• 11Dec


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    This is one of those hotels that if you passed it in the car you would not stop, and that’s not because it is totally inaccessible from the main road it just looks dated and drab. However, don’t let the looks and method of getting into the hotel put you off. This place has something about it that is rather quirky and charming. Its never going to win any awards when it comes to any beauty contest but it is very well run and managed by people who clearly care about what they do.

    On arrival you enter the hotel round what looks to be the back entrance which is because you cannot park out the front on the busy main road. This was my first time here and my heart sank when I checked in at reception. It is very much a 1970’s style clunky reception desk and I was welcomed by a receptionist who was perfect for the style of hotel, she had character. On the off chance I asked if there was any broadband available and to my amazement there was. She then told me that in order to log on I needed a key and then proceeded to pull from behind the desk a huge pair of scissors and a piece of raggedy old paper. My jaw dropped as the receptionist was tiny and the scissors were jumbo size as she proceeded to delicately cut me out my log in details. Handing over the this tiny piece of paper she proudly said “We have all the mod cons here you know!” Marvellous!

    Now in possession of the all important broadband key this tiny lady started to tell me at great speed where my room was, which went something like this, “Go through that door, along the corridor, turn left up the stairs, turn left , along the corridor, turn left, along the corridor and your room is on the right, OK?” my jaw dropped and I just nodded, this was no ordinary hotel, and I approve!

    It was with trepidation that I went into the room and was stunned by how clean and well laid out it was, no problem with the room at all. It offered a good size and spotlessly clean bath room, crisp linen bedding, desk and power, well stocked tea, coffee, biscuits, thick quality curtains and flat screen TV – very happy with that.

    Then came dinner. The restaurant is in the basement and it continues the theme of swirly carpets, mock Corinthian columns off set with a large flat screen TV area. It sounds awful but this place has a charm and is a spotlessly clean hotel. The bar and restaurant staff look the part with white shirts and black aprons – these people take pride in what they do and it shows. I ordered a drink at the bar was asked to take a seat and the drink was brought to my table together with a menu. Only bad point was the glass was held round the rim and I don’t like that.

    From what I could see of the menu steaks are very much the thing here catering for both size and meals for one or two people. It just so happens I wanted a steak. I ordered soup to start and an 8oz fillet with pepper sauce for main. Interesting to note that in the back of the menu they bother to explain how they cook their steaks and from my experience my understanding of how to cook steak it is their understanding too.

    The waiter then came over to the table and told me that my food was ready and with that he picked up my glass and took it to the table, these people know how to wait on tables.

    As for the starter it was OK but it would not win any awards, however the steak was very good, although the pepper sauce was a bit weird. I do like to see whole or crushed pepper corns in the sauce and there was not much evidence of that.

    Because I was told the desserts were all home made I tried a chocolate cake base with what I think was a mascapone centre and a chocolate icing. If memory serves me right think they called it a ‘lump bumpy’ which is probably an accurate description as it was rather heavy, sweet cold and something that needs smoothing out. It would not be my first choice next time.

    If you are a coffee drinker then this will disappoint as its thin and weak.

    As for breakfast well this is your standard buffet cereals and a freshly cooked full English, it is very good with plenty of tea, coffees and toast.

    Improvement opportunities

    • Get a new coffee brand like Lavazzo
    • Hold the glasses at the base when serving
    • Have a rethink about the pepper sauce
    • Provide some vegetables with the steak dish
    • Get your email address to match that of your domain home page

    Conclusion

    Would I go back? Yes I would as this place offers something that has a quirky charm which is complimented by the staff that work there. It is an eclectic mish mash of the past 30 years of hideous interior design. However Chesters Hotel has a formula and the people who work there know what is expected of them, I like it.

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  • 08Dec


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    This is one blog I have wanted to publish for a very long time. That said if you know that it has changed since my visit then please do say so but you need to be qualified!

    I had two very good friends over from Switzerland back in February 2008 and they stayed with us for a long weekend. Its a standing joke that we cannot take these people to places local to us because nothing compares to that of Switzerland (German part).

    It was a crazy warm, yes warm February day and I wanted to show John how incredible Pitch Hill is for the views on beatifully clear crisp winter mornings. This went perfectly to plan with me managing to show someone who is used to Swiss mountain views, how wonderful the Surrey Hills are. After the relatively short walk we got back in the car and made our way down the hill and I suggested we stop at the Windmill pub/restaurant. I really wanted to try this place as on several other attempts I had been abused in terms of wallet, pallet and service. I knew it had been taken over since my last abuse and as always I will give new blood every opportunity to show how much it has changed for the good. Oh dear!

