Sometimes a dining experience is so remarkable, one way or another, that our usual bright and breezy style needs forsaken in favour of more measured and deliberate terms.

Often this is employed in the calm and reverential praise of somewhere truly outstanding. Unfortunately, today went the other way when due to an unfortunate confluence of circumstances I ended up at the in-store cafe of British Home Stores.

Counter of doom

Counter of doom

BHS has plied its trade on Princes Street for as long as I can remember and more. One of my brothers was a management trainee there, many moons ago.

I’ve had their cafe on my list for a visit for a wee while, as their ridiculously cheap breakfast deal has caught my eye on several occasions and it looked worthy of a (potentially hungover) visit. However, it was at lunchtime that I crossed the threshold and was transported back to the misery of a bygone era.

Exactly which era that was is debatable, but the greyness of some of my lunch had me thinking of Dickensian pea-soupers, the thoroughly down-trodden expressions of the staff spoke of the workhouse, and the look of the place was like some kind of ghastly staging post on a journey to Dotheboys Hall.

Plate of sadness

Plate of sadness

The food on offer was served under lights and spanned some notionally hearty fare, from lasagne to fish n chips to lamb shanks to cottage pie. I opted for the latter, adding gravy and vegetables.

As I trooped back to my table next to faceless mannequins, the dish stared up at me like a joyless convict.

It was a plate of samey savouriness. As a Twitter correspondent accurately pointed out, there was nothing that tasted quite so awful as the poutine from Burger, but it was still mirthless fare.

Even the sound of my spoon against the plate as I dealt with the last vestiges of the nondescript gravy evoked Smike’s slate pencil as he etched out some ghastly demand from Wackford Squeers.

With the plate divested of its sorry burden, I thought of approaching the counter beadle with an entreaty of “please, sir, I want some more.” But of course I didn’t want to have some more or indeed spend any more time than was absolutely necessary in this pleasureless palace.

So overall, the BHS cafe was just terrible. It offered little if any hope on a cheerless day. I feel sorry for the staff who work here as their task is entirely thankless. Give them a break and give this place a miss.

Blythe scores BHS
2/5 for food
2/5 for presentation
1.5/5 for setting
2/5 for service
giving an overall 7.5/20

I ate: cottage pie, veg, gravy

I wore: the weeds of profound sadness

Total bill: £5.95

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Written by BKR