Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Armada Restaurant - Rhinefield House

The search for a venue continues.  This week we were off to The New Forest for a wedding fayre at Rhinefield House, so we booked ourselves in for lunch to see what the food was like.  We arrived promptly for our 12.30pm booking, to find that the restaurant wasn't quite ready for us.  We took this opportunity to have a quick look around the fayre, which was much smaller than I'd expected.  When we returned the restaurant was ready and we were told that they'd had a party of 100 for breakfast so it had been a lot to clear up.  This wasn't a great sign because you really hope they could cope better with parties that size if they're offering wedding catering on site. 

We ordered from what seemed like a smaller menu than the one we'd seen online (perhaps because it was a Sunday lunch menu), Ian choosing the Chicken Liver Pate with fruit chutney & brioche and my choice was the goats cheese and red onion tart.  We noticed that the glasses had many many water marks on them, which was disappointing, although we didn't actually use the glasses set at our table.  Ian ordered a lemonade, and asked for it to come with a wedge of lime.  When it arrived, it had a slice of lemon, so Ian pointed this out to the waiter who seemed confused to start, but then happily took away the drink to replace it.  At this point I was reminded of Fawlty Towers, because in full view of us, the waiter who had taken our order told off the waiter who had bought our drinks and I half expected him to slap him round the head! Most amusing.  

Our starters arrived and were quite underwhelming, mine was not really a tart, but a giant vol-au-vent, which, although nice, was not what I was hoping for, and was not very warm.  The filling wasn't very consistent either, in some parts it was mainly goats cheese, in others more red onion.  It was, however, much nicer than Ian's starter.  He had a small slab of pate and two tiny pieces of brioche.  There was minimal effort involved, I could have knocked up the same dish in less than a minute at home.  I personally think pate should be served with toasted bread, although I'm not sure that would have made the starter much better.  

So, with low expectations, our mains arrived, mine the confit duck leg & Ian's the roast beef rib-eye.  Mine came with fondant potato, red cabbage and green beans.  The red cabbage wasn't the best I've had, slightly too vinegary but the fondant potato wasn't bad and the duck was tasty, although overcooked in places.  Ian's beef was nicely cooked and juicy, and came with roast potatoes, carrots & beans and a yorkshire pudding.  The mains were far nicer than the starters led us to think they'd be, so we were pleased, although we did notice that both the beef and the duck had the same gravy which we think was a bit lazy of the chef.  

At this point we ordered more drinks and browsed the dessert choices.  Ian went for a warm plum frangipane tart with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce.  I chose the lemon tart with lemon sorbet and a citrus salad.  By the time our desserts arrived, we hadn't received fresh drinks which I pointed out to the waiter.  They arrived when we'd finished our dessert, so we happily sent them back without paying for them.  I couldn't detect any plum flavour in Ian's plum tart and the butterscotch sauce wasn't really an accompaniment, more just a small squirt to make the plate look pretty.  My lemon tart was nice but would be more accurately described as a creme brulee in pastry.  

Having dined at Rhinefield House, we've now removed this from our list of venues - the outside of the property would make a wonderful backdrop to our photos but the inside just didn't provide us with the confidence that they'd give us the perfect day we are hoping for.   

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Restaurant at Chilworth Manor Hotel

Good news! After 5 years and 10 days of dating, Ian proposed! So, now we are planning a wedding, and as the wedding breakfast is the most important bit (to Ian at least, I'm pretty excited about the dress), we decided to try out the food at one of our possible venues.  

Chilworth Manor is quite close to home for us, and they're the only venue we've seen so far that advertise more than a 3 course wedding breakfast, so they're high up on our list at the moment.  As usual, my mum tagged along (she's spoilt!) and we all had a very nice meal.  

We were served an amuse bouche of cream of vegetable soup in a tiny tiny soup bowl.  Unfortunately, Ian isn't keen on vegetables and my mum wont eat cream but I thought it was yummy and I helped eat Mum's.  Ian suffered through it because he was starving.

For starters, I went for the haggis with caramelised shallots on a swede and sweet potato rosti with a whisky sauce.  It was presented really well, and I really enjoyed it all - I don't think it was entirely traditional haggis (didn't seem to be in a skin, think it was just the inside bit) but tasty nevertheless.  Mum and Ian went for the smoked ham hock rillette with a pineapple and cracked black pepper salsa.  The salsa went nicely with the ham rillette although it had onion in it so Ian didn't take it, but my mum cleaned her plate so I think she enjoyed it.  

I ordered the roasted guinea fowl supreme, mainly because it came with braised red cabbage (which I could eat all day everyday!).  It came with fondant potato, which is never as good as it sounds, but this was the best I've had so far (I'd still rather have a different type of potato though).  The guinea fowl was cooked really nicely, it wasn't at all dry and it went beautifully with the cabbage - big thumbs up from me.  Mum and Ian continued to copy each other and both went for the braised shoulder of lamb, Mum sticking with the lyonnaise potatoes, and Ian substituting them for buttered new potatoes (to avoid the onion).  The lamb was melt in your mouth good, and Mum said the lyonnaise potatoes were really tasty (they disappeared before I could steal some).  Ian ordered a side of chips, which arrived, looking like a jenga tower (although quite a small one).  They were cooked nicely but Ian said he would have preferred a few more of them.  

For dessert, Ian chose to copy me this time, selecting the marbled chocolate tartlet with pomegranate milkshake & sweet orange sorbet.  The tart was very rich, I struggled to finish it, but it was very good - Ian didn't suffer the same problem.  I think my favourite part of the dessert was the sorbet, it really was sweet and tangy and had a really strong fresh orange flavour.  Both Ian and I decided that the pomegranate milkshake (served in a shotglass with a tiny straw) was a bit of a gimmick and didn't really fit with the dish, but we drank it anyway.  Mum ordered the baked figs with pannetone and cinnamon ice cream.  I didn't try the ice cream as cinnamon isn't really my thing but the fig was a pleasant surprise - much nicer than it looked.  Mum said the pannetone was very sweet - not sure if it was too sweet or not, she did mention it being very sweet several times though.  

Overall, the food was excellent, the service friendly and prompt, and the location charming.  A good time was had by all, and Chilworth Manor remains on our list of possible venues.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Stuffie Swap Part Two

Introducing my new stuffie Bradley! Named by my colleagues at work and made for me by my lovely swap partner.