Food

Zootropolis

12/01/21

Disney +

Our recent flirtation with the House of Mouse affords us the opportunity to investigate some of the Disney product we’ve previously missed. Zootropolis seems worthy of investigation. There are several people out there (you know who you are) who’ve urged us to give it a try and, for no other reason than the fact that – pre-Covid – we were somewhat spoiled for choice, we have chosen to ignore them.

We no longer have that excuse. And of course, it turns out our friends were right. Doncha just hate it when that happens?

In a world where all animals happily co-exist, young rabbit Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) grows up with one overpowering ambition: to become a police officer. Her carrot-farming parents are really not keen on the idea. Bunnies, they insist, are meek and cute, and not cut out for such shenanigans. But Judy is determined and, sure enough, after graduating valedictorian from the police academy, she heads off to the city of Zootropolis to start her new career.

The titular city, by the way, is the film’s most glorious achievement. A fully-realised environment divided into different sectors – desert, rain forest, tundra – it’s all rendered in eye-popping animation with extraordinary attention to detail. Watching it, you can almost believe it exists.

Judy arrives at her police precinct all ready to go, but the stern Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) clearly shares her parents’ views of what a bunny is capable of and promptly assigns her to parking duties. She applies herself to the task, and soon encounters the streetwise Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a wily fox who has devised his own ways of making a living by skirting very, VERY close to the edges of the law.

When a series of mysterious disappearances occur around the city, Judy spots an opportunity to step up her career a couple of notches and cunningly blackmails Nick into helping her investigate the situation. They soon realises that this particular rabbit hole goes very deep indeed…

Zootropolis is enormously appealing – a bizarre marriage between a futuristic sci-fi adventure and an old fashioned noir mystery. Look out for a delightful spoof of The Godfather in the engaging form of Mr Big (Maurice LaMarche) and relish the scene where Judy and Nick visit an information department serviced exclusively by sloths, led by Flash (Raymond S. Persi). You’ll giggle too at an appearance by Tommy Chong as a fly-infested yak, the manager of a… health spa.

Of course, there’s another of those famous Disney ‘messages’ embedded in this tale – a subtext that warns of the dangers of making cultural and racial assumptions, and how every individual deserves the personal freedom to pursue what interests them. It’s not particularly subtle, but it’s an important message, isn’t it, and maybe subtlety isn’t always appropriate.

At any rate, it’s great fun and it’s chock full of invention. If, like me, you’ve put this onto the back (bunny) boiler, now might be the perfect time to try it out.

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney

No 11: Five Course Festive Dinner

30/12/20

Brunswick Street, Edinburgh

Like many people, I have a birthday and I try to confine myself to just one a year. It does, however, seem to keep coming around with annoying regularity. In the normal run of things, I like to indulge in a slap-up meal to mark the occasion, but 2020 – as we all know – has been anything but normal and, in level 4 lockdown, a trip to a restaurant is frankly out of the question. Nor do I (or my wife, for that matter) fancy constructing said slap-up from scratch.

What to do?

A timely alert on Facebook tips me off to the fact that No 11, a brasserie where we’ve dined before, is offering a five course festive menu to be consumed at home – what’s more, at time of ordering, it’s available at a hefty 50% discount on the usual price. We flex the debit card before somebody changes their mind. On the big day, snowstorms notwithstanding, we set off for Brunswick Street, where we collect a couple of hefty containers, which we promptly ferry homewards. Upon unpacking the contents, we are delighted to note that some considerable thought has gone into this dining experience. They’ve even included a candle in a glass holder (bless!). The various courses come with a selection of matched wines, which – to me – is always a welcome bonus. As per the restaurant’s recommendation, we begin with a glass of prosecco, which is the best way to start most things (with the exception of driving or operating heavy machinery).

The starter is a ham hock and black pudding terrine, served with homemade piccalilli and a slice of fresh wholemeal bread. The terrine is satisfyingly chunky, arranged in thick, chewy layers and that zesty piccalilli gives it a peppery punch that makes it extra special.

Now we enjoy a glass of sauvignon blanc, before digging in to the second course, which is smoked trout. There are big chunks of fish accompanied by an avocado and rocket salad and a brown shrimp dressing. The wine has sharp tones of lime and peach which cut perfectly through the smoky flesh of the trout.

Next up, a wee bowl of carrot and ginger soup – well, why not? Soup can sometimes be meh, but not in this case, because the flavours are perfectly judged and there’s a thick, creamy texture that makes for a calming contrast to what went before. While we eat, the main course is browning nicely in the oven and giving off an appetising aroma.

