Well after the advertisements, we decided to book the just opened Austen's restaurant (now completely separate from the pub) for Father's Day in June. We were late booking, and were offered a slot at 1:45 which suited us fine as it allowed us time for a coffee and chat at home with our guests before strolling up to the pub. Having been regulars at the pub for many years, we were looking forward to the new look restaurant which promised Georgian elegance.
Whilst the refurbished restaurant looked lovely, we were dismayed to see that the refurbishment had seen the removal of the original Spitroast in the dining room - a great shame as it not only provided a great focal point and a welcoming fire in winter, it also gave us the beautiful spit roasted meats for which the pub was noted. We will probably never get to taste those again! It has been replaced with a glassed in niche containing a model cannon - very pretty, but they have lost one of the main features of the restaurant and replaced it with - nothing!
We were shown to a table in the side room which has 3 tables, one party was just paying, one was about to be served dessert and in the main room, most parties were finishing up their meals, so the place could hardly be called busy.
We were brought menus, and informed that as the fish had gone, the main course choice was beef or pork, Orders were taken, and a bottle of wine brought, and served in the most cack handed way by the inexperienced waitress ( filled the first glass almost to the brim). The starters arrived pretty promptly, but the water we asked for had to be requested several times, and then a half full jug was brought and half glasses poured for everyone before being taken away again
We then sat for over 30 minutes waiting for main courses, the main restaurant had emptied out, but there was no sign of our food, and no explanation offered for the delay. We asked one of the waitresses how much longer we would have to wait, and the owner came over to apologise, and gave the excuse that they were "busy" although by the time we had finished our starters, those few customers remaining were finishing up with desserts and coffee...... So that wasn't really good enough - we were th only people waiting for main courses!
So, in short the main problems were inexperienced (but friendly and willing) staff and some problem in the kitchen - both of which can be sorted out with a bit of time!
Well Sunday lunch was always going to be a shortened menu, but we found the descriptions of the offerings a bit pretentious - seared salmon belly turned out to be half of a salmon steak, and pliable chocolate mousse was ordinary chocolate mousse arranged in a curve. Presentation was good but the portions were tiny, especially when compared to the Sunday roasts offered in the restaurants previous incarnation. With every other pub in the area serving hearty portions of roast lunch, Austen's will struggle to survive in this market - especially with the current prices they charge for the tiny portions, no matter how beautifully they are presented.
As we paid we were given a voucher for 15% off our next visit, and given that they had only opened the night before, we will make use of it to try them again to see if the understandable teething problems have been sorted out. However - the hosts need to not insult their customers' intelligence by telling them that their main course is delayed due to pressure of orders when the main service of that was well past...... Keeping people waiting ages when the main restaurant is empty is not a smart move when trying to build goodwill and attract repeat custom - honest communication goes a long way towards keeping customers happy, and given the delay maybe even offering another drink on the house while we waited wouldn't have gone amiss (or free coffee afterwards)
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