Restaurant Review #10–Red Hot World Buffet and Bar, Northampton

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Address: Sixfields Leisure Park Weedon Road, Northampton

Phone: 01604 756208

Website: www.redhot-worldbuffet.com

Review

Sometimes when visiting restaurants you have an epiphany. It could be the food, the decor or the service that generates the epiphany. The epiphany might be one of overwhelming glee or utter disappointment. Or it might be one where you realise for the first time how something is not right.

My epiphany came on a Bank Holiday Monday when, out exploring Northamptonshire, a need to eat arose and the options presented to us were limited.

Often when you go to out of town retail and leisure parks you are presented with the usual selection of fast food chains (KFC, Burger King and the like) or multinational chains such as Frankie and Benny’s or TGI Friday’s and very little in the way of independent chains. This, I realise, is due to the exorbitant rents and costs for small businesses to actually obtain one of these units.

So when I saw Red Hot World Buffet and Bar I was excited in that I hadn’t actually seen one of these places before. Of course, I have been to buffet restaurants before such as Cosmo in Coventry, Wing Wah and Jimmy Spices, but I’d not heard of Red Hot World Buffet and Bar. So it seemed like a good choice.

The posters outside promised “Over 140 dishes” “Live food demos” and “All you can eat” which seemed like a fair deal. What it neglected  to mention was the price. I guess that should have been my first warning.

We were seated swiftly and the place seemed popular with a large group of about 12 plus arriving mid meal and a variety of different aged diners already present.

What I can only assume is that these diners were just starting out on their own culinary adventures and were only there as a taster. Because as the time there went on, things just didn’t seem right.

First off, as with most “All you can eats” the food available was minimal. 140 dishes? I think they meant their stock of crockery as there certainly wasn’t 140 dishes available that day. More like about 30. Now, sure, it was lunch time but even so, the selection available was bleak and uninspiring.

Secondly, the dishes that were available mostly comprised of sauce. Now I expect sauce heavy dishes when I go to low brow Indian restaurants, I also expect more sauce than content when I have takeaway. But Red Hot World Buffet and Bar (RHWBB) seemed to be too top heavy in Sauce.

One of the dishes had a meat:veg ratio of about 1 in 50 with the rest of it being just sauce. The “WORLD” bit was not evident. There was Chinese (not very nice), Indian (very mild and saucy) Mexican (grim looking chilli) and Italian (by way of limp looking pizza), and not much else. That’s fair enough but the world is so much more diverse than China, India, Mexico and Italy.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not expecting something like the Carriage Works or a 5 star restaurant standard of food. I am just expecting something edible and not swimming in sauce. Is that too much to ask?

I went up three times. Once for starters (3 varieties of chicken wings and some stale prawn crackers). Second for mains (A spoonful of bland Chicken Tikka, a dollop of Sweet and sour chicken and some rice to soak up the sauce). The final time was for dessert (a solitary scoop of rationed mango ice cream).

At Cosmo in Coventry, it is typical that we would return to the selection numerous times. Indeed, their self-service ice cream and dessert selection is much wider than RHWBB. Moreover, Cosmo’s selection of starters makes you wish you could eat more because by the time you’ve worked your way through ribs, wings and other nibbles you’re already starting to feel like you can’t face another prawn cracker. Not so in RHWBB.

Bleak. Dull. Uninteresting.

When assessing the quality of the meal with my fellow diner we realised that the staff actually outnumbered the diners. Now that might make you think that they were attentive and would bend over backwards to make the meal enjoyable. Well, you try attracting the attention of gossiping waiting staff.

Then we realised, we hadn’t actually seen the price for the “All we could Eat (much more than was available) ” meal. Nothing on the tables, nothing on the menus, nothing on the posters. I said that if it came to more than £12 a head we’d been had. It came to about £9 per head. Which wasn’t so bad.

Conclusion

On reflection I probably wouldn’t have written this review. I had every intention of making The Mucky Badger a site that praised excellent restaurants. I usually leave my dissatisfaction at the table but as a user of Foursquare (stegzy) , I was asked to provide a  comment on my experience. So I commented that prospective diners should opt for Cosmo in Coventry rather than Red Hot World Buffet and Bar instead. That would have been the end of it.

