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“Lost that family/friendly feeling”

Riverbank Restaurant
Ranked #46 of 238 Restaurants in Stafford
Price range: $12 - $22
Cuisines: British, European
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Special occasions, Large groups, Families with children, Business meetings
Dining options: Lunch, Dinner, Highchairs Available, Reservations, Seating, Serves Alcohol, Waitstaff, Wheelchair Accessible
Description: Long recognised as "The hardest table to get in Stafford", this is the training restaurant at Stafford College. It was formerly known as Earls Restaurant. With the move into the brand new Riverbank Building came larger premises, a new name and incredible views of landmarks like Stafford Castle, the windmill and Victoria Park. Food you won't forget at prices you won't believe!
Stafford, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“Lost that family/friendly feeling”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 28, 2013

We've been a couple times recently since the relocation, and sadly it seems things haven't gone well since the move. We've been going for a number of years now, and never had a single bad meal and always was felt like we were visiting Family & Friends rather than going to a restaurant, sadly this is no more.
As other recent reviews point out, since Seamus has left there has been a very obvious drop in standards. We miss him.

The staff who are left are friendly and accommodating but it doesn't resolve the sterile feeling of the surroundings. The food is still of an acceptable quality considering this is a training restaurant and good value for money (but still not as good as it used to be). Service is also slow at times.

There used to be a vegetarian main option which has now disappeared and have now been advised to call ahead if you want one. We did broach this with the current MaîtreD', but apparently they've never done vegetarian options? Which is strange as we've ordered them many times before.

We appreciate in some respects that changes had to be made because of the current financial climate...but possibly the wrong changes have been made...and it is sad for those who remember the previous college restaurant - Earls restaurant and the ever impressive Seamus.

  • Visited April 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
5 Thank Gareth H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Clare C, Public Relations Manager at Riverbank Restaurant, responded to this review, April 30, 2013
Hello and thank-you for your very constructive comments. Most importantly, I would want to assure you that our training restaurants are hugely important to our students and we have invested heavily in their facilities in the last twelve months.
I think that most people could understand and have probably shared at some point, your feelings when changes take place to a well-loved and familiar place. It is, though, part of our commitment to providing the very best training environment for our students with a view to creating excellent employment and progression opportunities for ambitious, skilled young people. I hope that in a short time, diners will be as fond of Riverbank as they were of Earls.
With regard to your comment about vegetarian alternatives, I am myself a vegetarian and when I have been lucky enough to get a table, both at Earls and Riverbank, I can confirm the restaurant manager's advice that there is not always an alternative dish routinely provided. Sometimes, depending on the curriculum needs of a particular group of students or the menu of a visiting chef, a single starter, main and pudding will be offered. At other times, they might be learning special skills with fish, or meat and this will be reflected in a range of options on the menu that day. They will always, though, prepare something for vegetarians or diners with other dietary requirements as long as these are noted on booking. Some of the best vegetarian food I have tasted has been at our own college restaurant. I will, though, pass on your suggestion to our chef-lecturers and if there is any way that they can routinely include a vegetarian alternative on menus, I am sure that they will do so.
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49 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Rating summary
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
“What has happened to Riverbank”
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 27, 2013

What has happened to the Riverbanks restaurant? I have had all my forward bookings cancelled by telephone by the college with no explanation. Recorded message. The restaurant used to be a pleasure to visit when it was Earls Restaurant; the new Riverbank design is not so pleasant. We have had to complain about the food ( salad dried up, left standing on the hot plate was the explanation but no apology). No where for coats to be hung, coats were on a wet pile on a chair. Mine ended up on the floor. The tables are too large for a couple to have a conversation. The maitre’d Seamus is not with the college anymore, on querying this with members of staff I was told that ‘We are not allowed to say’. Neither Ann nor Jane are available to answer any queries. The cover for Seamus is more like a down market caff not somewhere I would wish to take friends for a meal. Not a restaurant I would wish to visit again.

