Saturday, 26 September 2009

The Dog & Crook, Brambridge

Ian is soon to be 26 (very old indeed), so to celebrate, I took him, and my mum (she always tags along for the good food) to local pub & restaurant, The Dog & Crook. I've been here once before, a few years ago, when our graduate year group were still doing friday pub lunch trips. I remember the food being really good, but the speed not quite fast enough for a lunch time outing. As this was an evening meal, at the weekend, we figured that wouldn't be an issue.

We ordered four starters altogether, Ian opting for the pigeon breast, me for the scallops, Mum for the lambs kidneys and the crevettes for Ian and I to share. The scallops were served with crispy bacon on top of a pea puree. They were nice and big, perfectly cooked, and went well with the bacon and pea puree. The only disappointment was the olive oil drizzled around the pea puree, as this mixed with it and overpowered the flavour of the peas - 8/10. Ian's pigeon also came with bacon, and was tasty, but came on top of a dressed salad, which meant the dressing tainted the pigeon flavour a little - 8/10. Mum's kidneys came with bacon also, and toasted brioche, with the dressed salad on the side. Mum says it was nice, and I've told her to go find a thesaurus and say something other than nice - 9/10 (She did elaborate, apparently the brioche went well with the kidneys, and the madeira sauce was lovely too, and it was all nicely presented). The crevettes (jumbo prawns for those not in the know) were meaty and cooked well, and came with slices of brown bread and butter, Ian awards them 7/10 - I agree, mainly because I like my prawns (jumbo ones included) cold and these were served warm.

The service here was friendly, and attentive, and there was a decent gap between the courses, but not so long that we thought we'd been forgotten about. The setting was lovely, a good distance between other diners (although close enough that I could still ogle their food) and quiet enough to hear yourselves talking.

The mains we ordered were the oven roasted lamb with sweet potato and parsnip mash, and two helpings of the sirloin steak - Ian ordered the sweet chilli prawns with his We thought that the prawns would come on the side of the steak, kind of like a surf and turf, but in fact it was a prawn and chilli sauce to put on the steak. I got to try this, and wow, it worked sooo well with the steak. We were also impressed with the amount of prawns in the sauce, it was well worth the £2.50 extra - 9/10! My lamb was well cooked, and the accompanying mash was lovely and sweet and really complimented the lamb, 9/10. Mum's was the same as Ian's, minus the awesome sauce.

For dessert Ian ordered the belgian waffles, with forest fruit compote and sticky toffee ice cream. It was yummy!! Ian says the waffle and ice cream worked well together, but he wasn't so sure the ice cream went with the compote -8/10. Mum was quite full (she's only little) so she just had the sticky toffee ice cream, which was apparently better than the ice cream we had at the theatre, because it was less creamy (Mum's not big on dairy) - 8.5/10 (she's soo awkward!). For my dessert I chose the orange and lemon steamed sponge pudding, and it was moist, tasty and had a nice custard with it. The only failing on this was that it came with quite large bits of peel, and I'm not really a peely person - 8/10.

A very nice meal had by all, about £30 each (includes soft drinks). I'd very much recommend the sweet chilli prawns with the steak if you decide to visit. They also do a lot of seafood specials, and seemed to cater well for veggies.

Homemade Challenge

Welcome to my new blog, a place for me to keep my craft based musings and progress pictures. Last Christmas I thought about making all of my presents, but only managed 2 or 3 (all food based, see here). So this year I'm starting early. I've been researching for the last couple of months, and building up my stash. I didn't make many things in school so I'm really starting as a novice, but hopefully in a few years time I'll be making all the presents without even blinking. Stay tuned for progress on my Christmas gifts (some may be kept secret until nearer the time so that people who read the blog don't see their presents!).

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Chilworth Arms, Chilworth

During our two weeks of holiday, I didn't think we were going to hit a bad egg restaurant wise, but I'm sad to say it happened today. I wont go into the palaver of trying to find the restaurant because that was all my shoddy driving and navigation, and not the restaurants fault.

The first hint that it wasn't a good choice was when the waiter told us that we could have frites or potato of the day with our mains, and we asked what the potato of the day was. His reply of 'it changes everyday, sometimes it's new potatoes, other times mash' was not overly helpful and we decided to go for the safe option of the frites.

Actually, thinking about it, I lie when I say this was the first hint - the chairs were far too low for comfortable dining, and I had to go and steal a cushion from a different area of the restaurant to try and compensate for this. There was also little lighting, my mum had a spot light on her meal, but Ian and I ate in the dark.