But I then get an amusing tweet from RHWBB:

 

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I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean. Are they swearing at me? Calling me something they wouldn’t call their own mother? Or maybe it’s a typo of a smiley face.  I’m not sure. So I thought I’d write this review to show how disappointed I was with my experience.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it out yourself. It may have been that I had a particularly bad day there. Or it may have been that my expectations were too high. I know that next time I am hungry in Sixfields, I’ll be going to Buddies instead.

To be fair, other people around me seemed to be enjoying the mediocre selection of food and I’m sure that had they too been to Cosmo they might have also been saying something similar to me.

Total Score: 40%

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Warwickshire Breakfast special–A challenge!

As well as the quest for the ultimate mixed grill, the Mucky Badger is constantly looking for the ideal Full English Breakfast. The Full English. The staple of truckers and labourers up and down the UK.

Cafés up and down the UK offer many different varieties of the Full English. But  Mucky Badgers require a little bit more magic with Full English Breakfasts. The Full English (FE) should have, but are not restricted by law to:-

Bacon
Sausage
Beans
Black Pudding
Tomato
Fried or Scrambled Egg
Fried Bread (or Toast)
Mushrooms
Hash browns (Optional)
and a pot or mug of Tea. 

In the past, places visited by Mucky Badgers seem to either omit the black pudding or offer it as an optional extra. Same really with the fried bread. I suppose the health fascists are keen to reduce the intake of saturated fats so that is possibly why some items on the FE are omitted, but this might just be speculation and the real reason might be something to do with popularity and marketing.

Moreover, the greasy spoon café seems to have dwindled. Now replaced by more stylish, ultra clean and healthy affairs offering sautéed brown fowl free range eggs on toasted gluten free bread platters or lightly grilled domesticated boar koftesque with orgasmic sundried tomato puree drenched haricot pulses. The dirty, the unhealthy, packed away and hidden. More so in leafy Warwickshire. Wherein the lack of proper and decent FEBs are evident. The Georgian streets of Leamington Spa, sorry, ROYAL Leamington Spa, are seemingly clear of stalwarts of British breakfast specials. But, scratch the surface, wander around on foot for a few years, and one by one, slowly, like snails on pathways, you start to notice little places where one might be able to gorge oneself on fried breakfast. Hardening the arteries and feeling truly stuffed.

Over the next few years, it is hoped that those at Mucky Badger will visit institutions throughout the county in an attempt to locate the ideal FEB in the Warwickshire area. To be honest, this has probably already been undertaken, but reviews on this site have been lacking of late. So it is hoped that the Mucky Badger will be able to attract some new recruits to write verbose reviews on Full English Breakfast vendors throughout the Warwickshire county.

If you, or someone you know, are an aspiring food writer in Warwickshire and would like to take part in the Mucky Badger Warwickshire Breakfast Special Challenge; drop me a message and we can have a chat. The best review will receive a very special prize. 

Furthermore, it is hoped that using the power of social media, a winner for the Mucky Badger’s Best breakfast in Warwickshire accolade could be found. Yes, that’s right, a prize for the café in Warwickshire that does the best Full English Breakfast!  Contact me for the terms and conditions of entry.

Reviews to follow:

  • Ye Olde Pounde Café
  • Fat Birds Café
  • Docker’s Diner
  • Murphy’s

Stay tuned; it may get nasty!

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Local Food

The following post appeared hidden on LJ in 2009 as it was part of my journalism degree portfolio.


Belper Farmers Market

This weekend I undertook my second visit to Belper’s farmers market. It has been nearly a year since my last visit and it was good to see some familiar faces. Surprisingly the market has grown a little bit since my last visit with the inclusion of three new stalls. Furthermore, it seems that the popularity has grown lately rather than reduced as would have been expected in the current economic climate.

Indeed, Belper’s other local food gem, the award winning Fresh Basil delicatessen was just as busy as I remembered. A sign that all things are still ticking over nicely while other consumer areas are having to tighten their belts.

It would seem that though rising grain and feed prices are forcing independent producers to raise their food prices to record levels and the supermarkets with their “Pile it high sell it cheap” are distracting consumers with their consistently low prices the popularity of local food retailers is still burgeoning.

Tebay Services

But what concerns me is the insistence of some purveyors of local food to stock items that are clearly not locally produced. I’m talking about the Tyrell’s and the Bay Tree Preserves of the world here. To me it seems that some of these local food retailers are stocking brands that are becoming the behemoths of the independent retail world. During my on going tour of farm shops nationally I’ve noticed the same four or five brands recurring. Surely if I travel to the delightful farmer run Tebay services on the M6 I’d expect to see the delights of Cumbrian fare. Jams, chutneys and sauces produced by Cumbrian food producers. Indeed I would, but there, on the shelves are these “foodie” brands.