When it’s ready, we pour a couple of glasses of a rich, red merlot and tuck into a delightful turkey Wellington, which is of such ample proportions, we decide to share just one of the servings, keeping the other for a cold snack the following day. The Wellington is beautifully done, the meat wrapped in bacon and encased in a thyme crepe, before being sealed into a crispy puff pastry lattice. There are layers of cranberry sauce in there too, plus a traditional sage and onion stuffing. It’s served with excellent roast potatoes, parsnips, sprouts, an al dente carrot and some wicked pigs in blankets, plus lashings of rich red wine gravy.

It’s suitably festive and effortlessly spectacular.

For the moment, we’re too full to continue, but luckily it’s time for a Zoom meet-up with my lovely daughter and her partner, during which I open my presents before we indulge in some rather brilliant online games, which are new to me and which, with the liberal addition of more alcohol, makes for a pretty decent birthday.

Once finished with the entertainment, we’re finally ready for dessert and it’s Christmas pudding cheesecake, which is very good, though I have to confess that the accompanying Drambuie cream is, for me, the one small misstep on the menu – it has a disconcertingly bitter flavour. I guess the simple truth is, I’m just not a fan of Drambuie. At any rate, it’s a minor niggle in what has been a very satisfying dine-at-home experience; indeed, it’s up there with the best that we’ve sampled so far during this infernal pandemic.

My fervent wish now is that this time next year, I’ll be able to dine in a restaurant, like in the old days before the world got sick. I’ll raise a glass to that and take the opportunity to wish all our readers a better 2021.

4.8 stars

Philip Caveney

The Scran & Scallie: Scran at Home

28/11/20

Stockbridge, Edinburgh

We were devotees of the short-lived (but hopefully one-day-to-be-revived) Southside Scran, which opened up in our neighbourhood just two years ago. Indeed, we banged on about it so much that, last Christmas, no fewer than three people bought us vouchers for the place. We were delighted! But we only got to spend two of them before disaster struck: the ceiling fell down, and the restaurant shut while repairs got underway.

And then COVID.

The Kitchen Group announced the permanent closure of Castle Terrace, another of their restaurants in our vicinity (truly, we were spoiled), and also confirmed that Southside Scran would be closed for the rest of 2020. A double blow. For them more than for us, of course. But we feel the loss too. We chose our flat because of its location, its proximity to the theatres and cinemas and restaurants and bars. All closed. All gone.

So we seized upon the news that The Scran & Scallie has started offering an ‘at home’ menu for collection or delivery. At last! The chance to indulge in some of our favourite food for the first time since last January. And we could put our remaining voucher towards it too.

It’s not as good, of course, as going out. Even though we do, literally, go out, because we opt for collection rather than delivery, so drive down to Stockbridge to pick up our order. (Usually we’d walk, but it’s forty minutes each way, and we don’t want a cold dinner.) But it’s as good as not-going-out can be: each course perfectly executed, each mouthful a delight.

Philip’s starter is the duck terrine with pear and raisin chutney, which is rich and gamey and delicious. I have the goat’s cheese tart with walnut condiment, and it’s light and creamy, all soft cheese and delicate puff pastry, with the walnut providing a welcome crunch.

My main is a gnocchi and blue cheese gratin. I rarely order gnocchi because they’re often awful, but I know I’m in good hands here so I take the risk. It’s a good move: this dish is like posh invalid food: intensely flavoured and utterly indulgent. Philip opts for the special, which today is sea trout with beetroot, hispi salad and salsa verdi. We share a side of chips, because, why not? And the sea trout is the standout of the evening, which isn’t a surprise: we always seem to love the Kitchin Group specials. It’s cooked to perfection, the flesh succulent and flaky, the skin as crispy as can be.

We wait almost an hour before moving on to our cheese course, which we do ourselves, because we’re at home, and we can. I’ve made some crackers, and we’ve a couple of new arrivals from Pong, so we have a little nibble on those, and drink another glass of wine.

And then it’s back to The Scran & Scallie‘s offerings: sticky toffee pudding and chocolate custard with honeycomb, which we share. They’re both glorious, and we luxuriate in the sugar fix.

We’re at home, so there’s the washing up to do, but – you know what? – that’s okay. We’re smiling; we’ve had a lovely time. I wash; he dries. And we spend the whole time enthusing over the meal we’ve just had.

