Friday 20 January 2012

Fine dining for cyclists

Last night I had my first ever experience of "fine dining". It was at The Vineyard at Stockcross - a 5 star hotel with spa and attached restaurant. My only previous experience of the place was a friends post-Christening event which was an entirely different thing. The Vineyard has it all - people greeting you at the entrance to escort you through the building, a relaxed waiting area in the bar with posh nibbles, enormous mark-ups on the drinks.  They even have a fountain that's on fire. I'm always impressed by the ability to burn water for entertainment purposes.
Our team of waiting staff showed us to our table and introduced the menus. Not cheap, but not unexpected. They had a "seasonal menu" which was slightly cheaper, and mainly consisted of things that didn't look quite as appetising as the items on the main, more expensive menu. Cunning. It's like displaying SRAM Red next to SRAM Force, or XTR next to XT. Good as the XT is, you know you really want the XTR.

Obviously I went for the Red/XTR option - a pumpkin velote with wild mushrooms,  monkfish wrapped in pancetta with carrot and mandarin puree, roasted fennel and mini potatoes, and the possibility of a dessert to come... If I still had space.

Bread arrives. Just a couple of pieces for me, no need to fill up. Lots more to come.

Oh look, an "amuse bouche". A shot glass with some leek flavoured white stuff, some solid green stuff at the bottom and a mini crisp on the top. This wasn't really for me, I've never really liked creamy-leeky-stuff-with-some-green.

Ah, starters. The waiters were entertaining at this point - their little dance around us to ensure simultaneous plate landing was worth of Britain's Got Talent, and the lady who tried to interrupt our bawdy conversation to explain what we were eating was really wasting her time. Quite frankly I could remember what I'd ordered, and I couldn't really get why she explained the same thing five times to the five people who all had scallops... And who were all in earshot of each other.

I looked at my plate. I seemed to have another "amuse bouche" size portion. I did have a whole roasted mini-pumpkin although they'd failed to carve a scary face into it. The soup was served in a coffee cup, so I drank that and knocked back the pumpkin filling.

Main arrived. This time a starter sized portion. Delicious, but I could have eaten it again. And again. And again.

There was no danger of being too full for dessert. This wasn't a restaurant designed for a cyclist.  Dessert was a collection of nutty, chocolately items with a curious "mojito granita" on the top. Delicious, but what I was really craving was a pound of sticky toffee pudding and a pint of custard.

Four slices of toasted malt loaf.
A couple of Soleros.
A chocolate twist danish.
Three hot dogs.
Chocolate milkshake.
A giant BLT.
A cheese and bacon burger.
And a triple ristretto to perk me up for the drive home.

That's fine dining. For a cyclist.

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