Great Places To Eat April 24, 2012 10:27

We (the Pudding Pie team) are lucky enough to get to eat in some great places, some turn out to be fantastic and some not so! It is very easy to catch someone on a bad day and then run them into the floor with a bad review. We prefer to concentrate on the positive experiences and simply not mention the bad ones! We have put together a guide of the ones we think are worth a visit, the ones we don't like, don't appear!

The Nut Tree Inn

Chef - Mike North (1 Michelin Star) Our Review - 2009   I guess you could call this a gastro-pub, but the Nut Tree Inn is an affordable pub with fantastic food. Tipped for good things in the near future, here you have the chance to sample Michelin food at a good pub price! We had a 3 course meal and thoroughly enjoyed it. You wont get the full Michelin experience of some big restaurants, but you do get looked after and some really good food. Downsides Whereas the food is great and fully deserves the award, the premises did not live up to the same standard a bit untidy on the day we went in places, but you soon forgive that when you taste the food. Our Revisit - 2012 We went back for a second visit in March 2012, we were glad to see that the rather dirty looking conservatory that we ate in last time, had been demolished and replaced with a new dining room. This was nice enough although very open and no real character (also when full very noisy a bit like a school dining room). We went for the taster menu this time, with the accompanying wine. The  amuse bouche was a delicious mushroom soup, which let us believe we were in for a treat, however the next two dishes came under seasoned, then we had the best lamb dish we have ever eaten, followed by a fairly average dessert, then a fantastic souffle. Altogether a very mixed bag. The wine waiter rattled through the wine choice at such a rate of knots that we could not understand a single word and when we finally got the drinks we had never ordered removed from the bill, we went on our way a little confused by the experience. In Summary A nice place to eat, but .... this is our second visit and both times we have had something that spoils it just a little. Will we be back, probably not (too many other places to try for the money is costs), would we recommend it, yes we would, you get what you pay for but nothing more than that really. It is not fine dining (they don't set out to be) but they do have a star and you expect certain standards and levels of food, and we wonder if they can deliver this on all levels from the two visits we have made. By all means give it a try it's good food, but there are better restaurants at the same price level, in our opinion.

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The Fat Duck, Bray

Chef - Heston Blumenthal (3 Michelin Stars)   Our Review - 2010   We ate Heston's taster menu all washed down with Taittinger Champagne! In a small dining room in an unassuming property on the side of the road in Bray, we were served a meal that was a fabulous assault on our senses. Things we thought were hot were cold and things we thought were desserts were not, all in all it was a great evening, fantastic staff that attended to our every need, we really did not have to ask for anything. The food was beautiful (even the snail porridge) and prepared immaculately and delivered with pure theatre (lots of liquid nitrogen). Not cheap but in this case we did get what we paid for, we would recommend anyone to visit and try. Downsides Having to wait so long to get a table!

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Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons

Chef Patron- Raymond Blanc (2 Michelin Stars) Our Review - 2010   We had already visited Raymond's Brasserie in Oxford with our kids and were really impressed at the great menu, reasonable prices and how welcoming they were to children. With this in mind we tried Le Manoir, what an impressive building and location, you feel really grand entering the place and you are made to feel really welcome. It was a lovely summers day when we went so we had pre-dinner drinks sitting in the impressive garden before tucking into the taster menu. The atmosphere was more relaxed than some places we have been (service wise), but the food was exceptional. After the meal we were able to wander freely around the grounds and walk through Raymond's impressive veg patch (which is bigger than a football pitch) and you are never rushed to leave, in fact they want you to stay and getting away took us a little over 3.5 hours! Great place to eat very reasonable menu options, kids are welcome and a must for anyone to try. Downsides None I can think of, that's why we are planning a return trip soon. Our Review - 2nd visit May 2011 We finally had some time off and took full advantage by returning to 'Le Manoir'. This time we decided to treat our two kids (13 + 9 years old) again the food and service was spectacular, our eldest joined us in the 5 course taster menu which was fabulous, while our youngest enjoyed the kids menu (all delivered in a child friendly way with good humour for the kids). They loved it all, after the meal we wandered the gardens again in the sunshine and took tea on the lawn, before we were treated by Pim Wolfs (Host Manager) to a tour of the kitchen and cookery school. We were there for over 4 hours and loved it all. We love to visit new places, but this venue keeps drawing us back and it's virtually on our doorstep, so we will certainly be back to sample some more of the great atmosphere and food. Downsides As before not one we can think of, maybe that we had to go home!.

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Lasan Indian Restaurant

Chef - Aktar Islam (Winner of 'The F Word') Our Review - 2011   We saw this place on Gordon Ramsey's F Word programme and naturally they won it, the trophy has pride of place in their foyer. What can we say about this restaurant, simply it's the best Indian food we have  ever had and we've tried quite a few in our lives. The food is beautifully presented and not the traditional Indian flavours you would expect, they have fused the flavours with a western twist to create some of the best food you will ever taste (which is why we had 3 desserts!). Great staff very patient and a fantastic modern interior all created a great experience for us. Downsides None, we will be back to give it another try - you wont be disappointed.

