Monday, July 02, 2007

Thought for food

Regulars here know that I like to turn my hand to movie reviews once in a while, so much so that I have made my own movie-review blog: Such As They Are. The latest film over there is Jean de Florette, which I added this morning.

But films are just one topic on which I feel qualified to give an opinion. And why not? If we partake, we are therefore at liberty to form an opinion. Another area for me is food.

The wife and I don't really have that many vices, to be honest. We work hard and earn quite good money, but we often find ourselves with very little time to ourselves, working as many as 80 hours each some weeks. Where we do tend to spend most of our consumerist pound is at eateries. Once every couple of months we will spend what could frankly be considered a stupid amount of money on a meal out together: a recent special-occasion dinner for two cost us a pretty penny, for example, but we enjoyed it very much, so where's the harm?

The harm comes when you are recommended a restaurant by what should be a fairly reliable source -- in this case, the BBC Good Food Magazine said good things about a place called The Barn in Rainham, Kent.

At a loss for Sunday lunch, and in the mood to eat something nice, we booked a table and arrived. It was a little posher inside than I'd expected, to be fair, though I don't really let these things bother me. On the odd occasion that I do, it's because I feel the poshness is a pretence -- when something is working a bit too hard with those aspirations, y'know?

We were seated and ordered our starters and mains: figs stuffed with mozzarella and dressed with pancetta, followed by the roast chicken for Red; and chicken-and-crayfish sausages on sweet-potato mash, followed by the roast beef for me. Jusqu'ici tout va bien, right?

The starters arrived and were pretty quickly devoured. So quickly, in fact, that we forgot to take pictures! They were both really delicious. Things are looking good.

The problems began with the main courses. Forgiving the fact that initially they brought Red the wrong meal, it all looked like good, wholesome Sunday-lunch fare. But I was soon unhappy. Beneath my beef (see pic at top) was a tiny amount of sweet-potato mash. Now, I tell you this, I like sweet potato. I don't even mind sweet-potato mash -- in the right places. For me (and this is just my opinion), it just doesn't work with a roast dinner. There were roast (normal) potatoes already on the plate, as well as broccoli, Yorkshire pudding, fennel, carrots, and cabbage, so I could have done without the sweetness of the sweet potato.

But the more I ate, the more I realized that the sweetness was everywhere. It was all pervading. It was in the meat, the Yorkshire pudding. It was as though there was some sort of caramelization vibe going on. I don't mind caramelization in small doses, but I wonder if maybe it's the vogue all of a sudden to throw some sugar into your veggies (like RefPo adds it to her baked beans!), but for me it just ain't right.

Red experienced the exact same sensation with her chicken dish (above). She didn't mention it until I did, and then she responded with a kind of "Yes! That's exactly what it is!" I left more on my plate than I would normally do, because I was feeling, frankly, a bit gagged out by now, though I am a sucker for cheesecake and there was one on the menu.

I ordered; Red, as usual, refrained. But it was off to a bad start. Even the way it looked. I'm an old-fashioned boy and I like my cheesecake to be a slice. But I'll overlook that if all the other elements are right. For instance, the ratio of cheese mix to biscuit must be right. And if fruits are to be included, they have to be good; ditto any fruity sauce. The ratio here was most definitely wrong, as you can see from the picture. (And check out the gang signs I'm throwin', cos there's nothin' more gangsta than a posh cheesecake.) This is a shame, because the cheese mix and the biscuit base were absolutely delicious. I don't know about the raspberries cos I didn't eat the motherfuckers. But the sauce was grim and wholly unnecessary, as was the stupid sprig of mint stuck in the top. (I really hate garnish!)

It's odd, isn't it, when you leave a restaurant thinking that they ought to serve LESS food for the price? It's not something I think often, but it becomes particularly apparent when the food is flawed in a handful of ways. So, that was The Barn restaurant. (Lovely building, by the way.) I won't be going back again.

Marks out of 25
Service: 18
Food: 11
Ambience: 14
Value for money: 8
Total: 51%

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Blogger Red said...

And if I hear about Chico and how much he was paid to sing just one song, I'll scream. Why do Kentish restaurants attract such vapid twats? It was the same at Read's.

Remember the conversation we overheard at Emilia e Carlo? Now, that was exciting -- it made you want to go, "Sorry, I couldn't help but overhear your conversation... may I be your friend?"

02 July, 2007 18:00  
Blogger Four Dinners said...

mmmmmmmmmm.....dribble on keypad

just realised. It's 8:30pm and I haven't had me grub yet.

Caz!!! I'm hungry! Feed me!!

02 July, 2007 20:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We too seem to spend ridiculous amounts of money on eating out. But after working hard a good meal and some wine can be just what is needed. Also have some friends who like to eat out as well which it that much easier. We once went to Vancouver and ate at a well known restaurant called Lumiere, was very good...but don't the french restaurants serve vegetables? When all was said and done, with tip it was $700!!. Ouch, it was fun and meals and service were flawless but would I go

02 July, 2007 20:49  
Blogger Glamourpuss said...

A roast dinner is something that should not be fucked with - the simpler the better. And yes, I think there is a trend at the moment for sweetening stuff. It makes me gag. But then I always was a savoury puss...


02 July, 2007 21:30  
Blogger Martha Elaine Belden said...

sorry you were so disappointed. i'm with you on the sweetness. i feel sweetness should be left for dessert. although, brown sugar in baked beans IS good!

and that cheesecake looks weird. cheesecake should look like cheesecake. why mess with a good thing? really.

03 July, 2007 02:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate when I've chosen to spend a pretty penny on an unworthy meal. I went to a restaurant called Bosc Kitchen and wine bar recently and it had an amazing array of non-extra-fucked with food. With a name like that though, you expect a lot of pear foods though. I started with pear infused champange and then had a wasabi salmon burger with a side of sweet potato fries. Finished it off with wedge of chocolate flourless torte
w/a pinot noir poached ½ pear,
served w/ vanilla sauce. Holy crap was it good!!!

03 July, 2007 09:37  
Blogger Milla said...

My friend Enrico is a chef. Dor a while he was one of the main chefs in a very very famous restaurant in Londonn, the kind that you read about in magazines. He told me a few stories about the kitchen. Since then I haven't been to a restaurant. Jeez. The things they put in the food! Double jeez.

03 July, 2007 12:45  
Blogger Milla said...

Read 'FOR' for 'Dor' and London has one n. Must be the food I had for lunch!

03 July, 2007 12:47  
Blogger Sheamus the... said...

holy cow that looks amazing!

03 July, 2007 15:10  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

It looks beautiful...but I would have been upset with all the sweet taste. For one thing you are correct...if there is a carmelization why serve sweet potatoes ugh. How far away was the spot form your home? How did you get there?

I love all kinds of food and even love posh restaurants...but my experience is that I usually don't like a lot of the decor or the music. I tend to like trendy middle posh places because they often have good music. I can cook most of the food myself so I get fussy about certain ambience...

03 July, 2007 16:30  

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