The Brickmakers, Windlesham

I am a member of one of those Facebook pages that is aimed at mums in my local area. It’s a fantastic platform for us all to gossip about where to take your kids for a day out or where is nice for bite to eat. One of the most commonly recommended pubs is The Brickmakers in Windlesham. From what the ladies of the Facebook page were saying, I should be expecting friendly owners, elegant but comfortable surroundings and most importantly amazing food. 

 

It was a nice sunny Saturday and decided it was the perfect time to try out their lunch menu. The very first thing I noticed was the fancy cars in the car park. Porches, TVRs, brand new Range Rovers. I started to suspect it might be slightly more pretentious  than I had first thought. The garden is very nicely laid out, good quality furniture well spaced out so as not to feel like I’m sitting on another customers lap. Considering all the cars there was hardly anyone else there, albeit with their laptops on the table and designer sunglasses perched on their noses. 

 

The lunch menu is a scaled down version of the evening menu but it still has some tasty little treats on there. My husband went for the pork belly with potato and herb bake. I realised that I all too often opt for this type of dish and that even I am becoming bored of talking about it. I’m told it was full of flavour and well cooked, I was too busy stuffing my face with a burger to try it.

I went for the butterflied chilli and thyme chicken burger with black pepper mayonnaise. I have a question for all the burger selling joints out there. What is with skinny fries? Am I the only person that can’t stand them? If I’m having a juicy, delicious burger then I want big fat chunky chips, preferably twice, if not thrice, cooked with skins left on. Instead I regularly find myself with floppy, overly salted fries reminiscent of something you might find in some well known fast food chains. Sorry, I digress. The chicken was beautiful. There was not a hint of dryness and the spice and herb combination was great. Probably one of the better burgers you’re likely to find in a 10 mile radius. I hope to very soon compare it to one of the new fashionable burger joints in London that seem to be popping up every 5 minutes so watch this space. 

 

They were very accommodating for the youngun which is always a bonus in my eyes. Pretty typical selection but without the cheap and nasty ingredients. They were also quick to offer free squash which was a nice little touch they didn’t have to do. 

 

My M-in-L had the most magnificent ploughman’s I think I have ever seen. Slices of ham as thick as your thumb and practically half a block of cheddar next to it with all the usual suspects. It looked amazing but it’s not for those with cholesterol issues I’m sure. 

When you have one of the best burgers you’ve had and discover it’s cost you less than a tenner in a place where you could expect to be charged at least a fiver more, well you know you are onto a winner.

 

Personally, I will be going back. I will be going back baby free, and on a dark winters evening so that we can cozy up inside and sample the more expansive menu. I’m thinking a warming glass (read bottle) of merlot, black pudding and haggis cake to start, Gressingham duck for my main and something rich and chocolatey to end. Who’s going to babysit?  

The Swan Inn, Farnborough

The Swan Inn used to be, quite bluntly, a dive. A horrible, rough looking pub. Maybe even a little intimidating judging by the clientèle that used to fall out of there on a Friday night.

Thankfully it has been lovingly restored and given the justice it deserves. Inside there is lots of wood and rich warm colours which reminds me of many a pub on the moors, shame about the busy Farnborough Road and view of a tyre shop out the front window. However the fact that it overlooks the runway at Farnborough Airport is enough to make you forget about that and provides plane spotter paradise.

Being a Sunday  roast dinners are the order of the day for most of us but that isn’t to say there weren’t one or two dishes which could have tempted us away. Namely the venison burger with goats cheese and beetroot served with the most amazing crispy home made potato wedges and the teeniest, tiniest pot of coleslaw. The husband opted for this which didn’t surprise me at all. I didn’t get around to having a bite but I’m told it was a little on the dry side but all the flavour was there.

The husband and I shared a garlic flatbread with caramelised onion which was nice although, you may know by now that I always like to have more sauce. My dad was not a fan of the veg they had on the menu so asked what the alternatives were and was told mushy peas! Mushy peas, really?? They couldn’t even offer peas and corn.

That was just the beginning of the bad service. The waitresses seemed to have no knowledge of either the drinks or food menu, they couldn’t even tell us which lagers were on tap.