4.8 stars

Susan Singfield

Hotel Du Vin

04/11/20

Bristo Place, Edinburgh

It hardly seems possible, but a quick glance back through the diary confirms it: we haven’t visited a proper restaurant since March.

Yes, that’s right. March.

Oh, yes, we’ve been in socially-distanced cafes and we’ve had swanky restaurants deliver food to our door to be heated up and consumed at home, but really, enough is enough. Another lockdown’s looming and we’re determined that it’s high time we dined out, so we cast around for places where we can possibly eat al fresco in November. In Scotland. Then we remember that the Hotel Du Vin does have a very pleasant courtyard and, what’s more, it is even equipped with patio heaters should the weather prove too brisk.

So here we are, at a table in said courtyard, nibbling at warm bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and discussing the unfolding horror story that is the American presidential election. Meanwhile, we lament the fact that today our discussion cannot be lubricated with something containing alcohol, but hey, them’s the rules – and you can’t have everything. The staff are friendly and attentive, and ensure that they observe social distancing at all times. We feel very relaxed.

For my starter, I choose sautéed mushrooms on toasted sourdough and it turns out to be a good choice. The generously sized mushrooms are soaked in a rich Madeira sauce and virtually melt in the mouth, while the crispy toast provides a perfect contrast. Susan has a baked St Marcellin cheese fondue which is rich and creamy and is accompanied by new potatoes, cornichons and croutons. It only takes a mouthful of our respective starters to make us appreciate how much we’ve missed doing this and, happily, we’ve chosen a good place to break our fast because both meals are pretty much note perfect.

Next up for me is haddock and king prawn gratin, baked in a cream sauce and glazed under breadcrumbs with thick, stringy layers of Gruyère. It’s a gooey, aromatic treat, generously stuffed with chunky prawns and accompanied by sides of frites and cauliflower cheese. Susan opts for mussels frites, a big bowl of moules marinère steamed in white wine, cream, shallots and garlic. Despite me selflessly helping her to eat it, the portion is too generous to finish.

After this, we’re feeling pretty full but we’re not ready to leave, so we have coffee and more chat, just to ensure that we’re absolutely certain there’s definitely no room for pudding.

And of course, in the fullness of time, it turns out there is room, and who knows when we’ll have this opportunity again? So I order an apple and blackberry crumble, the fruit still with a little bite left in it and served with an indulgent hot custard. Susan finishes off with a perfectly executed crème brûlée, the top scorched just enough that it breaks with a satisfying snap when tapped with a spoon. Voila!

By the time we head for home, the evening is already descending and we find ourselves thinking of all the incredible meals we’ve enjoyed since we first moved to Edinburgh. For now, we can only cross our fingers and hope that one day soon, those happy times will return, and that visits to places like Hotel Du Vin will once again be commonplace.

But right now, this was really just what we needed.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney

L’alba D’oro

l-alba-d-oro

27/06/20

 Henderson Row, Edinburgh

It should be simple enough, right?  We haven’t eaten fish and chips since well before lockdown began, three months ago, and we really, really fancy some. But good fish and chips, you understand, not the greasy lukewarm sludge that sometimes masquerades under that description around Britain’s fair cities. We certainly don’t want to repeat the experience we once had, when, fuelled by a few drinks at The Cameo, we called at a high street chippy (which shall remain nameless), waited ages for some ‘freshly prepared’ nosh, took one bite each and promptly threw the lot into the nearest food recycling bin.

I mean, how difficult can it be?

Of course, in usual circumstances, there’s an easy solution. A quick trip to Berties on Victoria Street and the problem is solved, plus you get to dine in a swish, open-plan restaurant. But these are unusual times, so who can deliver a tasty fish supper direct to our door? We put out a call for help on Facebook and three friends come straight back with the same answer. L’alba D’oro in Stockbridge is the establishment we are looking for. These are all people we trust, so we order online and the food soon arrives, packaged in cardboard and smelling suitably enticing. As the establishment doesn’t offer any Manchester Caviar (mushy peas), we take the opportunity to heat up a can from our larder. We’ve also got our own swanky home-made tomato ketchup (we’ve had time on our hands, okay?), so we are all ready to dine.

Our friends were correct. This is exactly what we’ve been craving. A generously sized portion of haddock, encased in light, crunchy batter, the fish perfectly cooked: white, flaky and aromatic. The chips are crispy on the outside, and all soft and flavoursome within. You’d think it would take quite a while to down such a massive portion, but we demolish it in no time at all.

