"It's not much but it's ours"

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Tee Hee. Sometimes there are meals that are so staggeringly inept that all thoughts of cost go out of the window and one just enjoys watching the wheels come off the car like the exploding charabang of Coco The Clown at Billy Smart’s Circus.

A few weeks ago, HP and I sauntered past what used to be a dire bar called Heeltapper’s that sat at the corner of Paul St and Worship St. It was being refurbished as a bar and restaurant which, in this area, usually fills me with dread as invariably they have a sign outside on the day they open saying “experienced sous chef needed”

Still, when I walked past the other day, they had one or two things on the menu that looked interesting, they apparently had a huge wine list offering many by the glass and they had a promotion via Top Table that gave a 50% discount on all food.

So, I booked. I deserve everything I got. This really is one of the more laughingly appalling restaurants I have set foot in for, well, as long as I can remember.

I arrived around 6.15pm and, apart from a few city boys having a pre-football beer, I was the only person in there for the whole of my visit.

The room is harmless but shows not one iota of design flair. Straight off the shelf identikit blah UK restaurant.

The front of house was friendly enough and honest to a fault. Probably too honest. I asked who the chef was. He said ‘ he’s British” well, that’s cleared that up then. “but” he added “ he’s not here tonight. It’s the second chef. He’s OK”

Filled with confidence, I fought my way through the crowd ( I am being ironic here just in case it is not clear ) to my table and had a look at the menu.

To be fair, if there was anyone in the place who could cook one or two of the dishes could be quite agreeable. But, there was not one trace in the entire visit that showed anyone with the most basic level of first year catering college training.

As for the wines. A very large list of bottles ( over 300 they told me ) but a dispiritingly small choice by the glass. In fact five each of red and white and many from the same maker. Mmm, so the choice of the name Vinum. That’s some more irony, right? Again, the front of house showing disarming honesty said “ that’s all we have, it’s not great is it?” Nope.

To begin, I chose a Goat’s cheese and beet salad. I imagineered a salad of at least two types of beets with some creamy cheese and a few peppery leaves. What I got looked like it was made by my six year old nephew after watching Blue Peter. Chunks of fridge fresh goats cheese cut into large lumps, some more lumps of school dinner type beetroot and a scary mound of frissee tossed in what I am sure was Sarsons. As horrible as it sounds. The glass of over priced white burgundy at £5.50 just about dulled my tastebuds enough to endure.

For the main course, I wanted the Suckling Pig. The waitress told me it was off. So, I ordered the chump of lamb. She pottered off and then came back to ask me how I wanted it cooked. “pink” I replied. She pottered off again. Then she came back and said “ we do have some suckling pig. Do you want to change” Despite my Reggie Perrin like vision of the chef fighting with the dog over the last portion of pork, I did change my order. Bit dim really. It was as bad as the starter. A stunningly ill conceived dish.

It came plonked on top of a stone cold “salad” of overcooked, mushy green lentils with crudely chopped tomatoes and a few spring onions cut on the bias to show that the chef had passed the first level of his NVQ. The pork was two decent slices with a tiny bit of crackling and on top a dollop of applesauce that was mouth searingly hot from the microwave. If I had many more pork dishes like this, I may have to think about changing religion.

With it a side of the increasingly common “hispi” cabbage. I think “hispi” must be native American for “ soggy and shit”

A glass of Bach Merlot Blend from NZ for £5.50 passed me by entirely.

I could not face pudding although part of me wanted to see just how bad it would be, so I got my bill. With the 50% discount , both the wine and the food came to £11.50. With tip ( why should staff suffer because they work in a crappy restaurant?) the bill came to £27. That’s £27 for two courses of such defining incompetence that I kept expecting Jeremy Beadle to jump out. And, that’s with a promotional discount

I know, I know, what more did I expect? Well, I expected anyone who is going to charge money for food to at least have a basic comprehension of how it should be prepared.

What it did go to show is that I don’t have to go to the US to have truly dreadful meals. I can just walk 100 yards from my front door and save on the air fare.

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