For starters, I chose the scallops of the day, which were served with noodles, spinach and sweet chilli sauce. The sweet chilli went well with the scallops, and the noodles were well cooked - 8/10. Ian ordered the mackerel fillets, but when it came it was just fillet - Ian gives it a 7/10, as it wasn't really anything special. Mum had the chicken liver parfait which came with fig jam and toast. I tried this, it was quite tasty, and I do think the fig jam went well, although was possibly a bit too strong a flavour. Mum chose to eat the parfait without the jam and she scored it 9/10 - one point lost because the toast was only toasted on the one side, which meant it was quite cold, and she would have preferred it warm. The starters were probably the high point of the meal - from then on it went down hill.

They brought out our mains, without having cleared away the plates from the starters. The plates were quite large, but I still felt the need to point them out to the waitress bringing out our mains as she didn't seem to have noticed them, to which her response was 'well move them to the side.' This sort of service I find unacceptable, and her response was not particularly polite. The other problem with the mains coming before the starter dishes had been cleared was that we had had no opportunity to reorder drinks, so Ian managed to eat half of his main before they arrived (see Ceno's review for Ian's view on drinks with meals).

Ian and my mum ordered the spit loin of pork, which should have come with caramelised apples and cider sauce. The apples were not caramelised, Ian reckoned they were stewed, the pork had no visible signs of actually having been spit roasted (we did ask later how they cooked the pork but noone had the decency to come back and answer us). The sauce was nice, but the portion was quite small and it was generally disappointing - 5/10 - Ian's comment was that it wasn't tender enough and the outside was salted too much - Mum's comment was that she could have cooked just as good at home on her grill. The frites weren't frites, they were chunky chips - we like both, but hate it when what is delivered is not what is advertised. My main was the swordfish which came with a papaya, mango and spring onion salsa on top, and baby potatoes. The potatoes were very sesame tasting, something again that was unadvertised - I gave one to Ian to try and he said it was disgusting so I'm glad he didn't order them. The swordfish was nice and meaty, and the salsa worked well - 9/10.

During our mains, the lighting level was dropped further, making it virtually impossible to work out what you were eating - there's ambience, and there's eating in the dark - hopefully this restaurant will work out the difference soon.

We received the dessert menu, but noone told us about the special, which we'd seen on the list at the start but most of us had forgotten about. We ordered two chocolate brownies with chocolate ice cream, and one double chocolate marquis with whipped cream (apparently this is a rich mousse like dessert). We waited. And waited. The ice in my drink melted. The table next to us finished their starter and got half way through their mains. Ian attempted to attract a waiter. Eventually we managed to summon the waiter who had taken our dessert order, and I informed him that we were still waiting for the complimentary desserts to arrive, as the ones we were going to pay for had taken far too long to turn up. This seemed to fluster the waiter a little, but he went off and I assume spoke to the manager and returned to tell us that as we had been waiting for more than half an hour, our desserts would be free, and he'd get them to us shortly.

My dessert was not worth the wait. I detected no double chocolate as mentioned on the menu, only one chocolate, and the cream was barely whipped. It was also not really very mousse-like as I was told it would be, it was far denser - 5/10. The chocolate brownie was warm and quite gooey, but would have benefited from a vanilla ice cream as opposed to the chocolate one, 9/10.

When we were done with our desserts, they cleared the plates away and apologised again for the wait. They asked if we would like anything else, but at this point we decided it was best to call it a day and ask for the bill. The bill came, and was wrong - they'd charged us for 2 glasses of lemonade at £1.65 each, and 1 pint of lemonade at £2.10. Ian had actually had 2 pints of lemonade so we complained to the waiter. He told us that they put pints of lemonade through as two glasses, so we promptly pointed out the entry for a pint of lemonade on the bill, and he trotted off again to talk to the manager. The manager returned with a new bill, minus all lemonade charges, and we happily agreed to pay this. We left no tip.

I think this restaurant could improve it's chances of getting a tip from us in the future by doing the following things. Assigning a waiter/waitress to a table, instead of letting any waiter serve us - this would have hopefully meant someone would have been aware that our starter dishes weren't removed, and that we'd been waiting for dessert for quite some time. Improving the lighting conditions so that you can actually see what you are eating. Educating their staff on the 'potato of the day', 'pie of the day', 'soup of the day' etc so you didn't get stupid responses when asking what each were.