So, in short, if you’re in Edinburgh and you’re longing for perfect fish and chips, you know where to order from. (L’alba D’oro also offer other tasty treats, plus a different fish special every day.)

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney

Dine at Home

13/06/20

dineedinburgh.co.uk

We know the drill by now; this is the third lockdown ‘restaurant meal in your own home’ we’ve had, so we’re feeling like old hands. This one has a lot of heavy lifting to do though: it’s my birthday treat.

It’s not actually my birthday until Tuesday but, like most of the fine dining establishments offering takeaways for the first time, Dine are limiting themselves to Fridays and Saturdays, which is probably a sensible move. And I’m more than happy to stretch out even weird, isolated celebrations over a few days.

The food arrives at 1pm in a socially-distanced drop-off. It’s in two neat boxes, and there’s a bottle of Prosecco too (did I mention it’s my birthday?). For £49 we’re getting three courses for two people and a bottle of wine, although there is a £2.75 delivery charge, and the upgrade to Prosecco costs us another £7.50. Still, for just under £60, this is a nicely indulgent meal, and it’s well thought out in terms of the amount (and complexity) of cooking we’re required to do.

There are some olives to nibble, which is a nice touch, and then we kick off with our starters. These are both cold, and just require assembling on the plate. Philip has smoked salmon and cream cheese, which is served with a beetroot and charred shallot salad and a slice of Pumpernickel. It’s delicious, very rich and creamy, but there’s not enough Pumpernickel for the generous portion of salmon pâté, so he adds a couple of crackers to his plate (the salmon is too tasty to leave, but definitely needs some kind of base to carry it). My cured ham, melon and mozzarella is the prettiest dish of the night, and again the portions are far from meagre. There are two slices of ham, a big piece of mozzarella, and a scrumptious caper and white sultana purée. Weirdly, the biggest revelation is the grissini, which are the only bread sticks I’ve ever had that have tasted of anything. We’re off to a cracking start.

My main is a seafood, chorizo and summer vegetable stew served with a lemon and herb rice. It tastes fresh and clean, and is liberally stuffed with clams, prawns and squid. Philip’s Asian style sticky pork belly comes with pak choi and sweet potato, and is bursting with flavour. Both can be microwaved, but we choose to cook them in the oven. The menu has clearly been designed carefully to minimise our workload: both meals require 20 minutes at 170°. Easy!

Puddings are also cold, so we only need deal with presentation (and, having finished off the Prosecco by this stage, we’re honestly not too concerned about what they look like). Philip’s cranachan comes with candied hazelnuts and a satisfying raspberry sauce; my carrot cake has frosted icing, and a side helping of orange and praline cream. I’m sure they’re both perfectly fine individually, but that’s not what happens here. We split them in half and make a hybrid dessert that tastes utterly divine. Well, we are in our own home; we can do what we like, right?

All in all, this is the best of the ‘at home’ meals we’ve had so far, with every course a hit.

Hurrah. And happy birthday to me.

4.6 stars

Susan Singfield

Wedgwood at Home

24/05/20

wedgwoodtherestaurant.co.uk

It’s Week Ten in the Year of Our Lockdown, and I am missing eating out. I love the whole restaurant experience: the theatre, the bustle. But, if that’s not available, I’ll settle for just the food.

Like many establishments across the country, the normally premises-bound Wedgwood Restaurant (Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh) is offering a takeaway service at the moment: a three course meal for £22. This is a ‘cook at home’ menu and, to be honest, there’s a little bit too much cooking involved: we have to write down the timings so we don’t mess it up, and it doesn’t feel very relaxing. Maybe it would work better if we had an open-plan kitchen-diner, but we don’t, so we’re scuttling between the table and the stove, conversations left hanging or shouted between two rooms.

Still, the food is very good, and the evening does feel special.

To start, Philip has a smoked salmon and dill paté, which is served with crumbed oatcake, blistered tomatoes, baby gem and toast. The paté has a pleasant citrusy flavour, but there’s a lot of it and not much toast. I have roast cauliflower velouté with a coriander and cashew crumb and red pepper oil. It’s lovely: a creamy, indulgent delight.

My main is roast smoked mackerel, with a spring onion and black olive potato cake, green beans and a chorizo hollandaise. It’s perfectly judged, the intensely flavoured fish well complemented by the robustness of the olives and chorizo. Philip has a lemon and thyme scented confit chicken leg with braised fennel, lentils and a gorgeously shiny honey and grain mustard jus. The whole meal is delicious, but it’s the jus that makes it.