Perhaps it is instilled in our culture to stay loyal to particular brands. Perhaps these are farm shop brands we should now become familiar with much in the same way we do of Heinz or Pedigree Chum. Or perhaps it’s because we’re too corrupted by supermarket doctrine to shy away from familiar brands. I couldn’t say.

However this fascination with brands concerns me. Where do newcomers get a look in? It may be that finding a distributor is tricky for smaller scale producers. Moreover, it may be that the smaller scale producers find it difficult to produce their wares in the quantities that retailers demand. But isn’t that the ethos behind local food? Food produced locally by small scale independent food smiths. While I’m not expecting the local WI to be producing jams on a Hartley’s scale, I do expect to be able to sample artisan jams depending on the area I am in.

Artisian Jam yesterday

This phenomenon is not only restricted to the produce. Take farmers markets for example. This month I’ve been to five farmers markets in the region. One artisan meat producer had a stall at all five of these markets, at one market it was at least 90 miles from it’s home base.

Now I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. What I am saying is I am concerned. I worry that if this trend continues unabated we will be in a similar situation as we are with independent beers. The smaller breweries being bought by the brewing giants only to be closed in an apparent effort to reduce the competition. Ask any passing Tom, Dick or Harry to give a real ale name and they’ll probably tell you something by Shepherds Neame or Adnams. Where once these were struggling breweries, now they produce ales on such a vast scale that differences in quality and flavour are apparent. Are we in the same situation with real food? Is real food in danger of being clouded by the success of the few at the detriment to the many? Only time will tell.

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Oats

One day lad...all this will be houses

You can’t get simpler than oats.

Oats are so versatile and healthy. Grab yourself a bag of oats, roll them with a roller or what ever, add hot milk or water, season to taste.

Simple.

Porridge.

The food of the Gods.

There was a time when oats weren’t so trendy. You could stand in shops looking for the oats and would often have difficulty locating something oaty. Nowadays, oats are trendy. They are healthy. Their benefits extolled far and wide.

When I was a kid we had Ready Brek. All that was, was oats. A box of oats.

These are Scott's? Does he know?

My nan had Scots Porridge oats. The difference? Negligible. Perhaps only just the packaging.

Nip down your shop now and you’ll see the shelves burgeoning under the weight of oaty breakfast cereals. Instant oats, bags of rolled oats, crunchy honey coated oat clusters, oaty hoops and more oats than you can shake a stick at. But rewind a little.

INSTANT OATS.

How more instant can you get than a hand full of oats heated in milk or water in a pan or microwave? Not really more instant than that. And yet, the consumer is offered a variety of other oat brands. Quaker, Kelloggs, Ready Brek. All sell individual sachets of oats. Each box of sachets contain about 5 servings. Each box costs the consumer upwards of £2.

But wait! How confoundedly stupid of the consumer. Surely the big bag of rolled oats for 50p on the bottom shelf there….surely that’s just add milk and heat…surely? Well obviously not. Because tonight, dear reader, my horror at the stupidity of the consumer, the easily led, the simply hoodwinked, for lo! Behold! COW AND GATE do a porridge ESPECIALLY FOR BABIES! Why? What’s wrong with a good handful of oats? Nothing!

There are people out there who buy this stuff in good faith. Thinking that by spending the extra money they are some how making themselves better, socially, maybe even healthwise.

Utter shit blobs.

OATS IS OATS. You don’t need to add anything. You need not even use milk to make your porridge. Oats. Plain simple common garden oats. Get yours here.

Instant pancake mix

Just add milk and egg

Honestly I was so angry at the advert that it rivalled the stupidity of the INSTANT PANCAKE MIX (just add milk and egg) I observed in a shop once*. Some people shouldn’t be allowed out with money…….

Anyway, doing a bit of research on the various porridge products on the market I thought I’d check the ingredients of a variety of oat based breakfast cereals. Now, you’d think porridge was just oats. If I asked for porridge, that’s what I’d hope to get. And yet……

Ready BrekContains Wholegrain Rolled Oats (60%), Wholegrain Oat Flour, Calcium, Niacin, Iron, Pantothenic Acid (B5), Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (B2), Thiamin (B1), Folic Acid, Vitamin B12.