The sirloin beef was delicious and the roast potatoes were decently crispy. It was good to see an unusual selection of veg, carrot and swede mash and cauliflower and broccoli cheese with just the right amount of sauce so that it didn’t end up smothering everything else. The Yorkshire puddings were clearly home-made which is a sign of a half decent restaurant roast.

Now for some more bad service. I don’t know about anyone else but if I have asked for some form of condiment, in this case mustard, horseradish and cranberry sauce, I won’t start my meal until it arrives. We had to ask three times before they finally brought over everything we had asked for, by which time my meal was on it’s way to being cold. There was also some confusion over some extra stuffing that we had ordered. The waitress quite rudely stated that the chef had informed her that it had already been sent out with the meal. After some searching we realised it was hidden underneath everything but that doesn’t excuse the attitude.

The fathers day offer was that one dad gets his main course for free, plus all those that had a roast dinner received a free glass of wine. Nobody ordered dessert and the only other drinks we had was a couple of diet cokes. So when the bill worked out to £18 per person for a roast dinner I can’t help but feel it’s a touch on the expensive side. The food was very good, far better than your usual pub fare but the occasion was overshadowed by grumpy service. The owners are on the right track but perhaps they should look at enforcing service with a smile.

The Swan Inn

91 Farnborough road

Farnborough

Hampshire

GU14 6TL

Tel: 01252 544 654

The Ritz, London

I feel obliged to start this post by saying, if you ever happen to feel the urge to visit The Ritz, please make sure the menfolk in your party are suited and booted. The restaurant in particular (the afternoon tea area is a little more relaxed) is militant about jacket and ties. We were not prepared for this and found ourselves running around Piccadilly Circus looking for a tie that didn’t cost £65 (is it just me or is that daylight robbery?). We actually thought we might get away without the jacket as my husband had a particularly smart coat on but when he checked it in he was offered a jacket in a selection on sizes that he was to wear throughout our meal!! I guess at least they cater for us commoners by providing spares.

Walking through the hotel you definitely get the sense of grandeur but is somewhat dampened by the likes of you and I who clearly have come out on a jolly rather than belonging there. At a cost of between £960 and £5880 for one nights board, it’s of little surprise that the majority of diners are playing at being rich and famous for a couple of hours and they are anything like me, are absolutely loving it.

Get me pointing out the hand painted walls, the awe-inspiring ceiling and gold statues as if I have any clue as to what I’m blabbering on about.

As soon as we were seated I was poured a glass of champagne and handed the biggest, heaviest wine list I’ve ever come across. We quickly decided that we would mostly be drinking tap water when our eyes popped out of their sockets at the price of the cheapest bottle of South African red. £90!!! I would have expected at least one bottle at half that price.

The waiters looked dapper in their bow ties and tails. adding to the 1920′s atmosphere. They talked quietly in French accents and couldn’t have made us feel more welcome.

Scallops are infamously hard to cook correctly, this is why I have never bothered to make them at home, they would likely end up in the bin. For this reason I will often choose scallops in a fancy restaurant as I naively assume that a fancy place is more likely to do them the justice they deserve.

They were awful! I’m not trying to be overly harsh here, they were just that terrible.

They were slimy and cold and screaming for some seasoning. Served with little balls of cucumber which we mistakenly identified by grapes, and the tiniest pieces of crispy pork which they describe as pork head on the menu. If they had put more of the crispy pork on the plate perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad but as there were only 3 that were the size of a pea.

I have to say I was a little heartbroken. Now I’m starting to worry that I have just paid a hefty sum for seafood that I probably would have slung in the bin if I had cooked it myself.

The main course was by far and away in a different league to the starters. I could not have enjoyed the pork belly more. It was so packed with flavour, cooked to perfection and without so much fat that your veins instantly clog up. Served with pomme puree, which is essentially pureed potato, and a piece of sautéed apple. Just writing about it makes my mouth water, mmmmm.

There were only two choices for dessert, neither of which took my fancy and so I opted to pay the supplement of £6 for the cheese course. Is there a name for someone who knows everything about cheese? A cheese equivalent of a Sommelier? Anyway, this guy was great! We chatted about what I liked, and what I thought I didn’t like. I’ve never been a fan of blue-veined cheese but was encouraged to try just a small piece, which turned out to be an excellent idea as it turned out to be the best one of the lot. There was goats cheese, cheddars, Camembert  Stiltons and more. Then I could choose to have sides of walnuts, figs, celery, chutneys and crackers. FYI, the crackers were stale but I didn’t really want them anyway as I was so full.