  • Visited March 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
8 Thank rita64
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
26 reviews
18 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
“No way to repay loyalty”
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 16, 2013

This review has no stars as we didn't get through the door this evening despite having a firm booking, as were others in the queue behind us. We arrived to find an empty restaurant and were told a rambling tale abourt lack of staff, lack of telephone numbers and/or email addresses to enable them to inform customers of the cancellation of Tuesday evening dinners, ad infinitum. We were told our booking was null and void, and there were no spaces for future bookings in the near future. One of our party has been a loyal customer and supporter of Stafford College Restaurant for 40 years, and to be summarily dismissed at the door was insulting and unworthy of this establishment. We doubt if we are alone in our dismay at such an experience, and trust that future students will taught the value of loyalty. The recent disappearance of their excellent maitre d' and office staff has puzzled and nonplussed us and tonight's debacle seems to point to a sad lack of public relations skills. What a shame that things couldn't have stayed as good as they were.

Visited April 2013
11 Thank copy62
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Clare C, Public Relations Manager at Riverbank Restaurant, responded to this review, April 19, 2013
Thank you for taking the time to make this contribution, Copy62. You raise an important issue and one which Kitchen Training Co-ordinator Jason Smith wanted to respond to, directly. He asked me to pass on these comments:

“Thank you for your comments. They help us to move forward with the quality of what we provide not only for the students, but also for our customers. As a department we work tirelessly to maintain the highest of standards and to deliver outstanding teaching to all of our students.

We fully appreciate that there have been some changes within the area in recent weeks and that this has brought some disruption, not to the meals that the students prepare and serve to our customers, but undeniably to our booking systems. I can't apologise enough for this.

I can assure you that our vision is to provide a consistently wonderful environment in which to learn and to visit. We are intensely proud of the reputation of the Riverbank Restaurant and Bistro and we are currently bringing about improvements which will help us achieve our ambition to become recognised as the best dining experience in Staffordshire.

Thank you again for your custom, it is a fundamental and highly valuable part of the students’ time at college and we look forward to seeing you again soon”.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Stafford, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Perfection on a plate!!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 25, 2013

Last night, (13th February 2013) I was one of the fortunate few to have a table at Riverbank Restaurant at Stafford College. It had been booked before Christmas and the anticipation was worth the wait!

The students were very smart in their new grey uniforms. The service was friendly and absolutely spot on. They are obviously very proud of their new very elegant restaurant.

The starter; Wild Mushroom & Cashew Risotto was 'Perfection on a Plate' The mushrooms didn't overpower the delicate blend of rice and cashews. It was just gorgeous!

Next, an amuse bouche; Apple Celery and Mint which arrived in a doll's house sized cup and saucer. It was most unusual but very delicious

The main course, slow braised blade of beef was just exquisite. It had been cooked for 6 hours and was so tender it completely fell apart when it saw the fork. Served with stir fried cabbage, Mousseline Potato, Hand and Flower Carrots in Red Wine gravy

My dining partner had the Fish Chips and Mushy Peas and was of the opinion that the fish and chips on a 5 star cruise ship can never be surpassed. This accolade was soon toppled by the sight of a huge, crispy battered fish which was 'delicious beyond words' ... apparently. I have to take this as read as 'it was so wonderful - it was too good to share!,' It came accompanied by home made tomto sauce with bread and butter.

Next, a delicate flavoured pear sorbet arrived in small Martini glasses which was very refreshing. Then the desserts; I had the Strawberry Tart and Fruit coulis. The fresh strawberries actually tasted of fresh summer strawberry My dining partner had the Banana brulee and shortbread which was pronounced 'divine'

Coffee and tea with handmade chocolates followed to round off a fantastic meal.

Compliments to Mike Hughes in the kitchen, Seamus Davies, front of house and the students, the food and service were on a par with a 5 star restaurant and they all made it seem so effortless!