Quaker PorridgeContains 100% Oats.

Quaker Oat So SimpleContains Quaker Rolled Oats, Stabiliser: Lecithin (soya)

Scots Porage Oats were apparently bought out by Quaker. I am unable to find any links to that. So yes…With the exception of Quaker Porridge Oats which claim to be 100% rolled oats, the others reveal some interesting points of note. Ready Brek is only 60% rolled oats with the rest bulked out by flour and additives. I imagine the flour is for the consistency and to make the cereal more palatable to children.

Why “instant” oats (Oats So Simple) need soya based stabiliser and standard oats don’t I have no idea. Could it be that the microwave does things to your oats they’d rather you not know about? I have no idea. Still, it’s very interesting. To me at least. Incidentally, did you know that Pepsico own Quaker? Well now you do.


* – For those less in tune with me here, the instant pancake mix was just plain ordinary flour.

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Sundae Sunday

On Sunday I was overcome with the burning desire for an ice cream sundae. The urge took me much in the same way as I imagine a smack head might desire heroin. So, jumping into the car, I made headway to Sainsbury’s wherein I purchased the necessary ingredients to make a delicious raspberry ice cream sundae.

As you can see I bought all the necessary ingredients including some essential for a dairy free sundae Sunday treat for Zoe, who is allergic to dairy.

Ten minutes of sculpting ice cream, poking flakes and scattering chopped nuts the results emerged.

 

The one on the right is the dairy free one.

They were both devoured with a speed faster than the two donkeys I got in the Grand National office sweepstakes.

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Restaurant Review #9– Woburn Hill Hotel, Cemaes Bay, Anglesey

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Map picture
  Woburn Hill Hotel
High Street
Cemaes Bay
Anglesey
LL67 0HU
Tel No: 01407 711 388
Fax No: 01407 711 190
Email:
woburnhill@btconnect.com
WWW:http://www.woburnhillhotel.co.uk

 

Review

For me, a weekend in Wales is spiritually akin to a pilgrimage to Rome. I understand that a Pope once said that three pilgrimages to Bardsey Island were of equal merit with one to Rome. I think that’s a bit too exclusive and like to think that one trip to North Wales should cover several lifetimes worth of Papal blessings. Making me a saint. Or at least Venerable.

While the Royal Prince declared his love for Kate Middleton I opted for a trip to Anglesey. Finding somewhere to stay was easier than I thought it would be and I was able to secure a room at the lovely Woburn Hill Hotel in Cemaes Bay.

Of course being one of those people that likes to plan where to eat while away just as much as they like to spontaneously turn up a some fish restaurant in some sleepy countryside village, it comes as no surprise that I researched the Woburn Hill’s menu well before I’d even sent off the booking request.  The thing that sold it for me was the menu included a MIXED GRILL and regular readers will be familiar with my quest for the ultimate mixed grill.

Ah! Goodness! Meaty grilled goodness.

The Woburn’s mixed grill includes:

  • Rump steak (win)
  • Gammon steak (win)
  • Pork steak (unusual but win!)
  • Lamb cutlet (delicious and perfect)
  • Kidney (oh yes)
  • Sausage (naturally)
  • Mushrooms (of course)
  • Onion rings (essential)
  • Tomato (win again!)

and

  • BLACK PUDDING (WIN!)

all served with chips.

IMAG0164A perfect mix of grilled meats. Had it had some liver, it may have even further exceeded my already exceeded expectations. A fantastic selection that just filled me to bursting point. A meal that left me fully sated and unable to even consider pudding.

Anyway, the restaurant….the restaurant is open to non-residents and serves meals from daily from 6:30pm onwards. There are many other dishes to choose from with special diets catered for and specials every day. The staff are keen, attentive and very friendly and the atmosphere is just perfect.

Try as I might I simply could not fault the hotel or the restaurant.  It just goes to prove that a place does not have to be extortionate, overly fancy or in the business of serving poncey “micro meals” to be fantastic.


Conclusion

 

For food, I think the mixed grill was the best and most obvious choice for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think it will be hard to beat judging by the mixed grills I’ve seen at other places.


Being objective, the other meals looked delicious too and I would most definitely dine there again. In fact the rooms at the hotel are really spacious and comfortable with a really tasty Full Breakfast served in the mornings. Eating there was pleasant, staying there was pleasant, and the area of North Anglesey is a place I could recommend to anyone looking for a weekend away.

