A café owner is hoping the most important meal of the day will earn him the bragging rights in the News & Mail’ s Best Bites competition, as he seeks to regain the top spot among reviewers.
Astalet owner Cenk Sahin opened the doors to the Aldershot High Street diner seven years ago and has seen it become a hit with workers looking to fuel up for the day and parents offering their children a weekend treat.
The non-greasy spoon – everything is cooked on a griddle rather than in oil – is, almost, unanimously loved in Aldershot, with online customer review site Trip Advisor rating it as the top restaurant in the town – that is until two weeks ago.
Mr Sahin, who prides himself on the rave reviews, was irked to find he had been knocked off the top spot by Kings Fish Bar, in Kings Road, after getting a ‘Very Good’ rather than the usual ‘Excellent’ rating from a customer.
Then, by Tuesday, the business – which also received a certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor this year – was found to have fallen again with the Indian Hut takeaway, in Shawfield Road, rising above Astalet into second place.
“I don’t know how this happened,” he said, pointing out Astalet has received at least double the number of reviews of its rivals.
Although he laughed it off, there was some genuine annoyance in Mr Sahin’s reaction to the culinary gazumping. This is a man who wants to be the best.
He was, however, confident that the high esteem in which his customers hold the café – leading to descriptions such as "always perfect" and "best fried breakfast in Aldershot" –would ultimately see the cream rise to the top once more.
“We are in a different trade,” he joked. “In my area, I am still number one!”
Astalet is now in the running for Best Bites, meaning fans have another reason to make their thoughts on the café known by offering their votes.
As well as the big portions and competitive prices, Astalet’s strong reputation is down to a clean environment in the seating area that was refurbished, expanded and redecorated after Mr Sahin took over the café.
He said trade had picked up quickly once Astalet opened, and now builders, office workers and residents are all seen eating in the café before work on weekday mornings, with families a regular sight at weekends, particularly on Sundays.
The menu is full of all-day breakfasts, omelettes, sandwiches with fresh bakery bread, salads, burgers and lunch dishes – including ‘huge’ jacket potatoes – plus milkshakes.
Mr Sahin said: “We’re very clean. The kitchen is open so when customers order they can see the food being cooked. We cook it to order and everything is nice and hot when it comes to the table.
“We have regulars who come in every day, and some always order the same thing,” he said. “We serve mostly breakfast but have changed the menu a little bit through people’s requests.”
One of these changes is the introduction of fresh coffee this year, which has proved a popular addition.
“People like their coffee these days,” said Mr Sahin. “Customers ask for certain things and we’re friendly with them so if they need anything they tell us. Time always changes. You go with demand.”