On the way out was spoke to one of the students who worked in the kitchen and he couldn't sing the praise of the course and the tutors highly enough.

Sadly we cannot get another table as they are booked solid till September,. Thus we have joined the long cancellation list of eager fans waiting to experience another fine dining experience at Riverbank Restaurant.

  • Visited January 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
5 Thank HimalayanLynx
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Clare C, Public Relations Manager at Riverbank Restaurant, responded to this review, February 28, 2013
Wow, what a wonderful review! Thank-you so much - I know that your comments have been circulated to all the students and lecturers involved in the restaurant and that they were thrilled that you had taken the trouble to write a TripAdvisor review.
I am so pleased that you enjoyed your meal - it sounds absolutely delicious!
Re the difficulty getting a table, I have been assured that, as of this morning, there ARE still a few tables available during evenings up until the restaurant closes in June. The bookings team are now only allowing reservations on a term-by-term basis and trying to make some tables available at shorter notice. If you need to book for a specific date or a large group, you might be unlucky but if you are able to be flexible enough to call and ask when you can get a table, you could be able to enjoy the Riverbank again well before September!
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Stafford, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
41 reviews
21 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 59 helpful votes
“Fantastic meal, nice setting, great staff.”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 13, 2013

The fact that you have to book so far in advance to get a table here speaks volumes.

My wife and I booked a table and along with our 9 month old daughter went for an evening meal on a Wednesday. After finding the restaurant (which wasn't too easy if i'm honest, even with directions) we were efficiently shown to our table, handed menus and offered drinks.

The young lady that served us was very friendly, understandably a bit nervous and shy perhaps but she did a great job and by the end of the night was much more engaging and chatty which was nice.

The food was delicious and from what I remember was (starter) goats cheese 3 ways, beetroot 2 ways for my wife and a lovely seafood dish cannot remember the name unfortunately for myself. Mains were then Fish and Chips for my wife (huge fish, they ran out of chips unfortunately but replaced with mash) and stuffed duck breast with ratatouille and various other bits for myself. Dessert was Banana Brulee and Strawberry Tart.

Sprinkle in a few other "compliments of the chef" dishes like spiced apple soup and pear sorbet and it really was a feast, we were stuffed.

We will definitely be back, unfortunately its difficult for us to plan so far in advance to book so will see when we can get back in.

One small request - is there any possibility of a high-chair for our next visit please :)

  • Visited February 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
3 Thank gk141054
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Clare C, Public Relations Manager at Riverbank Restaurant, responded to this review, February 15, 2013
Hi gk141054, we are glad that you enjoyed your meal and thank-you for taking the time to submit this review. You make some very useful points, which have been passed on and will be acted-upon. As you may know, the restaurant and bistro moved into the new building when it opened in November. They were formerly based in the Earl Street building, where the main Reception is situated. That meant that there was always someone available to give directions to first-time visitors. You are quite right that in the new building it can be difficult to find your way to the restaurant, particularly in the evening when there isn't anyone in the foyer. The restaurant team are looking into signage.
I gather that your own baby was the first infant visitor that there has been to the restaurant. Seamus and the students wanted me to tell you that this young gourmet was very welcome and exceptionally well behaved. Your visit has highlighted the need for at least one high chair to be available to people using the restaurant or bistro. A request for funds has been made today - you will appreciate that as a public organisation things have to be done in a certain way and we aren't able to just go straight out and buy one - do please feel free to ask before your next visit.
Finally, we do know that it can be really difficult to get a table, especially as our regulars have tended to book-up many months ahead. I gather that efforts are going to be made to reduce the time ahead that it is possible to book, without making our regular visitors feel that we don't appreciate their loyalty. It is hoped that in that way, it should be possible to ring up and book a table in the reasonably short-term, although I imagine that there will still be just as much demand for tables when the new system is introduced, it will just come down to a sprint to the phone line on Monday mornings. Get practicing your speed-dialling!
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