It’s not often you get a really bad meal now. I’ve had a few mediocre ones but nothing truly awful. Until last Friday night that is.
We’ve decided to make more effort to get out, especially during the weekend. As Erin was at a sleepover we thought it would be nice to go to a well respected local pub serving food, the Riccarton Arms. Unfortunately they were busy, so we headed to the Copper Bowl – a good indian restaurant in a bad location – we arrived to find it had closed down. Such a shame when good independent businesses have to close. Plan C was The Melville Inn, somewhere we’ve been meaning to go for about two years now. I had thought it was independent but it’s part of the Vintage Inns group.
We had a short wait for a table before being sat in the conservatory, the tables were set very close together – a certain quote from my favourite film sprung to mind as I practically climbed over the adjoining table’s chair and set myself down in the corner. Leaving was not an option, but hey, wanting to escape wasn’t part of the plan at this stage.
The menu had a good variety of dishes, it was billed as ‘pub food at its best’. We were expecting some decent quality food, presented nicely. Alex chose the Chicken, Pulled Ham and Leek Pie which was developed by James Martin according to the menu (£8.25). I decided on one of the seasonal favourites, Forestiere Chicken (£10.95).
My dish arrived…
The description of this dish was Forestiere Chicken Breast stuffed with whipped goat’s cheese and wild mushroom mousse, served on mash with roasted flat mushroom and British winter greens.
I’m not sure what the chicken had done wrong but for some reason the chef had seen fit to hack it to pieces. It was dry and sad. The mash was reheated (I don’t know how many times) and tasted like the fake stuff you can buy as flakes. The ‘British winter greens’ was a pile of unseasoned kale I think, it was strewn over my plate like leaves across a garden. The sauce was ok, but I’m afraid nothing could save this dish. I sent it back and ordered a starter, after seeing Alex’s pie I was convinced that there was no better dish to be found on the menu. We probably would have left had I not been jammed in the corner, where’s Patrick Swayze when you need him?
Alex’s pie was burnt, not from being cooked at too high a heat, but rather I suspect it had been sitting in the oven for several hours too long. Inside the impressive (but burnt) dome was a very thin layer of roast chicken, and from what I could see not very much ham. It was a dish that should have been easy to execute that was spoiled by a chef that clearly has no passion for food whatsoever.
Oh, I forgot to mention that before I sent my dish back the ‘chef’ realised that an all important component of my dish was missing. They kindly brought it to me… (it’s a mushroom in case you’re wondering)
What annoys me most about this is not that we had a bad meal, there’ll be other meals. It’s not even that we paid money for this nonsense. It’s the fact there are some really good independent restaurants struggling to survive, we tried to go to two of them and one had sadly already been lost. It’s terrible that bigger companies with a chain of restaurants like Vintage Inns can get away with serving food well below the value for which they are charging for it. These restaurant chains with their marketing budgets can afford to promote themselves extensively, they should be delivering on what they promise. Meanwhile I have learned a valuable lesson about sticking to independent restaurants who can’t afford to serve up awful food and still maintain a customer base.
I’ve since spoken to friends across the country about Vintage Inns and I’m satisfied this isn’t just a case of one bad night in the kitchen (here’s Becky’s review on Trip Advisor of her local Vintage Inn).