Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Horse and Groom, Upper Oddington

I must admit that I was a bit disappointed by The Horse and Groom.  It should be good, it seemed like it would be.  A simple dining room off the bar, neutrally but cosily decorated, and a big chalk board of specials supplemented a good, fairly short menu of local produce.  So far so good.

To rewind a little, we had booked a good six weeks in advance as we were staying at the hotel for the night.  Even so, 8.30pm was the earliest we could have dinner.  We decided to skip starters and go straight for mains.  I chose pave of salmon from the specials, which came with a cream sauce and pureed carrot.  My ma had lamb, which came with a selection of vegetables.  The problem was just that it was all a bit bland.  The fish was nicely cooked but the sauce added very little and the carrots were more tasteless than baby food.  A similar scenario occurred with the meat.  We hoped to have better luck with puddings but both the chocolate mousse that my mum had and my poached fruit with ice cream were just ok.  We rounded off with coffee.  I desperately wanted to have a fantastic evening but in the end it was just ok.  Staff were friendly, although one didn't speak English.  One minor complaint about the atmosphere was the big light directly over our table which was a bit headache-inducing (I did in fact leave with one).

Two courses, half a bottle of wine and a coffee: £35 per head

Value: 6/10

Service: 7/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Food: 6/10

SCORE: 26/40

The Horse and Groom Village Inn, Upper Oddington, Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire, GL56 0XH.  Tel: 01451 830584.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Daylesford Organic, Daylesford

Having had such beautiful food at the Daylesford Organic in Pimlico I was very excited at the prospect of treating my mother at the one in Gloucestershire.  We weren't disappointed.

We had to wait twenty minutes for a table which didn't seem too bad for a heaving Saturday lunchtime.  Our table, when it was ready, was in a great spot - upstairs at the edge of a mezzanine floor overlooking the busy farm shop below.
The interior is very chic and minimal, with comfortable wooden chairs and a clean, fresh vibe.

We had a glass of their featured rose and requested some nuts to nibble on before our main meals arrived.  I say main meals but, in fact, we both chose starters as we were having treatments at the spa and didn't want to feel too full and bloated.  The drinks arrived but the nuts did not.  When we reminded the waiter he scurried off and then another guy brought us some, seconds before the rest of the food turned up.  Then the other waiter brought more nuts.  Once that had been sorted I noticed our side order of bread had been forgotten but by this point there were no staff to be seen.

However, the food was divine.  My chicken liver and foie gras parfait was smooth, creamy and filling - a huge chunk served with two thin, crispy slices of toast and some salad.  Ma's beef carpaccio was fabulous as well and she raved about the beans she had ordered as a side dish.  We eventually managed to request more bread again and we shared the remainder of the parfait with this (that's how much there was!).

For pudding I had a big chocolate mousse - very rich but not too sickly and served in a big chunky glass.  Mum had poached apricots with ice cream which she enjoyed but not as much as the savoury course.

The scatty service, although annoying, at least meant that they forgot to charge us for the bread.

Two courses and a glass of wine: £23 per head

Value: 7/10

Service: 5/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Food: 8/10

SCORE: 28/40

Daylesford Organic, Daylesford, Near Kingham, Gloucestershire, GL56 0YG.  Tel: 01608 731300.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Out Of The Blue, Battersea

Out of the Blue is one of the closest restaurants to my flat and I have always been happy that it is so.  My parents are of the same opinion and when they were down they took me and my cousin for dinner.

I booked the day before for 8.30pm and we were seated at a good table but whilst I think of it I feel I must mention the lighting here.  Above some tables hang large lampshades, very low and very bright - intended for use as a main light.  Hence by the end of the evening it was giving us a bit of a headache and casting a horrible light over our table.

Anyway, we ordered tap water and rose when we were seated which came promptly.  To start we selected breads with olive oil and balsamic and some fried Spanish beans (apparently  broad beans).  Well, it took ages.  I think our waitress was new because she appeared to be serving several tables very scattily and not really apologising for the fact that it was 9.30 and our starters had only just arrived.  And they brought a side order of green beans in pesto instead of the Spanish beans.  We pointed out the error and she looked flustered and confused.  Then she offered to bring the right thing but we reassured her we would eat these as they were here and we were starving by now.  Luckily another waitress, I think probably an owner/manager, noticed the situation and brought the correct order free of charge.  When they did arrive the beans were interesting - very dry but had an unusual flavour.  They were very obviously butter beans though and not broad beans at all.