    We turned up and neither of us were hungry but we thought lets just have two swift halfs and share something light. We ordered our drinks at the bar and because it was so unusually warm that day we took our drinks outside with a menu. We were not the only ones to do this as several others were eating outside too. 

    For those of you who do not know about the Windmill the new owners have spent a lot of money installing a terraced hard wood deck as the pub is perched in the middle of the Surrey Hills in pole position over looking a wonderful country valley scene. What could be more perfect!

    Having looked through the menu my friend and I decided to share a ploughmans lunch as we were not too hungry. It is perhaps important to note that this ploughmans was £12.95, yes I’ll repeat that’s £12.95. We waited for a waitress to pass and then ordered.

    “No problem Sir” came the waitress “but you you will need to move table to the lower deck.”

    I then explained that we were quite happy where we were.

    “Sorry Sir we cannot serve you here.”

    “Why?” I asked

    “Its because we are only serving on the lower deck.”

    “No” I said “as we do not want to move as we are comfortable here.” and especially as there were so few people so what is the problem. She did not know what to say and agreed we could eat where we were were sitting.

    Now you would think that would have been the end of it. Oh no, as the manageress came over and said “Sorry sir you will have to move table and eat on the lower deck.” I again explained that we did not want to move but she was having none of it.

    Perhaps it is worth pointing out at this stage there were probably as many tables with people eating as there were waiting staff so the restaurant was not rushed off their feet and neither were they likely to be as the time was approximately 13:30. At this moment I had had enough, here I was trying to order a plouhgmans lunch for ONE for £12.95 and the staff could not be bothered to bring the dish up two very short flights of stairs when the place is virtually empty. I cancelled my order and the waitress looked very upset.

    It is perhaps worth pointing out that with virtually the same ingredients AND cooked I could have gone home, ordered a pizza and had it delivered to my house for £8.

    When oh when will businesses ever learn!

    We left and have never been back since.

    Improvement Opportunities

    1. It is not enough to renovate a restaurant and expect to be a successful business. This place needs to completely rethink how it interfaces with its customers. I have spoken with local people who have had similar experiences.

    Conclusion

    Would we go back? Certainly not as the prices were as outrageous as the staff.

  • 06Dec


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      Venue The Farriers
    Adddress High Street, Guildford Surrey. GU1 3AJ
    Score 6/10
    Food Lunch
    Group Party of 2 bill £30
    Date 6th December 2008

     

    What a difference a day makes! Today was the third attempt to get a table at the Farriers and this time we managed it. The previous times we had only got to the doorway, taken one look at the dirty tables, saw that there were far too few staff and that was enough for us, we walked straight out. Today we were greeted at the door and offered a clean table down stairs by a lady who seemed very much to care.

    We sat down and were asked if we would like to order drinks and given a couple of menus, although from the condition of these they were showing signs of a chequered history!

    Because the experience to this point was so different from our previous efforts I was interested to see if this was a fluke. I am sorry to report that being shown a table and it being clean it was a fluke. The table next to us had a young baby that was still in nappies and mother and father loved sitting the baby on the table and doing what doting parents do when they are oblivious to mature environments. They came to leave and because nobody was managing the tables it was left a mess and a couple of drinkers moved in. The drinkers decided to do their own waiting on their table and just cleared the debris from their table to a clean table next to them.

    Our meals arrived, two salads one nicoise and one goat cheese. They were pretty good with the tuna cooked perfectly pink, well done chef.

    During the meal the drinkers vacated their table and to be fair in very quick succession another couple sauntered over and sat down. They too did their own waiting on tables and just pushed the empty glasses to one end. This was finally spotted by the waiter and he cleared the glasses but he did not wipe down the table. So now this was the second party to sit at a table that a baby had squelched about on in its nappy.

    Went to the gents and please excuse the pun but there was a leak and a puddle on the floor.

    I had seen enough so we got the bill and left.