As I was having cheese I was offered a glass of port so I thought I’d give it a go. £18 for 100ml of port seemed excessive, even more so as it burned my throat so was left undrunk.

Overall I had a very enjoyable experience, even if the starter was abysmal. I wouldn’t recommend it as a great restaurant, but I would recommend it as an experience. We didn’t drink aside from the glass of port and my brother in laws glass of wine, and I firmly believe this was the right decision. Any more alcohol and the whole occasion would have been tainted by the price of the final bill.

We paid £89 for two people for a three course lunch and actually feel we received value for money if you take everything into consideration. The service was impeccable, and two out of three courses were great. If you like getting dressed up and being made to feel special then this is the place for you.

20130702_163033

The Ritz Restaurant

150 Piccadilly

London

W1J 9BR

Tel: 020 7300 2370

Aviator, Farnborough

The Aviator is a contemporary hotel aimed at, in their words, the “elite” traveller. The elegant and glamorous interior includes a striking staircase that leads up to the locally famous Sky Bar that overlooks Farnborough airport. Being the aviation geek that I am, this is my ideal venue to combine that with my love of eating and drinking.

The Sunday lunch offer was £21 for three courses which judging from my previous visits sounded like great value. So we booked a table at lunchtime for my sister’s birthday. As eight of us were dining and we wanted a round table (long rectangular tables make it difficult to have a group conversation) we reserved the private dining room as it doesn’t come at any extra cost. There was a concern that we would lose out on atmosphere but there was enough of us to create our own buzz.

Half the party ordered roast lamb  but was told this was unavailable, as was the sardine starter my brother-in-law ordered. The waiters graciously apologised and immediately told us the wine would be deducted from our final bill. We would have been happy with extra roast potatoes but wine is always better.

When ordering dessert, those that wanted the crumble asked if they could have custard instead of ice cream but again we were told this was unavailable. I thought it was foodie law that you have custard with crumble but I guess that’s just me.

I had smoked salmon to start, and oh my, what a lot of juicy salmon there was. Served with a beautiful dill sauce which complimented the salmon beautifully but there was just not enough for all the salmon. Although I do have issues with excess so someone with more control might have felt it was perfect.

salmon

Another starter that was ordered was the ham hock. Fabulously soft and full of flavour but not the prettiest of plates. Plus it was served with a coleslaw of sorts that was over the top mustardy which made the top of my nose sting.

Onto the main event. Thin slices of medium rare sirloin beef piled high and surrounded by roast potatoes that were so crispy we all decided they must have been lightly fried, and a light and fluffy, clearly home-made Yorkshire pudding. The red wine gravy had a good punch to it and was so rich I could have drunk it out of a glass. The only downside was the unadventurous green beans and chantaray carrots. They were perfectly cooked but I would have enjoyed for braised cabbage with bacon for example.

roast beef

This was all followed by a somewhat dry chocolate brownie. It tasted right but the texture was all wrong. I like mine meltingly warm and gooey in the middle. It was served with a dollop of almond ice cream which I loved. Other members of the group described it as almost savoury and a bit mismatched with a chocolate heavy dessert.

brownie

This is quite frankly the best roast dinner I have ever eaten at a restaurant! With a few tweaks here and there it could have been brilliant. It will never match up to mums or my mum in-laws, but for £21 for all of the above, you won’t find better around here.

Aviator

Farnborough Road

Farnborough

Hampshire

GU14 6EL

Tel: 01252 555890

De Havilland Arms, Elvetham Heath, Fleet, Hampshire

A very lovely lady from my office is off to have a little bambino of her own next week and so we decided to have a team lunch to celebrate.

The De Havilland Arms is modern traditional pub in that it is a relatively new building but the interior is attempting to look like a traditional country inn. It will never have the cozy feel to it but it is quaint with a friendly vibe about it.

The menu is typically large so as to incorporate all the classics, such as fish and chips and lasagne, and include some house specials such as lobster bisque fish pie. As tempting as the main menu sounded, I was looking for a lighter option so went with the smoked pulled turkey sub roll with BBQ sauce, grilled red onion and soured cream for £5.95. For £2.50 you can add a portion of chips but this is not good value. I’m not kidding, I only got about 10 chips. It was served on a chunky rustic looking bread board which was somewhat out of place what with a sub roll being very American and all that.

