of coffee for just £1.50 so does it really matter?
The man at the till was very friendly and as he gave me my change he wished me well and handed me a piece of bread with my meal ticket. I sat on one of the plastic chairs and stared at the slice of bread. Was it for my breakfast? Was it a mistake? A Mumms tradition? I must have looked mad, glaring down at it, muttering to myself in confusion. I still don’t know what it was for and ended up leaving it behind.
The breakfast and baguette came moments later and snapped me out of my bread-focused trance. The Full English encompassed a huge plate and the baguette was a huge slab of bread and meat. The breakfast was one of their smallest so I couldn’t imagine what the ‘Monster breakfast’ looked like but it was more than enough for me. It wasn’t anything spectacular. The bacon wasn’t organic and the sausages weren’t laced with fresh herbs or whatever else. It was just what it was and I liked that. Good ol’ fashioned no nonsense food.
The baguette was literally one-half of a French baguette on a plate, packed with sausages and bacon and slathered with butter. Oh god was it delicious but I still couldn’t help but find some amusement in the chef’s blasé attitude to my meal.
I could almost picture him (or her) in the kitchen, grunting as they chop a French stick in half, throw it on a plate and send it off grumbling, “I can’t be bothered, I’m going out for a fag.”
With Mumms you know exactly what you are going to get and that’s its charm. It’s not trying too hard to be anything else, unlike some places. It just is what it is – a greasy spoons. Amongst all the hipster cafes with rustic tables and chairs and food served on slate boards, Mumms is a welcome alternative. I think some places get too caught up in becoming something new and flashy. And, although it’s nice to visit those places, sometimes it’s worthwhile to have a greasy fry up at a cafe that is rough around the edges.
It has its own charm and that is something valuable nowadays. Almost as valuable as a good hangover cure…