Total score: 90%

 

 

 

 

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Restaurant Review #8–Jade Village, Menai Bridge, Anglesey

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Map picture
  Jade Village
Mona Road
Menai Bridge
Anglesey
Tel: 01248 715409

 

REVIEW

If there is anyone reading this that happens to be a really good Chinese chef hoping to start their own restaurant business; you need to tap into the Chinese Restaurant market on Anglesey.

I love Chinese food. I’ve said that before and, regular readers will remember, I have already reviewed two Chinese restaurants previously. So it should come as no surprise that I would want to eat in a Chinese restaurant during my holiday in Wales.

Before departing on my break, I did some research into Chinese restaurants in the locality. Surprisingly there are few in the Anglesey area, at least in the area I was willing to drive. The one that stood out (on Google) was the Jade Village. Indeed reviews such as “The food is one of the best” and “This is the restaurant of choice for many of the local Chinese residents of North West Wales” kind of sold it to me.

It’s popularity was most apparent on approach to the car park which although pay and display was busy with customers hoping to dine there or just pick up a take home pack. I realised, in hindsight, that booking was probably a good idea.

Fortunately, I was able to secure a table providing that I finished dining by 8:30pm. Now whether this was the reason why the food arrived swiftly is a moot point but regardless, the speed and professionalism of service was outstanding. As was the food!"

For starters I had my usual salt and pepper spare ribs. These slightly let down the restaurant as there was not as much meat on the ribs as I would have liked but I was hungry so I let that one slide.

All gone!For mains I like to try restaurant’s specials. In this case the special was the Beef Cantonese style sauce and Duck in Plum sauce both of which I can thoroughly recommend. To accompany the meal I elected for the Yung Chow fried rice which also was a winner.

Despite the initial hunger following the ribs, I have to say I was fully sated by the last bit of the rice. But, as you can see, there was very little left of the meal at the end.

Conclusion

 

Now, I’d really like to give the Jade Village more than my final score. Indeed, it got a boost from the fact that a table was able to be slotted into their busy schedule. Had I had a more relaxed dining experience I probably would have given it even more.

However I need to be objective in my reviews. Comparatively, to the Water Margin and the Emperor’s in Warwickshire, the Jade Village is in a tough three horse race. I seem to recall being rushed in Emperors too but their food pales into insignificance next to the Jade Village. Indeed, even the Water Margin…ah the good old Water Margin….No…I’m afraid that the Jade Village would come second in that race. But it would be a photo finish!

Total score: 80%

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Restaurant Review #7–The Lobster Pot, Church Bay, Anglesey

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Map picture
  The Lobster Pot
Church Bay
Anglesey
LL65 4EU
Tel:
01407 730 241
WWW: http://www.lobster-pot.net

 

Review:

Sometimes the best way to explore a place is to take what I call “Interesting Roads”, by which I mean roads that are off the main drag. I’ve discovered many interesting places for myself by going down “interesting roads”. Taking an “interesting road” resulted in finding the Lobster Pot on the road to Church Bay and Swtan, a preserved 17th Century cottage owned by The National Trust. 

As well as mixed grills I also have love of fish dishes so when I saw the Lobster Pot I simply had to eat there. Especially as my other favourite Welsh fish restaurant, Pen Bryn Bach, is now under new management and well over 50 miles away from where I was when I came across the Lobster Pot.

Opening times

 

Booking is advisable as this place is popular and the Lobster Pot runs a two sitting system: one at 6:30pm and the other at 8:30pm meaning that if you get the 6:30 sitting and you haven’t finished, you’re asked to move to the bar area to make room for the 8:30 sitting.

Anyway, after arrival I was ushered to the quiet bar area while I chose my courses (a similar system to that at Pen Bryn Bach near Aberdaron).

The menu is extensive and, in my opinion, slightly expensive. All the food served is locally sourced and lobster biased. I guess that’s a winning formula for a restaurant called The Lobster Pot. I should be wary of any restaurant called “The Jelly Fish”.

My starter was whitebait. Supposedly lightly coated in seasoned flour and deep fried but I saw no evidence of this. The little fishes were certainly deep fried but not coated in flour. Furthermore, the lemon was distinctly lacking from the mayonnaise.