We add in our own cheese course, because we want to, because this is our ‘date night’ and we want it to last. We have a subscription to Pong cheese, so we share three small pieces, with some onion chutney and home-made crackers.

Then pudding. We share a sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and a dark chocolate brownie with milk chocolate cremeaux, white chocolate and sweet cicely pesto and raspberries. This final course is the winner: every mouthful feels like a treat. It’s sticky and sweet and wonderful.

Wedgwood offer wine with their menu, but we have laid in a good stock from Majestic, so we open a bottle (okay, two) of Chenin Blanc (La Baume de La Grande Oliviette), and enjoy.

And, all in all, for a night in, this is pretty good.

But I’d still prefer a night out. Without the washing up.

4 stars

Susan Singfield

Six by Nico: Home by Nico Experience

24/04/20

sixbynico.co.uk

Running a review site that focuses on film, theatre and comedy has never been more problematic and, of course, we also review restaurants – and that’s even more difficult. While film,theatre and comedy can be sourced online, restaurants cannot.

So when we hear that Six by Nico are offering a four course meal, to be cooked in customers’ home ovens, we sit up and take notice. At £80 for four people, it’s not cheap, but neither is it too extortionate for a high-end takeaway, and it does include wine! And yes, there are only two of us, but we’ll freeze up two portions for later. (Future menus, it transpires, will be available for two diners, at the reduced cost of £50.)

In the good old days B.C. (before Coronavirus), we had plans to visit this popular restaurant with friends, but could never seem to sort out a time when we could all get there. Ah, for such problems now! SbN is best known for showcasing a different theme each month and tends to book out well in advance. So, here, finally, is our chance to try out their cuisine, albeit in the familiar surroundings of our modest home. This week’s menu theme is ‘Catalonia.’

The food arrives at 10am, neatly packaged with cooking instructions and full allergy information. It’s apparent at a glance that the portions are on the generous side. We separate two portions, put everything in the fridge, and look forward to the evening.

Unfortunately, when we approach the allotted hour of 7pm, (Sod’s law!)  a whole battalion of workers start attacking the pavement outside our front door with drills, a process that continues until the small hours of the morning. Apparently there’s a problem with the electricity supply. ‘Will it last out until we’ve finished cooking?’ we yell over the noise, crossing our fingers and hoping for the best…

It does. Phew!

For starters,we have a very nice foccacia with olive oil and basalmic vinegar. (The foccacia isn’t quite as splendid as the one we’ve been sampling from Tasty Buns, but is nonetheless an appetising introduction.)

Next up, it’s a manchego bomba with red pepper romesco: a round, firm sphere of excellence filled with a gooey, melting cheese and potato filling and accompanied by some green salad. Delicious.

The main course is a rich, chicken and chorizo ragout, accompanied by paprika & garlic patatas bravas and roasted fennel and piquillo pepper cous cous, the latter served cold. This is the most ambitious of the dishes here and it works very well indeed. There’s also a bottle of Plot Twenty Two Tempranillo Shiraz, the heavy acidic flavour cutting perfectly through the tang of the sauce.

Next up, cheese and crackers: a portion of ossau iraty, a delicious cheese from the Pyrenees (and when I say a portion, there’s a huge block of the stuff, which will be happily eaten over the next few days). We enjoy this with some charcoal crackers and a tangy chutney, noting that the cheese has been sourced from I J Mellis, our usual purveyor of choice in Edinburgh (though somebody recently treated us to a subscription to the equally excellent Pong Cheese, so it’s a wee while since we’ve been).

And so to pudding, which is slightly disappointing. St Clement’s cake  – the name conjours images of a moist citrusy orange and lemon concoction, but this, served with a vanilla crème anglaise, though a perfectly decent bake, is a little too bland for our liking. It lacks the lip-smacking decadence of a perfect pud, the final flourish that such a meal demands.

Of course, what’s missing from all this of is the theatre of visiting a top flight restaurant, the vivacity and atmosphere that the food itself is only a part of. Nevertheless, this is more ambitious (and feels much more special) than your average takeaway. Those wishing to investigate should note that only the first two hundred customers who apply for a weekend meal will be successful, so if you want to try it, book early.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

 

Vesta

20/02/20

Queensferry Street, Edinburgh

We’ve long been impressed by Social Bite, the Edinburgh-based charity with a mission to end homelessness in Scotland. The whole enterprise is an object lesson in how much individuals can achieve – so long as they have vision, tenacity and drive. And compassion, of course. From a sandwich shop in Rose Street to a nationwide endeavour spanning sleep outs, a training academy and even its own village, Alice Thompson and Josh Littlejohn have made a real difference.

