My companion’s summation of our visit was “lovely décor for which one would have expected more given confused service, a considerable lack of vegetarian options and a number of other small disappointments.”
So, to more details. First of all, the online booking system which appears to have the same erratic nature as its predecessor here: I was informed that the earliest I could reserve a table was 3.00 p.m. but on arriving tem minutes early we passed no cars leaving and found the place more than half empty. Why? (I had the same problem with the Toby Carvery - it's a good way to lose business, take note.)
Secondly, we had intended to make use of the set menu. However, with just one vegetarian option and that containing some ingredients my companion does not get on well with, she was forced onto the main menu which merely had one further choice for her. Yes, this is a “steakhouse”. But, in today’s times when more and more family members are choosing an alternative diet, this has to be realised and catered for. (In my opinion this switch of restaurant from a “cheap and cheerful” carvery is a great gamble considering the general doom and gloom in the restaurant business at large and they will need to make a real effort for all diets and tastes in a family.)
We decided to start by sharing some nachos which surprisingly arrived almost instantly. But, unlike most one tends to have in restaurants, just a few of the chips appeared to be at best fractionally tepid with everything else cold which threw both of us. Is this the policy or did these just happen to be sitting around waiting for a customer? Tasty, nonetheless, however.
With a lack of set menu options, my companion then chose the “veggie burger”. On the plus side, she described this as one of the best she has ever eaten; on the negative side, it was relatively small (excluding a mound of bun) and “probably worth about £2 less”. It also appeared to come on a ridiculously small plate which rendered knife and fork eating almost impossible (no, not everyone wishes to pick up a massive bun and eat in a manner more suited to fast food restaurants).
Since she was eating off the main menu, I decided to treat myself to a rump steak (by far the cheapest of the steak options, some of which appear vastly overpriced). It was one of the most expertly cooked steaks I have enjoyed for a very long time indeed which does the chef great credit. The desiccated piece of tomato was a waste of space, however.
We both ordered chips: daintily presented but totally unremarkable, alas.
I confess to some communication problems with our first waiter (I suspect neither of us quite understood the other’s accent) and in a confusion of ordering I chose a “lettuce wedge”. This nearly gave us a fit of the giggles when it arrived: who really masticates a lump of cheap lettuce at least twice as big as a steak? There was sufficient sauce on it for the top layer of leaves only and that’s all that can be said.
Service? Most courteous and well-meaning but somewhat confused. Our drinks finally reached the table halfway through our starter course (by then the nachos were seriously hitting our throats), the main courses popped up with a different waiter before the starter had been cleared away (or even confirmed as finished) and the bill had to be requested twice. Little things but...
I note other comments about excusing “teething problems”. However, I seem to remember the publicity about the number of staff being employed and the fact that they were having comprehensive training time. I think that overall, considering that many of the options are at standard to high prices, a fair amount of “tweaking” is needed if this “dining experience” is to be taken seriously. My initial reaction is certainly not to rush back with guests, sadly as it is virtually on my doorstep, but I shall see. Certainly also, there are not sufficient “rave reviews” here to encourage people and, again in today’s economic climate, one wants to be sure that a special treat out is well worth the effort, for this establishment both in terms of making the trip for many as well as the food and service.
Finally, looking around as we made a decent effort to "dress smart" as requested, we were rather at a loss as to what "smart" and "casual" means nowadays? The only deductions we could make from those there were that perhaps shorts were unacceptable (T-shirts certainly were not) and perhaps, my companion suggested with a laugh, "buggies". "Beggars (the restaurant) trade can't be choosy", we decided. (Incidentally my companion was a very well-attired university student so this is not just an older generational comment!)
And the survey below? "sort of visit"? We were two family members, not a "couple" in the usual sense of the word, so which do I choose? And I've said "No" to "Can a vegetarian person get a good meal at this restaurant?" because yes, one "can" but only if the very limited choice is acceptable. The drop-down menu for "cuisines" is hard to obtain and the choices peculiar: somebody needs to amend this.
Overall score? My companion scraped hers up to a 7 which is probably fair, all things being taken into account. But we wouldn't at this stage push this up to a "4" on the grading system here.
We hope these comments are taken in the spirit of the constructive criticism intended. I repeat that the actual qualities of the steak and "burger" on their own were more or less faultless: everything else needs to try to approach that standard as well.
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