I've not eaten here for a few years after a couple of expensive dinners spoiled by a combination of poor service and cold meals, caused, I think by the distance between the basement kitchen and the ground-floor dining room.
We had a table for two on a weekday evening.
The room nicely decorated, although the faux-Victorian library look is beginning to date. Cleverly chosen light fittings and clever bits-and-pieces on the shelves.
The young, eager, apparently local, staff were a delight. The exception was the supercilious sommelier. But hey! Some people might like being looked down on when choosing wine.
We went with the a la cart dinner menu.
Now, we are paying a lot of money for this fine-dining experience and, in a grand dining room with uniformed waiters, linen napery, multiple menus and all the trappings of a high-end restaurant. Why then does the waiter serve the amuse bouche of gaspacho with the announcement that it is a "COMPLIMENTARY AMUSE BOUCHE from THE CHEF"? Do many local diners with this much to spend not know/expect that they may get a cup of summat or a bite of summat to put them on while waiting for their starter, much as prawn crackers in a Chinese restaurant. The same happened at the end of the meal, when the coffee was accompanied by "COMPLIMENTARY PETIT FOURS". In both cases the emphasis is mine but the young waiter was clearly at great pains to make us understand that these bits and pieces that we were about to enjoy but hadn't ordered were not going to be charged for. I've never come across it elsewhere.
We both had the same starter: seared veal sweetbreads. You can no longer buy them in a butcher, presumably because they all gravitate to the restaurant trade. Then again, very few restaurants serve them. How were they? Well, the "meat" of the glands was perfectly cooked; soft, unctuous and sweet. However, they tasted oily and as if they had been "seared" in stale, used fat. The jus was over-reduced and verging on Bovril.
The halibut main was fine. The lobster main was a mixed experience. The (small) lobster tail was perfectly tasty. Where was the claw meat? Perhaps in the tortellini? If so it was a VERY small lobster. The contents of the tortellini tasted of - nothing. Was there supposed to be lobster in it? I know lobster is expensive but I expect to see more of the arthropod for £35:00. The trimmings were tasty.
The rhubarb desserts were a triumph and better than anything else we ate.
The cheeses were well-chosen and well-kept. The waiter even knew what each cheese was and what is was likely to taste like. Increasingly unusual to find a waiter who knows anything about the cheeses on the chariot!
As seems to be the pattern with British restaurants, the service which has excelled up to pudding then fell off. Getting coffee, the bill and a taxi took an age. However, once we got to the taxi bit the staff were infinitely helpful in getting us the right taxi to cope with my disability.
We will certainly go back in the hope hat hey have continued to improve.
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