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The Waterside Inn, Bray

Chef - Alain Roux (3 Michelin Stars)   Our Review - 2011   A beautiful location just down the road from Heston's restaurant in fact. We pulled up to be met by a doormen wearing a suit and hat, who dutifully took our keys and went off to park our car between two Bentley's !! We were greeted and shown our room which had a balcony overlooking the Thames and we thought what could be better ... the answer, the food. We ate their taster menu and had some of the best food we have ever eaten in our lives, you can see why they have maintained 3 stars for so many years. The dining room seemed a little busy with all the staff flying around, not as tranquil as some places we have been but nevertheless it was a nice atmosphere. We chose to have the wine to compliment the meal and by the time we retired to our room we were very full and very merry!. To make the trip even better we were invited to view the kitchen the next morning where we met Alain and Michel Roux Jnr as they filmed for a new TV series, how wonderful. Downsides Dining room seemed a little too crowded with staff but that's being picky as we cannot really fault anything about the place, well worth a try.

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Viners, Newquay Cornwall

Chef - Kevin Viner (AA Chef of the year) Our Review - 2011 Tucked away on the outskirst of Newquay, Kevin is a winner of some of Britain’s renowned professional cooking competitions including UK National Chef of the Year in 1998 and the AA’s Chef of the Year in 1999, voted by his peers and colleague chefs throughout the trade. He was also nominated as one of the ‘Top ten chefs of the last decade’ by the A.A. The atmosphere is not stuffy and you are made to feel part of the family from the moment you arrive. We ate there twice in fact once with our children and then again with just adults. We ate amongst other things, oysters, mackerel, scallops, chicken, souffles, and various other dishes. All we can say is wonderful! The food is fantastic, we highly recommend them, when we are next in Cornwall we will be back. Downsides Not sure there are any as far as the food is concerned, it's a shame though that the entrance is used as a drying area for tea towels very tacky look, get rid of them and think what people first see would be our advice.

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The Butchers Arms, Priors Hardwick

Chef - Adam Newman Our Review - 2012 Lino, Peter and Helen Pires head up a team of dedicated staff with their prime objective - to look after you during your visit. A lovely building awaits as you approach it in the village of Priors Hardwick, Warwickshire. We have eaten here many times over the years with friends and even our children every Christmas Day. We have never been disappointed. The menu is extensive with an option to suit all tastes and budgets. The staff are always attentive but relaxed and you never feel rushed into finishing your meal. Whenever we visit we are never out of the place in less than 3 hours! The service is relaxed and not too stuffy and they cannot do enough for you, to the extent that one new years eve when our taxi failed to show, one of the staff drove us home, half an hour away!! The food is well presented and always delicious, and we have tried just about all of it over the years. They have a huge wine/champagne stock as well as lovely beers, so allround very impressive set up. Well worth a visit (if not for the dessert trolley alone) you will not be disappointed. Downsides Never enough opportunity to go I guess, there's nothing to fuss about really, if we were pushed to think of something we may say less raunchy posters in the gents as it ruins your aim!!!

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The Feathers Hotel, Woodstock.

Our Review - February 2012 We found the Feathers on a snowy day in February, we had booked and heard lots of good things and just hoped that we could still manage to get there in the bad weather. We were initially one of two tables in the restaurant that had decided to brave the snow. Upon arrival we were very impressed with the standard and service we received. We waited in a lovely lounge and were treated to an amuse bouche from the chef which was delicious and got us thinking we were in for a real treat. It is clear from our experience, that this establishment is aiming for high accolades, maybe even a Michelin Star soon, the food is certainly up to standard, it's just falling slightly behind with some of the service. We had 3 courses and between each we were treated to a taster sample from the chef (really lovely), all the food was faultless and beautifully presented and it all tasted fantastic, we cannot fault it one of the nicest meals we have had for a long time. If you are looking for Michelin Star food, but not wanting to pay the prices, we recommendnd you get there quickly before they get a star and the prices rise, we thoroughly recommend you sample the delights of the menu, we will be back there soon. Downsides We found the atmosphere in the restaurant very stuffy to start with, being watched all the time by staff is somewhat off putting when you are trying to dine, the deadly silence in the room was also a bit weird (perhaps some soft music when it's so quiet) however as the place filled up with a few more tables, the staff seemed to relax into their stride and it ended up being great.

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Purnells, Birmingham

Chef - Glynn Purnell Our Review- April 2012 We had heard so much about Purnells from friends in the trade, that we thought we better go along, after all it's virtually on our doorstep. Just round the corner from another favourite of ours (Lasan) we were pleasantly surprised by the modern clean crisp interior, they had some music playing and the atmosphere seemed really nice. The dining room is not massive, so you do feel cosy and the staff were all very attentive. We went for the taster menu (as we so often do) our verdict was .... wonderful, yes there were one or two dishes from the 8 or so courses that were not our favourite, but that's the whole point of a taster menu, you get to taste it all and decide what you like so you can have it next time! We were well looked after and were very pleased with the meal we had. All washed down with some very fine Champagne, who can complain. Perhaps you may find it a little expensive, but for a one star Michelin taster menu, we felt very good value for money.

If you feel like a quality night out, great food served to the highest of standards in lovely surroundings, with brilliant staff, then look no further here it is, go on give it a try you wont regret it.

Downsides

Well, the on street parking is a nightmare, but I don't suppose you can hold the restaurant responsible for that, otherwise one of our diners found the tables a little difficult to get their legs under, but really we cannot fault the place on anything else.