And so the wait continued - it was 10.15pm when our main courses (our very easy main courses I might point out) of a beef burger, a chicken burger, a vegetarian pasta dish and a risotto arrived.  The food was very good except that the burgers came in the most pathetic buns I have ever seen - literally from a pack and you could see where they had been ripped apart.  Far too small for the burger.  It made me a quite cross that this was what they deemed acceptable - this isn't, after all, a particularly cheap restaurant.  My chicken was good quality though and tasty.  My dad enjoyed his beef burger (although they didn't ask how it should be cooked) and apparently the risotto and pasta were good.  I didn't hear any rapturous praise but we were hungry and tired by now.  As the clock crept towards 11 we headed home and I, for one, was disappointed.

Two courses and half a bottle of wine: £25 per head

Value: 6/10

Service: 5/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Food: 6/10

SCORE: 24/40

Out Of The Blue Bar and Kitchen, 140 St John's Hill, London, SW11 1SL.  Tel: 020 72078548.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

All Bar One, Battersea

I would never generally choose to eat or drink in an All Bar One.  This isn't because they are unattractive, quite the opposite in fact they often have some of the best locations and buildings around.  It is mainly down to the fact that they are overpriced and full of people who haven't got enough imagination to go anywhere more original.

But now I am going to have to eat my words - literally.  I had a very excellent burger in All Bar One on Northcote Road.  I eat out on this road often and its restaurants are far superior to its bars hence we met here for drinks and then couldn't be bothered to move.  Our seats were low leather stools, the table one at the archways.  It was a warm night and it was a good spot, watching the world go by outside.

We ordered from the bar food menu and it didn't take long to arrive.  The staff are friendly enough here but they are slow and fairly incompetent when it comes to making drinks, knowing their menu and processing cards etc.  The burger, though, made up for this - it was a tasty bread bun, a big juicy burger and plain fresh salad.  It wasn't the most adventurous meal I have ever had but it was competent and the chips were good too - skinny fries, actually, and a generous portion.

I stick to my guns about the chain in general though - here it is a pleasant bar and setting but spilt drinks and old napkins are left on tables and a beggar was allowed to wander around and pester customers.  Still, I have had worse nights.

Two gin and tonics and a main course: £17 per head

Value: 7/10

Service: 5/10

Atmosphere: 6/10

Food: 7/10

SCORE: 25/40

All Bar One, 32-34 Northcote Road, London, SW11 1NZ.  Tel: 020 78019951.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cafe Kaslik, Battersea

 We had a hot Sunday a couple of weeks ago and so four of us decided to wander to Battersea Square to the Lebanese cafe there, for lunch.

We selected a table at Cafe Kaslik which has an enviable location with plenty of outdoor seating.
Menus were brought over and orders taken.  We all opted for a diet coke and a minced chicken wrap.

Much as we enjoyed basking in the sun and taking our time we rather wished our food wouldn't.  The service was scatty and our food took about forty minutes but when we eventually tucked in it was delicious and came with some complimentary pickles.  If you are in the area this place does provide a cheap, tasty meal.

Soft drink and a wrap: £8 per head

Value: 7/10

Service: 5/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Food: 6/10

SCORE: 26/40

Cafe Kaslik, 11-12 Battersea Square, London, SW11 3RA.  Tel: 020 79785374.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Il Pagliaccio, Fulham

Il Pagliaccio, or Paggs to those in the know, is a firm locals' favourite.  We booked on Saturday for two people to eat the same day which wasn't a problem and when we arrived we were seated outside under the canopy, as requested.  The outside area is large - probably 15 pavement side tables, adorned with bunting, overlooked by a naked statue of a man - his modesty preserved with a napkin.

The service is a special mix of over-friendly waiters and attention to detail.  Shy and retiring types should probably steer clear as they will fuss over you and your food, complimenting you and helping you with your chair and napkin.  If you are celebrating a birthday a gaggle of waiters will serenade you with happy birthday, brandishing a huge cucumber for girls, fashioned into a shape (you can imagine what) surrounded by two tomatoes and topped with whipped cream, which the 'lucky' recipient must take a bite of.  For men, a similar situation but with melons and glace cherries...

But I digress.  Claire and I began with garlic bread and bruschetta to share, with a lovely bottle of red.  It is beautiful bread - homemade - and the toppings are fresh.

For main course we both go for pizza.  You don't come to a restaurant like this for haute cuisine, you come for good Italian food, prepared by Italians.  I love the pizza, cooked in a big open pizza oven in the middle of the restaurant.  A margherita with mushrooms went down very well with my friend, and my choice - served with chicken and mozzarella was really very good.  Thin bases with lots of topping - so tasty.

We know we will be back, we've been a million times before - but book, this place is always heaving.

Two courses and half a bottle of wine: £23 per head

Value: 7/10

Service: 8/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Food: 7/10

SCORE: 30/40

Il Pagliaccio, 182-184 Wandsworth Bridge Road, London, SW6 2UF.  Tel: 020 73715253.