MainsMain course was presented swiftly. Service was very quick and there wasn’t much waiting around between courses. Main course for me was the Lobster Surf and Turf. Half a lobster served with an 8 oz Welsh Beef steak, vegetables and chips.

Conclusion

I have to say that for the cost there wasn’t much in the way of food. But inexplicably I was feeling rather full by the time I had finished. In fact there was little room for pudding.

Part of me suspected that the usual chef was probably having an evening off (it was the day of the Royal wedding) but I won’t hold that against the establishment. However, overall though I was very impressed. My only regret was not having the lobster mornay but if I go again I’ll definitely try that.

Excellent quality food, locally sourced, which is always a thumbs up for me, set in very peaceful surroundings. I had a really enjoyable meal happily not one to rival the belated Pen Bryn Bach but very close indeed.

 

Total Score: 85% 

 

 

 

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Restaurant Review #6 – Aqua: Food & Mood, Warwick

 

aqua
Map picture
  Aqua: Food & Mood
Jury Street
Warwick
Warwickshire,
CV34 4EW
Tel: 01926 495 491
WWW: http://www.aqua-food-mood.co.uk/warwick/index.html

 

Review

If I was a millionaire, I’d eat here every night!

Or so I said, to the restaurant manager as he came to see if we had enjoyed our meal. Enjoy is probably not strong enough a word to describe how good Aqua is.

The Mucky Badger is a great fan of Middle Eastern food, specifically Lebanese. It’s incomprehensible why there aren’t more Middle Eastern restaurants in the UK as the food is so diverse in flavour and variety. It’s kind of like a secret jewel in that those that know of Lebanese cuisine actively seek it out for themselves and delight in sharing the experience with the uninitiated. Indeed, tonight was one such occasion for the Mucky Badger’s dining companion Zoe, who, until recently, was a long term vegetarian.

Often the best places to dine are those that hide in plain sight. Aqua commands a prominent place on Jury Street and is very tastefully decorated. Middle Eastern decorations and tented ceiling compliment the cosy atmosphere and the very friendly and welcoming hosts. Quiet Lebanese music accompanies your dining experience and a wealth of choice in the menu could leave those unfamiliar with Lebanese food curious to try a bit of everything.

Fortunately Aqua offers a Mezze board for 2 providing an ample selection of dishes to titillate one’s taste buds. A selection including: Hommous, moutabel (spicy aubergine dip) , tabboulleh, falafel, sujuk (Lebanese sausage), batata harra (sautéed spicy potato), warak enab (Stuffed Vine Leaves) and kibbeh (minced lamb parcels) which is followed by a mixed grill (a showcase of Aqua’s variety of kebabs) Arabic coffee and Baklava.

As well as a fine selection of wines and drinks, including a very cheeky Lebanese beer, Aqua’s menu also includes smoothies and coffees. There really is something for everyone’s taste at Aqua. Special mention should also go to the Manager who, on finding out about Zoe’s dairy allergy came over especially to see if there was anything he could offer to replace her dessert (which I enjoyed all to myself Winking smile

 

 

Conclusion

Now, until tonight if anyone was to ask the Mucky Badger “What Middle Eastern restaurant would you recommend?” I would probably answer either Teste on Stoke Newington High Street or Kimo’s in Liverpool. However, in future I will extol the virtues of Aqua in Warwick.

In fact, I will even be so bold as to say that Aqua has taken the Crown of Badger Delight from the “under new management” Pen Bryn Bach in North Wales.

It has been a very long time since I’ve dined in a place where I have enjoyed and savoured every mouthful of food. But that wait has now gone. Indeed if I was an uncouth individual, I might have let out the occasional audible moan of ecstasy or even tried to wrestle the chef for his secret recipes. However the Mucky Badger is house trained and no such wrestling or moaning (at least audibly) occurred.

So if you’re planning a night out during a stay in Warwickshire, or maybe you live near by and fancy something different, I insist you give Aqua a try. The service is excellent, the food (as already mentioned) fantastic and the welcome more than special. In all I am pleased to give Aqua a firm favourite 93% score. In fact, if Mucky Badger gave awards, Aqua would have one.

Make that two.

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Restaurant Review #5- The Red lion, Avebury

 

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Map picture
  The Red Lion,
A361,
High Street,
Avebury,
Wiltshire.
SN8 1RF
Telephone: 01672 539266
WWW:http://www.red-lion-pub-avebury.co.uk/

REVIEW

Now, you’d think a pub at a World Heritage Site, visited by thousands of people from all over the world would try to excel at cleanliness, hospitality and cuisine. You would though, wouldn’t you?

