Not spud enough…

We went out for lunch today here.

It seemed nice from their web page so I booked.

It was in order to meet up with our nieces and their families to exchange Christmas presents.

It involved popping down the M1 and then right hand down a bit onto the M25 and then to a village called Chenies and a place called the Bedford Arms Hotel.

About 50 minutes in all so we could rendezvous equidistantly from Milton Keynes and Twickenham.

It was lovely to meet up, swap news and see some new great-nieces too.

But the food…

Abysmal.

The hotel – really a traditional pub with the rooms in annexes – has a rosette awarded by the AA for ‘culinary excellence’.

One rosette is awarded to:

Excellent restaurants that stand out in their local area. The food is prepared with care, understanding and skill, using good-quality ingredients.

Well, the first sentence tells me that in the case of this particular place the restaurants nearby must be pretty bloody awful. I daresay some of the second sentence is true – re the ingredients – but they were prepared so lacklustrely that you couldn’t really tell.

I had a Sunday roast – roast rib of beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and a mixture of vegetables including carrot, cauliflower, broccoli, mangetout, green beans and courgette. all served with gravy – and horseradish sauce if you wanted it.

The beef was OK – not overcooked, but not very much of it. The vegetables were fresh, although I don’t see what’s wrong with just a couple of sorts – why do you need SIX vegetables fighting it out? The Yorkshire pudding was homemade, although it had suffered from being cooked too far in advance of being served. What got me, though, were the potatoes, which weren’t particularly nice – roasted from raw I’d say, rather than parboiled then roasted – but only TWO in number…

The cost was £11.95 which I think was a lot to pay for basically a pub lunch and not a very good one at that.

I’d had a very similar meal the week before at one of these places. I’d put the food on a par with the Bedford Arms and the surroundings were rather nicer, but it cost us only £3.99 a head…

What’s more, it was only the meat and accompaniments that were served to you – all the potatoes (two sorts!) and vegetables (including cauliflower which was au gratin and not just plain) were there for you to take as much or as little as you liked.

All fresh – apart from the peas – and whilst the beef wasn’t that clever there, the gammon was particularly good (as good as home roasted) and the turkey (a meat of which I’m not too fond anyway) more than adequate.

Fantastic value.

Now, whilst I realise that the Bedford Arms is an independent restaurant and the Crown Carvery place we went to last week is part of the vast Mitchell & Butlers pub chain, that’s still a hell of a lot of difference pricewise for a comparable meal.

Three people could have had a well-cooked and substantial roast Sunday lunch at the Carvery for what it cost one at the Bedford Arms Hotel.

Of course a small place hasn’t got the bulk buying power of a chain and the pricing reflects this but for three times the cost I should expect something much better and I just didn’t get it.

But my main quarrel isn’t the price so much as the fact that my lunch today had just two potatoes – as did everybody else’s.

Potatoes are cheap for heaven’s sake!

It would probably cost a couple of pence more to give you four of the buggers instead of two.

So why scrimp on them?

So you have room for a dessert?

Beats me.

After all, the French give you a basket of bread with your meal whether you’re having the menu prix fixe or not so you can get your carbs.

Anyway, roll on next week and Normandy when we can be relatively sure that no matter where we eat out the food is going to be good, the people who prepare it understand what they’re cooking with and you’re not going to feel peckish an hour afterwards...

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