• 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.


    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.


    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.

    Permalink Filed under: Casual Dining Tags: 1 Comment
  • 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.


    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.


    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.

  • 29Nov
    Venue The Mulberry
    Address Petworth Road, Chiddingfold, Surrey
    Score 6/10
    Food Evening dinner
    Group 4 Adults
    Date 29th November 2008

    The Mulberry restaurant is one of three restaurants owned by Chris Evans who, based upon what we saw last night, has made an effort in creating a pleasant dining experience. Its modern interior is clean and warm and service is provided by young friendly staff.

    The menu is expensive for what you get with starters about £7 to £10 and main meals ranging from £15 to £29. For that price you may expect something fancy – dont. The 4 starters were very pleasant, at least that was the opinion of the table, although from what I saw of the two prawn dishes there were only 3 medium size prawns, which looks mean. I think the prawn dish was about £8 so each prawn was £2.65 ish – they needed to be good! The starter I had was mussels and they were very good with tomatoey garlic suace base.

    For the mains two of us had pork belly and that was very disappointing as the meat was dry. What should be a great excuse to eat this very fatty but sweet meat i.e. the crackling this was rubbery. The other main dish was a steak which got the thumbs up as too did the other dish which was fish and chips.

    Then came the desserts, Oh dear! Back to catering college I am afraid Chef as these were the biggest culinary disappointment. We ordered two clafoutis which is a bit like a dropped sponge / thick pancake and it sounded good on the menu but it was stodgy and not a lot of flavour. Its a peasant food, and nothing wrong with that, but is better perhaps with morning coffee. The other two desserts were a chocolate flan type which failed to impress as too did the creme brulee.

    We had a couple of drinks each with dinner in preference to not ordering a bottle of wine and for this experience it was about £50 per head, £200 ish

    Wtih regards to the staff they were friendly but there was not enough of them which meant they were stretched to attend looking after some of the details important to waiting on tables. Simple things failed like the table adjacent to us were served their meals and the waiter walked off without checking to see that there was no cutlery or asking the table if they needed anything else.

    At the end of the meal we were asked if everything was ok we all said that the desserts were a big disappointment. I think if we had said that the world is coming to an end in 5 minutes then the response would have been much the same, so what! Train your staff to ask a question, fine, but you also have to train them to do something with the answer.  Simple and free stuff


    Would we go again? Quite probably as there is a nice bar to sit at before dinner but if you were on a budget then its not for you. That said the more philanthropic of you might take solace in the fact that HALF of the profits from the restaurant are donated to a hospice charity, nice touch.

    Big thanks to John and Alison who paid the bill you were great company as ever.


    1. Staff need a formula to work to when waiting on tables
    2. Keep the duty manageress managing not waiting on tables
    3. The staff uniforms are a bit hit and miss
    4. The menus have tiny writing and in the evening this can be a challenge
    5. Once the restaurant gets busy the music should not compete with the throng of people enjoying each others company
    6. Review the desserts, the waiter let slip they are not all homemade
    7. When staff put glasses down on the table don’t hold the glass round the rim
    8. When guests move from the bar to their table the waiting staff should take the drinks through on a tray to the table
    9. If you train your staff to ask how the meal was then you need to train them to know what to do with the answers to the questions.
    10. When cooking belly pork, lay it on an oven grate / rack above a baking tray of water, never let it go dry. Make sure its well oiled and salted then bake in a high oven 220 ish for about 80mins. Last 10 mins drizzle some honey over the crackling and then grill to make the crackling crackle. Use the water in the tray as your base for whatever sauce/gravy. Could not be simpler, saw Marco Pierre White do it on tv (horrible man but great chef), tried it myself and its great!
    11. When serving drinks at the bar small nibbles would not go a miss, at those prices it can be done. It just says we care.
    Permalink Filed under: Bistro Tags: 1 Comment
  • 28Nov

    Venue The Bluebrick, Restaurant
    Score 3/10
    Food Evening dinner
    Group 1 Adult
    Date 24th November 2008

    The Bluebrick Restaurant is affiliated with the Premier Inn chain and is your classic mid week sales rep on the road restaurant. Before I describe my experience I want to make clear that those working there are extremely friendly and provide you with some comfort that they have, rightly or wrongly, received some sort of training.

    The food is very disappointing as you would not be able to distinguish it from any Harvester eatery except there is no ‘fill your boots’ carvery or salad bar, which is a good thing. My suggestion would be minimise the the culinary disappointment and stick with steak and chips as you don’t want anything that the chef would have to read on the side of a packet. Its the sort of place that Ricky Gervais would use as an ‘Office’ stage set. When it comes to dessert then its classic defrost from frozen and zap in the microwave.

    Accepting that the culinary experience is going to disappoint if you are an ale drinker then I can recommend the ‘Pedigree’.

    The dining environment fits the culinary experience which would not look out of place in a travellers caravan.

    I would like to reiterate that the staff are very nice and if only they were given something to serve that required a chef then this would be a winning and very popular venue.


    Would I eat here again? Probably if I was to eat alone but certainly would not take guests there.


    1. Cook some fresh food
    2. Do away with that awful Harvester type menu
    3. Do something about that classic 1970’s look and feel to the restaurant
    4. Ask the chef what he/she thinks of the food. If they think its good then its time to find another but if they think its bad then you as an employer are remiss.

    Understanding your staff are your greatest asset, so well done to them, justhope they don’t get asked to join some swanky establishment and see what good food is really like.

    Permalink Filed under: Casual Dining Tags: 7 Comments