I admit it. I could not resist reading stuff out in a cod-Swedish chef accent. Immature, I know. For the layout of this restaurant think city centre department stores circa 1986/7. Start at one end, collect tray, slowly shuffle past cakes, sandwiches and cold drinks, inching forward ever hungrier, waiting for someone in front of you to make a decision, bounce up and down on heels every time you come to a standstill, until you finally get to the hot food. Then, as in the good old days, the till is by the drinks so you end up having walked in a U-shape. This is the kind of establishment where you have to know how it all works and then you can navigate food lines, drinks queues and seating with ease, as did many of the younger kids. In fact, if you get a bit stuck, I would advise asking a nearby eight year old how you do something. There aren't really any staff about and from what I could see of the baffled number at the drinks machines it was the kids sorting out the adults.
Choice is limited and my usual lack of imagination meant that I had the fish and chips. Drew went native and had the meatballs, served with a slop of jam and gravy with a side of chips. My meal was nothing special, unspectacular fish and not very warm chips. The meatballs tasted exactly like a tin of Campbells meatballs - I kid you not. I had a strawberry tart which was perfectly edible although a little bit runny. We did not have coffee as I was slightly baffled by the system. It looks as though you pick the appropriate sized receptacle, pay at the till then shuffle forward to machines where you serve yourself.
This was a Saturday afternoon so it was about as crowded as it ever gets. Access is not too bad when getting the food, but the insistence on laying out tables and chairs in long refectory-style lines makes it difficult. People naturally gravitate toward the ends of these tables and if you are carrying oxygen - or in a wheelchair - you can't get to the middle section. Kudos though in that they supply a means of comfortably carrying more than one tray, a little trolley with wheels. Good for families, but also useful if you are a little unsteady on your feet.
Watch the pricing. Fish and chips is advertised at a reasonable £3.95 but on scrutinising the bill we had been charged £4.95. Drew opted for the large meatballs (insert own joke here) at £4.75 but was charged £5.75. Perhaps a charge is incurred when you say 'yes' to, say, gravy, jam, or tartare sauce.
I would say, only go here if you are intending to mooch around the store. It is not worth a special journey to have a meal. I should, however, point out that though the place was busy, chaotic and noisy most people seemed to be having a good time.