"BIG shop" day, big style this week. With our pantry and fridge channelling Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard - and with the household supplies of rabbit food, dog meat and cat biscuits running low - we headed out for a stock-up, with my husband being bribed with the prospect of a slap-up lunch at the successful end of the expedition.

"Will I need to put on a tie?" he enquired, hopefully. He didn't. The lunch I planned didn't require smart casual as a dress code.

The boot laden with top quality feeding hay for the rabbits (they eat more expensively than I do), along with dog meat and cat food, we negotiated the mini roundabout between Pets at Home and Tesco in Barrow and headed into the latter to do our own shopping for essentials. After which - and for the first time ever - we parked up our trolley in a lockable cupboard and headed to the Tesco cafe to partake of lunch.

I've walked past it countless times, Tesco being my "big shop" venue of choice; but I'd never ventured into the cafe. For our debut, we ordered a full English all-day breakfast and fish and chips, with two pots of tea and a slice of chocolate orange cake to share for afterwards.

The first thing to say about the Tesco cafe (which was revamped a year or two ago) is that it's spotlessly clean. No detritus of other people's meals on the tables, no unsightly cup rings on the tables, just a bright and fresh eating place, with armchairs and coffee tables as well for those wanting to relax, perhaps while their companions do the shopping.

The other thing to say is that the staff are lovely - chatty, friendly and helpful.

Our two decent-sided pots of tea were the first things to arrive (proper order), both of us pleased not to see stainless steel pots but proper China ones with decent spouts - and with large cups to match. Twining's Earl Grey for me (because I'm posh), and builder's tea for Gordon (who isn't). Gordon's big full English, at £6.25, was quite a plateful, with good quality bacon rashers, lovely hash browns, beans, some slightly bland sausages and two nice but overcooked fried eggs. Fried bread completed the line-up, which Gordon left to the end and adorned with marmalade, to the amazement-slash-horror of one of the staff.

My hand-battered cod, at the same price as the breakfast, was certainly plentiful: a thick piece of pleasingly white, firm-fleshed fish, a large bowl of chips and a mound of garden peas, with tartare sauce. For a supermarket cafe dish, this was as good as one could expect. Tasty, piping hot and good value. No complaints at all.

We left the best to last. When I ordered the chocolate orange cake, the woman at the till nodded in appreciation, "Good choice", she said. "It's new on the menu and it's really popular."

And no wonder. Seriously, this was one of the best pieces of cake I've had in years. It was moist, it was orangey, it was chocolatey, it was absolutely blooming gorgeous. Gordon and I were practically fighting over it. If this had been produced by a contestant on the Great British Bake Off, it would have earned a handshake from Paul Hollywood, without a doubt. I'd go back to the Tesco cafe every time I shop there if I knew that delicious cake was going to be on the menu.

Licking chocolate orange sponge off our lips, we retrieved our shopping and left the store feeling pleased that we had finally discovered the delights of the in-house cafe. I'm no aficionado of such places, but the Barrow Tesco one is definitely the best I've been in. Friendly service, spotlessly clean and with cakes that would impress the Bake Off judges.

Tesco Cafe, Hollywood Park

Marks (out of five)

Food 4

Service 4

Value 4

Atmosphere 3


Brilliant for people watching

Seriously good cake

Friendly service


Overcooked eggs

Cutlery a bit flimsy