You’d hope that the staff were friendly and warming rather than gruff, austere and down right rude. You’d hope that the food you ordered would be brought with the minimum of fuss rather than turmoil, confusion and missing items. You’d probably even hope that the toilets would be clean, serviced and functioning instead of filthy, dilapidated and cramped. Wouldn’t you?

So when it came to visiting the Red Lion in Avebury, during a weekend of hippy yogurt weaving and floatiness, I was perhaps expecting a higher degree of hospitality than that which I actually got.

From the outside The Red Lion is a typical biscuit tin English pub. Thatched roof, timber framed and white walls. The inside, cosy with low beams and even it’s own well. Pub tat hanging from the ceilings and adorning shelves, fireplaces which no doubt welcome frozen or soggy visitors to the stone circles during the winter months. But on closer inspection the faults begin to show. With part of the bar area looking traditional and the other much akin to a Swiss beirkeller, two function rooms; one resembling a study the other a cheap faux European taverna from the 80’s, you know the type I mean, like someone’s gone to the Costa del Sol at the height of the 80’s package holiday boom and gone “oooh this decor looks stylish and would look good in my quiet rural pub”.

Now, I’ve tried to like the Red Lion. Really I have. My journalistic writing lecturer’s voice rang in my ears “BE OBJECTIVE” she said along with “BE CONSICE” and “BE HONEST”. So when I arrived and sat at my slightly sticky table I tried not to let that bother me. I even tried not to let the gruff school ma’am behind the bar dissuade me from placing my order. I would soak up the experience, no matter how terrible, and moan about it all here.

So where to start? Well first off the incident of the table renumbering. When I sat down at the sticky table, the number on the menu rack said 19. By the time I’d gone and ordered and sat back down again the table number had changed again. Not, I might add, by magic, but by “a shrieking harridan” proclaiming “THE NUMBERS ARE WRONG! THE NUMBERS ARE WRONG!”. Of course, Avebury, as you might or might not know, is in the heart of a Neolithic stone circle, so a crazed woman going round screeching about the numbers being wrong, probably wouldn’t usually  raise an eyebrow. But when you’re in a restaurant or pub or eating area where table numbers are as important as celestial charts and leys the last thing you want to hear is about wrong numbers.

However, in the trade, I guess this kind of thing happens all the time eh? Just like when you order surf and turf 8oz rump steak (medium) supposedly accompanied by grilled mushroom, tomato, onion rings, tempura battered KING prawns and watercress only to get about 3oz of charred wellington boot,  a couple of suspicious looking battered tiddly things and  nothing resembling greenery at all. Late. Luke warm.

Late, cold and all you're getting.

Worse, nothing helps the digestion of a particularly tough bit of steak more than the realisation that for the past hour you have been drinking from the dirtiest glass in the world. But don’t feel sorry for the glass, because once, possibly recently, somebody loved that glass so much that they gave it a kiss in nice pink lipstick.

Then there’s the toilet. Dirty, small, smelly and cramped. The cubicle door has seen better days and I believe that the lock must have vanished in some weird cosmic maelstrom caused by fluctuations in the chi.

Lastly, the staff. As I have already pointed out the screeching harridan, there is no need to dwell or labour the point about her. The staff were young and inexperienced. Or on the outside they were. Personally I feel that staff are only as good as the instructions they are given and to be fair they were brilliant. The staff that is. The instructions they were given? Well no…not so good. And so I must stress here, it is never the subordinates that are at fault it is the management and their instruction.

Conclusion

So I suppose that  in it’s defence the Red Lion does give an accurate example of many pubs up and down the UK. Tatty surroundings, overworked staff and expensive food and drinks. Indeed, any visitor from outside the country who has never been to a pub in the UK before would no doubt have a more accurate experience of a British public house rather than a saccharine pseudo-pub with polished brasses, fake real ales and super smart staff.

But as for the Red Lion, it’s prominent position, year round influx of tourism and expensive menu and drink prices should mean that it is a bastion of cleanliness and a shining example to visitors from all over. But obviously my assumption is wrong. I think the major thing missing from the Red Lion is something no lion should be without. Pride.

Total Score 55%

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Filed under food, Places-to-eat, pub, Reviews, wiltshire