HOW far do you have to go to get a decent cup of coffee? About 1,000 miles by my reckoning.

If you’ve been reading this column over the last few weeks, you’ll have twigged that I’ve been travelling across Europe with my son. We had a fabulous break, but even so, were both looking forward to returning to some familiar comforts. And we also became very aware that in some areas, Britain lags woefully behind our European niegbours.

Coffee being one of them. In the last two weeks I have enjoyed a cup of coffee in four different countries - I use the word ‘enjoy’ advisedly. Every town, city and village I visited managed to serve it better and with considerable more style and panache than the UK.

First prize goes to a little restaurant in back streets Vienna. We’d spent a couple of hours at the Prater, the famous viennese funfair. After several goes on the dodgems our flagging spirits needed reviving. A couple of splendidly enormous Wienerschnitzels did the trick and I ordered a cup of coffee to round off the meal. As always, in Vienna, served with a glass of water, small jug of milk on the side, a selection of sugars and a small cake or biscuit. The coffee; intense and full of flavour; a stimulus to the senses as well as the brain. The water; to quench the thirst.

Second prize has to go to a small Cantina (a local restaurant) in an out of the way village in Italy. An individual espresso pot arrived at the table accompanied by four home made meringues, a complementary glass of limoncello replacing the water. (I had the limoncello, my son the meringues). It was the perfect ending to a perfect meal.

And, to my surprise, third prize goes to McDonald’s Café Mac. In the UK, McDonald's gets away with serving coffee (as everything else) in a cardboard. In central Europe the clientele is a little more discerning. Café Mac serves good Espresso, in proper china cups accompanied by range of savouries and pastries. On a proper plate with proper cutlery to match. And the coffee was good and came with a small jug of hot water so you could either enjoy it either intensely or longer at your discretion.

In Salisbury, as in the rest of the UK, the cardboard bucket prevails. I invariably order the smallest; it is invariably too large. To retrieve it I am now expected to divulge my Christian name and I am asked to select from a plethora of meaningless names; skinny, flat, grande. Designed to conjure up an air of specialism, mystery and expectation unable, however to mask the inadequacy of the product and its presentation.

Just 12 months to go, then, till my next decent coffee...