And tonight, we’re eating at Vesta, the second incarnation of the charity’s restaurant (you can read our review of Social Bite’s previous partnership with Maison Bleue here: https://bouquetsbrickbatsreviews.com/2016/12/31/home/). We have family visiting, which gives us the perfect excuse to check out the menu.

It’s not as fancy as it used to be – more gastro pub than fine dining. But that’s okay by us. I don’t want a starter tonight (I’m saving room for pudding), so I sip at a glass of Pinot Grigio while Philip eats his chilli & coriander crab cakes, served with a courgette & red pepper remoulade. They’re lovely: robust and well flavoured, and a very generous portion. 

For his main, Philip opts for the roast rump of lamb, which comes with aubergine ratatouille, pommes anna, salsa verde, garlic & spinach puree. The meat is nicely pink and succulent, and the accompaniments work well. I have a poached fillet of hake with roasted pumpkin, savoy cabbage & a watercress butter sauce, and it’s pretty near perfect. We order a side of mac’n’cheese just because, and that’s okay, although maybe not as indulgent and cheesy as the very best of its kind. 

For pudding, I have the oreo cheesecake with macerated berries and ice cream (instead of the Chantilly cream that’s on the menu). It’s delicious, in a too-sweet-kids’d-love-it-lip-smacking kind of way. Philip’s vegan dark chocolate mousse with honeycomb & salted caramel is an altogether more grown-up affair, with a rich, intense flavour.

We’re done. It’s time to head off for a quick drink, and then home. But before we go, of course, we need to add a little something to the bill. You can’t come here and ignore the pay it forward option, which enables the restaurant to open on Mondays for an exclusively homeless clientele. Food with a conscience. It feels good.

4.2 stars

Susan Singfield

Ondine

13/02/20

George IV Bridge, Edinburgh

It’s almost Valentine’s day and Ondine has been on our ‘go to’ list for quite a while. (And by the way, we haven’t got the date wrong, it’s just that we never go out to eat on February the 14th, when every restaurant is packed to the rafters and standards inevitably suffer.)

We’ve read good things about Ondine, though – mostly from Jay Rayner, who says that he always eats here whenever he’s in Edinburgh. So we decide to act on his advice and here we sit in the calm, spacious dining area, sipping glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and all ready for a gastronomic blitzkreig. We’re brought a couple of slices of good wholemeal bread to keep us going and there are cod balls as an amuse bouche, although they are a little too redolent of the deep fat fryer for my liking.

The starters are reassuring though: a light and citrusy baked brown crab, with cheddar crumb, served on miniature crumpets, which manages to taste a whole lot better than it looks (like a pair of demented eyeballs). There’s also a delicious treacle-cured salmon, with horseradish sauce, though the chunk of treacle bread that accompanies it isn’t quite as fresh as I want it to be.

For the main course, there’s a generously sized chunk of roasted halibut with creamed potato; the fish is perfectly cooked, soft, flakey and pleasingly charred. There’s also a half lobster with fine herbs and butter sauce. The latter is accompanied by a small helping of triple cooked chips and there’s also a side dish of creamed spinach, the latter served disagreeably cold.

And, oh dear, is there any other meal that’s quite as disappointing as lobster? It squats on your plate, looking like something from the late jurassic period and you’re provided with a set of metal tools that wouldn’t seem out of place on a medieval torturer’s bench. You set about the creature with much gusto, scattering fragments in every direction but it all comes down to a couple of spoonfuls of (admittedly delicious) flesh, after which you’re reduced to searching disconsolately through the debris in search of a few more scraps of anything edible.

(This isn’t a criticism of the restaurant, by the way, but of the very nature of lobster itself. So much effort for so little return. Ah well…)

For puddings we have a treacle tart served with a scoop of ice cream – actually, we can’t help noticing that it’s half a treacle tart, which niggles a little when the price is eight pounds – and there’s a light, tangy rhubarb and custard dessert, encased in soft meringue. Both of these are nice enough, but somehow fail to deliver the triumphant knockout punch that we are hoping for.

It’s been a perfectly agreeable evening, and the food is mostly good, even if some of the details could be improved upon. I can’t help wondering what Mr Rayner sees in this place that I’m missing. Unlike him, I won’t be in a great hurry to return.

3. 8 stars

Philip Caveney