    Improvement Opportunities:

    1. Fix the leak in the gents
    2. Teach the staff how to clean tables
    3. Teach the staff how to clear plates after a meal. From what we saw staff adopt the ‘scoop and cradle’, which means pick up as many plates as you can, hold them close to your body as if you are cuddling them and then carefully slouch off to the kitchen, not clever. If you want to know how its done go into almost any indian restaurant or to most main land Europe restaurants and you can see it done properly.
    4. If there is supposed to be a meet and greet at the door then make it consistent not just a one off. We were lucky as only one other couple had this treatment.
    5. Make a decision about what the pub is i.e. is it for drinkers downstairs or for patrons who want to eat. We saw two couples walk in wanting a table and left because possible tables had been taken up by those who were only drinking.
    6. There seemed to be a manageress but she kept getting sucked in to being a waitress hence things got missed.
    7. Lose that horrible gratuity begging request on the credit card payment machine.

    Conclusion

    Would we go back? Probably not as the waiting on tables was sloppy and nothing else we experienced would warrant a trip back. That said the pub has a lot of character but clearly is not in control of the waiting environment.

  • 05Dec

    We have eaten in the Parrot on a number of occassions over the past year and found the food to be pretty good but the service is very hit and miss. Its such a shame as this pub has the makings of something special but you always get the impression from the grumpy manager, often seen behind the bar, that the customer is very much an annoyance. I have stood at the bar on a number of occassions trying to order drinks and been totally ignored. I thought this was personal or that it might have been something I had trodden in but no it seems others from ‘out of the village’ get the treatment too. There are other blogs sites too that tell you this.

    Anyway if you accept that the service is going to be rubbish then the rest is pretty good. If the chef moves on then this place will be in trouble.

    Tables in the restaurant are well laid up with glasses that are polished and candles lit in the evening. It is very much an ‘oldey woldey’ pub with low beamed ceilings. Toilets servicing the restaurant are spotless which is hopefully a good sign that the kitchens are probably clean too.

    With regard to food I thoroughly recommend the smoked eel to start as it is beautifully presented with a wonderful smoked fish flavour, excellent. Belly pork is pretty good with crackling as it should be, something the Mulberry in Chiddingfold should check out. Sea bream too is very good but only being served with one small fillet leaves you wanting more. With regard to the desserts it was good to see the clafoutis on the menu as I wanted to compare this with the awful concoction I had in the Mulberry. Well Mulberry you need to go and speak with the chef at the Parrot as he/she knows what they are doing, delicious.

    As I have mentioned before the service is casual and not very attentive. Indeed I don’t think I have ever eaten in this restaurant where I have not had to get up from the table to order or chase ordered drinks at the bar. If you do manage to get the bill delivered to the table, then all it will say is Food £, Food £, Food £ etc then a total £ at the bottom. Its incomprehensible and the best you can do is count the items on the bill and then track it back to the number of items you ordered. Its not clear at all what you are paying for.

    Be prepared if you go on a cold quiet midweek evening then the restaurant is likely to be cold. Not too sure why its so cold but there are pathetic mobile electric radiators that do nothing for the aesthetics and little more to improve the temperature.

    Improvement Opportunities:

    1. Do something about the grumpy manager who is front of house and sets the scene
    2. Try acknowledging the customers as they enter and leave the pub
    3. Get the bill so its clear to understand
    4. Get the heating sorted out
    5. Teach the staff to be more attentive and to prioritise that customers come before they catch up with their colleagues and cuddle in the restaurant. Its the sort of thing you expect see at a college refectory not a restaurant.

    Conclusion

    Would we go again? Probably, as we know that the manager is going to be miserable and we are prepared to do everything to avoid him. So, be prepared be prepared for casual sloppy service and never go when the place is busy as it really does fall apart big style.

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  • 03Dec
    Address Drakes Restaurant
    Venue The Clock House, High Street, Ripley, Surrey. GU23 6AQ
    Score 4/10
    Food Evening Dinner
    Bill £400 for 4
    Date Aug 2008

    This is a single Michelin star restaurant, and with such an accolade you may think you should be blown away with every mouthful and gold plated to boot. However you should prepare yourself for disappointment and need never worry about having a mouthful. We were a party of four and with one bottle of wine and with one aperitif each the bill was £400 – ouch!

    This place is not about food it is about art and the chefs talent to create those dishes that should be mounted, polished and placed inside glass cabinets with little plates that detail the lengths to which he has gone to prepare such delicacies.

