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.