I can’t say it was the most exciting thing I’ve ever eaten but it wasn’t bad. As we had pre-ordered our food, the question had been asked if we could have baguettes instead of sub rolls. A little worryingly the answer was no. Does this not indicate that they don’t even make their sandwiches fresh? That lobster bisque fish pie doesn’t sound quite so appetising now does it?

As it was my day off today (part-time slacker that I am), I had to bring my bambino with me so was pleased to see a half decent children’s menu. Chipolatas, mash, peas and gravy was ordered and he scoffed the lot using an adult sized fork and a teaspoon because ridiculously they don’t provide small people cutlery?! Slightly annoying but not the end of the world.

A couple of the other ladies had some salads which I normally don’t even bother to look at on the menu. I flatly refuse to spend my hard-earned cash (snigger, sorry the husbands hard-earned cash) on an over priced plate of lettuce leaves. However, in this case it looks like it would have been the better option as it looked really appealing. Plenty of chicken marinated and cooked in a sticky BBQ sauce with crispy bacon, cos lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, sweetcorn, croutons and sour cream dressing.

As the only pub on quite a large housing estate it’s always going to be reasonably successful but I wouldn’t say it is worth going out of your way to try. It doesn’t have a nice garden to sit in with a beautiful view and it doesn’t have the draw of excellent food. If however you are in the area and are looking for something easy and relaxed with quick service then by all means, pop in. Just don’t have high expectations.

De Havilland Arms

The Key

Elvetham Heath

Fleet

Hampshire

GU51 1HA

Tel: 01252 628 102

Water Sky Chinese Restaurant, Fleet

As a family we have come to an agreement that instead of struggling to come up with some meaningful birthday present that the recipient doesn’t need, we should use the excuse, and the money, to get together at a restaurant instead.

The Water Sky is a good venue for such get togethers as we are all obsessed with round tables making it easier to chat. Not only that, the larger tables have the novel experience of a spinning centre so that when the food arrives you can share the dishes more easily.

An all you can eat without the buffet, what’s not to love right? The dishes are made fresh to order rather than sitting out for hours while god knows who coughs and sneezes over it.

The décor leaves a lot to be desired, there isn’t much in the way of authentic nik nacs or mood lighting, and the floor is bizarrely uneven which doesn’t bode well for a tipsy mum on a night off from the bambino trying to make her way to the bathrooms. The tables are quite packed together which means your chair often gets bumped by other diners.

On this occasion we were particularly lucky with the service. I have previously known and automatically expected grumpy waiters and slow service. Tonight we were looked after by a very funny chap who openly joked to assure us that we were ordering duck not dog and that we wouldn’t find horse on the menu.

We opted for a selection of starters as we were all going to share everything.

Crab claws, prawn toast, satay chicken, thai style ribs, crispy wontons and crispy seaweed

Starters are always my favourite part of a meal and tonight was not a disappointment. Admittedly the crab claws are a little suspect and have a reformed texture about them, the husband wouldn’t eat them. The rest was great though, my particular favourite was the chicken satay with its thick sauce and healthy kick of chilli. The meat on the ribs just fell off the bone and was coated in a finger lickingly scrumptious sauce.

We followed with crispy duck pancakes. The duck was a little dry but this problem was easily solved by smothering it in hoisin sauce and loading up a pancake with cucumber and spring onions.

The Main Course

Crispy chilli beef, sweet and sour chicken, sweet and sour prawns,

Singapore noodles, chicken with cashews in yellow bean sauce, beef in black

bean sauce and egg fried rice.

I LOVE crispy chilli beef when it’s done well. Annoyingly though it is usually soggy and bland which is the complete opposite of how it is should be. Thank the chinese gods that the Water Sky know what crispy means and what chilli tastes like. Needless to say that we polished this off immediately and ordered more which disappeared equally fast.

The sweet and sour chicken and prawns (separately I should point out) were delicious. Obviously pretty much the same, we just couldn’t decide which we preferred so ordered both.