    We arrived at 19:00 (note the military timing its important) on a warm summers evening and we were greeted at the door to take names and coats. No problem. We were then taken to our table to the rear of the restaurant and we took our seats and asked if we would like any drinks. Sounding good. We ordered an aperitif each and started to look at the menu. My wife saw there was a garden with guests in and thought why not take our drinks outside as we don’t get many summer evenings when you can do this. So I got up from the table to find the waiter to tell him what we would like to do. “Non monsieur, as you need to order now so the chef can stagger the orders and as you booked your table for 19:15 then you need to order now”. At £100 per head I think I am entitled to eat sitting on the roof if I choose. He was having none of it.

    I returned to the table and told my firends that we were not allowed to go outside as we must order now. Correct me if I am wrong by all means but surely the chef is working for the guests and not us working for the chef. Any way we did what we were told and obeyed.

    After much deliberation two of us wanted to order the tasting plate in place of a starter and main whilst the other two wanted a starter and main. Would you think that was easy? Definitely not as we were told by the waiter that if two wanted the tasting plate then the whole table had to order the tasting plate. So, trying to understand this I asked what if we were a table of 2 would we be able to order the tasting plate. “Yes”. Now this logic was getting under my skin and I thought now it’s play time. “OK great” I thought “can we have another table set up next to this one and then treat us as two table?” “No” was the reply. “Why not?” “Because we are fully booked”

    I just wish I had started this blog site many years ago as I have so many gems like this.

    Anyway once again we complied and decided to order a tasting plate for four.

    Then came the wine order. As you might expect Drakes has a sommelier on hand and is quite probably very knowledgable. Well I freely admit that I am not one life’s great wine connosseurs and I do not feel restricted to red with meat and white with fish. So with this in mind spending the bank on a bottle is not my idea of fun. We will happily spend £20 on a bottle but after that then everything is soured by the price. My wife took responsibility for this and she too shares a similar understanding. She tried to ask for something that accommodated both pallet and wallet but kept having it pointed out to her that there were better wines to have with the starting plate. At times like this, waiters be warned for future reference, you should not push my wife as she is quite capable of standing up and letting the whole restaurant know what wine she would like. She didn’t this time and after a third time of asking she got what she wanted. She always does!

    The wine arrived and it was great. The food arrived and wow, your knives and forks are surplus to requirements. It looks beautiful but you sure do hope that there are about twenty of these dishes to come! Sadly not as there were only five in all and needless to say you were left hungry. Some may say well its not meant to satisfy any hunger its just a taster. Well I’m sorry to say that at £100 a head I want some satisfaction!

    Then came desserts. These too are masterpieces which lend themselves to taking the perfect picture for your web site much like a skinny cat walk clothes horse is to the latest fashions i.e. something that looks great when dressed but not something you should take the covers off!

    Finally we ordered the cheese board between four, well this took the biscuit – no pun intended! Because cheese is cheese there is not much you can do with this to dress it up except enjoy it. That would have been easy if there had been enough of it. The portions were so small you could be forgiven that war had broken out and rationing was the order of the day. In fact what was served was not enough for one let alone four. So those of you with a shakey hand and rather concerned about cutting too large a slice at a cost to your table you need to have an excuse prepared. I suggest you don’t tell the table you are full as they will not believe you.

    Now the bill, what could be simpler? It came perfectly itemised and tallied to the penny, marvellous. However as is so often the case service charge was not included. Now instead of leaving this to our discretion we were told no less than three times that service was not included together with much smiling and insincere “hope everything was alright with your meal, sir”. On reflection I should have got up from the table and announced to the whole restaurant that service was not included and seen where that would go, alas I didn’t.

    Improvements

    1. Nouvelle cusine should not mean ‘see what we can hide beautifully on an empty plate!’
    2. A sommellier is a nice touch but such a refined and knowledgable pallett should be complimented with the skills that recognises a table that would not know the difference between a bottle of Yellow Tail and a 1989 Cheval Blanc.
    3. Customers should not feel they are working to the chef’s timetable.
    4. A menu should not create an opportunity that divides a table like the tasting plate does i.e. everyone has it or no one has it
    5. If you are so desperate for a tip include it on the bill without all the begging at the end
    6. Don’t become super friendly when the bill arrives it’s nothing the customer will feel good about
    7. It should not be a problem if guests want to take their aperitifs outside when it can be clearly seen that this is an opportunity others are enjoying.
    8. There are some great cheeses but the portions should not require the cutting skills of a key-hole surgeon.

    Conclulsion

    Would I go back? Not if I’m hungry, as it would seem rather odd to go back to a restaurant that cannot feed you faster than your hunger can be satisfied and mugging you for the privilege.