We live in Retford, which is 3 or 4 miles away from the Clumber Park Hotel. There are basically no decent restaurants within Retford town centre apart from the three Indian places. This 'Inn' is one of what appears to be two restaurants within the Clumber Park Hotel. We went on a Tuesday night. in early November. There was a wedding reception going on in one area; the more formal looking restaurant seemed to abandoned. We found 'The Normanton Inn' by following the signs through the hotel, along unhoovered carpets and past loos smelling of perfume and powder. I had been here once before so I knew the bar existed; for someone who has not been there, it may have been a little bit of a confusing trek. We arrived at about 7:20pm and the bar was fairly busy with about a dozen people; there were also about 10 people seated at tables.
The room itself is interestingly decorated with deep colours. Overall it is a little too brightly lit (they have added a glaring little standing multi headed light, one of the bulbs of which is out; this thing is glaring and awkward). It could be more hip and romantic, even, if they dimmed the lights by 20%.
We waited for a little while at the bar but no-one acknowledged our existence, as is the case with so many places when you first arrive. We grabbed who appeared to be the only waiter, and asked if we could take a table. We were given menus and we ordered drinks that arrived promptly.
The menu is fairly large and varied and actually does have some interesting items. It is separated into Sandwiches, Sharing Platters, Appetizers, Leaves, Grill, Stove, Sides, Pastry, and Ice Cream. There are interesting apps like Confit Garlic, Chive and Mascarpone Risotto; and Beef, Oxtail and Horseradish Potato Cake. The interesting mains for me are Wild Boar Steak; Ostrich Burger; Duck Leg. They are all presented with well thought out accompaniments. It was refreshing to see chilli and other ingredients to help pump the flavours of our well loved, if bland, national cuisine.
For a starter I had the potted crayfish with basil, lemon and chilli butter. My partner had crayfish, peppers and beansprout salad with a spicy peanut dressing. The potted crayfish turned out to be 'crayfish in a ramekin swimming in garlic butter with some basil leaves' and some garlic melba toast. It was not 'potted' as you would have expected. It was badly described, but was good. The salad was excellent.
We ordered another drink. The drinks were made and then they sat behind the bar waiting for the waiter to bring them. We eventually got up and asked for them ourselves.
For the main, I had the boar steak....whoops, no, they're out of that. I almost went for the ostrich burger but burgers can be so full of non-meat 'thingies' that I decided on the beef chilli pie with shallots and beans. My partner had the tagliatelle with blue swimmer crab, chilli and garden herbs. They proudly buy the pies in from the Topping Pie Co. in Doncaster.
The main course took a little too long to arrive, but maybe we can put that down to the fact they had a wedding; we'll give the kitchen a break on that. Many people confuse the waiter's ability with the kitchen's ability.
The pie was really good; the pastry base was a little underdone but all in all I enjoyed it. The beans were very good; tossed with garlic butter, I believe. The shallots were...not there. My partner really liked his tagliatelle. It didn't look like a huge amount but he said it was very filling and he wouldn't have wanted any more. The waiter brought over some ketchup, etc., which were in little foil packets; a big faux-pas for a kitchen that is trying quite hard.
We decided on Thaymar ice cream for dessert; again, a bought-in product, but the great quality of this local ice cream was undeniable. We shared 5 scoops for £8, served in a brandy snap bowl. It took them 15 minutes not to bring it out; we had to ask the waiter where it was. It appeared immediately - he basically just went into the kitchen and brought it out. The entire meal took over 2 hours.
There were three wait staff in the bar/restaurant; and a manager. It appeared that one girl was training another one. For all the wait staff, their awareness of the customers around them was basically non-existent. The wait person we had...English was not his first language so that was a bit of a struggle from time to time. He didn't know what sparkling mineral water was. When he realized what it was and asked for it at the bar, he found out that they didn't have any. We then asked for soda water and he didn't know what that was either. He was very pleasant and polite, but clearly needed more training. He was concentrating hard just to understand what people were asking for.
Overall, the wait staff think they're doing a good job, but they're inattentive and unaware. This is the management's incapability to train their staff properly. The kitchen: The menu has been carefully constructed and contains quite a few easy-to-do and bought-in items, but it works, and works quite well.
I wouldn't want to be in there in the height of summer, or at the weekend, or around Christmas, or on one of those massively overrated dinner and show horrors where the food is pretty dire. I would recommend going on a quiet night, off season, and you will probably have a well paced, properly cooked, enjoyable meal, if you can dodge the lack of staff training. Don't sit there expecting them to notice that you need another drink, or you need to order; be prepared with a bit of confidence to do a bit of the staff's job for them.
Would we go back? Yes, but not on a busy night.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.