Now to the downside. The chicken with cashews in yellowbean sauce and the beef in blackbean sauce were both bland and if I’m honest, a little slimy. No great amount of flavour to be detected anywhere. This is the problem with being a lover of chilli, garlic and ginger, if it doesn’t smack me round the face then I can’t help but feel hard done by.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is fine dining, far from it. But what it is, is fine value. Especially if you have an appetite the size of an elephant. The menu isn’t as large as your average takeaway so is probably missing some of your old favourites but this is just the encouragement you might need to try something new right?

It’s a firm family favourite and we will no doubt return in the non too distant future. My suggestion here is to walk in without an attitude and realise that if you don’t like one dish, just order another! That is after all the beauty of all you can eat.

Water Sky

1a Crookham Road

Fleet

GU51 5DJ

Tel: 01252 615034

The Inn @ West End

The husband and I found ourselves with a few child free hours and decided to go for a nice Sunday lunch somewhere. The intention was to go to the Duke of Cambridge near Tilford for a coffee and then some lunch. Unfortunately we arrived a little too early for even a coffee. We didn’t really fancy sitting in the car park for over half an hour so decided to go for a drive and ended up at  The Inn @ West End.

The restaurant is not exactly situated in the best location. It’s right on a main road and is lacking the country setting The Duke of Cambridge has but it still looks like a pretty building and we had heard the food was very good so we had high hopes.

There are few things that make me feel more uncomfortable than walking into a restaurant  or pub that is completely empty,  especially when all the staff turn and look at you when you open the door. In this instance all the waitresses were very friendly and we were seated and ordered our drinks while we perused the extensive menu.

20130428_12221920130428_122245

I decided to start with the mildly spiced smoked kedgeree with a poached egg for £8.25. OMG it was big enough to be a main course, half the amount would have been plenty. It had a beautiful kick to it and the rice was cooked perfectly. I thought the haddock was slightly dry and overcooked but it was otherwise a lovely dish, so lovely that I polished off the lot. This would prove to be a big mistake.

20130428_124120

My husband had the pork fritters with black pudding, apple sauce and crackling. His portion was far more fitting for a starter, and very pretty too. This was my second choice and although very tasty I think I preferred the kedgeree . Between the black pudding and the crispy coating of pork, the dish is need of that juicy apple sauce but could have done with at least a double dollop of it.

20130428_124114

Next up I chose off the specials board, the twice cooked pork belly with gratin potatoes, a red wine jus & crackling for £18.25. I decided to swap the green beans for braised cabbage which the waitress was more than happy to arrange. Sometimes such requests can be met with a look of annoyance but not here, and considering the price I would hope not.

20130428_130629

The pork belly had a good amount of fat running through it, and lets face it that’s what makes it tasty. What I wasn’t keen on was the powdery hard top. It seemed to dry it out and suck all the juiciness of the fatty under layer.

The gratin was firm but not undercooked and the braised cabbage had such a vibrant flavour. I’m still not quite sure what spice it had in it (I know, how very amateur of me), but having gone home and raided my spice cupboard I thought it smelt like my jar of all spice or ground cinnamon. I will be experimenting with these flavours when I next make cabbage at home.

My husband had a hankering for a burger so we were happy to see the menu delivered. Now, I might be being a little petty here but I was under the impression that a burger was a meat pattie sandwiched between two pieces of a bread like substance, be it a seeded bap or foccacia bread. This was what appeared in front of my husband. All he got was the pork pattie. No bread! I find it misleading to call this a burger. False advertising!

20130428_130603

For all my outrage it was actually ok. It came with sautéed potatoes and some dressed rocket. Not really sure there is much to write home about though, how exciting can rocket be? The answer is not very. All I kept thinking was this pork pattie, handful of potatoes and some rocket has just cost me £16.75.

I’m sorry I keep going on about it but the price really has ruined what could have been a lovely lunch.

Let me put this into perspective for you. L’Ortalan (where we got married) is a Michelin starred restaurant and offers a cheaper lunch menu. As far as I’m concerned, that isn’t right.

By the time we left I felt so full I actually felt quite sick. Completely my own fault I know but when I’ve paid for food I’m going to eat it.

As a basic overview I would say that the food is quite nice but way overpriced. I’ve definitely had much better for a lot cheaper.

I’m sorry to say but unless there is a big price shave, I won’t be returning or recommending The Inn to my family and friends.

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 339 other followers