I had quite a week of dining out, first the Good, I went to Riverford Field Kitchen for a birthday dinner, which I can say again, the food is consistantly amazing, all about flavour and that joint is still my favourite restaurant. I won't go into it, as I've already said enough here.
Next the Best, I took my Mother to Gidleigh Park (for her birthday) which is, according to the Sunday Times Top Restaurant list, the 3rd best place to stuff your face (Last year it was 1st). This swanky hang out is amazing, nestled in a lush green valley on the edge of Dartmoor, surrounded by some beautiful gardens, apparently there are 6 full time gardeners and the last thing you do here is stuff your face. This was seriously posh, a little on the uncomfortable side for me, but what's the worst that could happen? Well I did slip on my way to the toilet and smash my head on a door frame for all the staff to see. I just laughed and the staff tried not to.
Everything in this place is perfect. All the waiting staff are French, young, good looking and well trained. The building and setting are imaculate. The food looks like a work of art, has flavour to die for and the portions are just right. The only snag is the price. As I sipped my pre dinner drink in the conservatory admiring the view of the gardens, Dartmoor and the crystal clear and perfectly square ice cubes in my Mother's drink, I wondered why Gidleigh are charging 3 times the RRP for their drinks. It's obvious, the stuff I just mentioned costs a lot of money. The cleaning, the 6 gardeners, the well trained waiting staff and those perfect ice cubes. So if you can look past paying £50 for a bottle of Sharpham wine which normally cost around £9, then you should go and have an amazing time. I'm not being sarcastic here. You just need to realise that the drinks are over priced and you need to accept this to enjoy yourself. Also remember you are paying for the experience of drinking that liquid not just the actual liquid. My only criticism is that the drinks should be as special as everything else. Maybe freshly pressed apple juice from local apples, instead of Luscombe bottled juice, which you can buy anywhere. Or some obscure beers from around the world, rather than Hoegaarden and some rare whiskies, rather than the usual line up in your average gastro pub.
Just go and experience something very special. Fuck the cost, and if money is an issue, stop going to the bloody pub or eating out at average restaurants. Just book far in advance as it's always full and wear plenty of Tweed, trust me, lots of Tweed.
And finally the Ugly. I went to Bristol on Saturday to visit some old friends who have moved there recently. Bristol has a good vibe on the food front and I love The Thali Cafe, but the Ikea meatballs I had for lunch were rank. Anyway, the plan was to visit the largest restaurant in the UK, Za Za Bazaar (what a shit name, and quite forgettable) a 700 seater, all you can eat buffet which looks like a Hong Kong back alley, with cuisines from every corner of the globe! Sounds like hell? It was. I read a couple of reviews on it and they were all quite forgiving and the consensus was 'It's not as bad as I thought it would be' or 'It wasn't that bad'.
First we arrived to be turned away because we hadn't booked, in a 700 hundred seater restaurant, with another 300 seats in the bar. I thought they were joking. The place stank of trash, both the sort you see on The Only Way is Essex and the rubbish kind, as we walked past the back kitchens staff chucked what looked like dead bodies into giant dumpsters, rancid fat was in the air. But the worst trashiness was the Essex kind, with stupid door staff and a stupid woman on a desk with a computer checking your table booking and giving you an allocated time slot to 'Eat as much as you can'. Fucking trash. What a contrast to Gidleigh, where we didn't have time to eat desert because we'd been there for 3 hours and had to take the dog for a walk. We were eventually let in and there were plenty of tables, twats, and we looked at lots of depressed people waiting in line to collect their food like they were in prison. Fuck this. We left and went to a nearby place as a last resort and it pretty good. No. 1 Harbourside.
This gaff only has 5 things on the menu, but quality things when compared to that monstrosity we'd just visited. It's hard to get a table, but with perseverance we did it. They'd sold out of Mussels, no wonder as they were only £5. Unfortunately they'd sold out of my second choice, the Lamb, so I settled on the Pork along with a plate of Oysters. First I gulped a couple of pints of Sunrise from the Bristol Beer Factory and then our complementary Soup arrived, I didn't really want it, but everyone gets it, a kind of USP. It was nice, Carrot & Ginger. My main was great and the oysters were good. I sank a couple of sweet Sipsmith G&T's and we went on our way. Job done.
Oh, and sorry for the Instagrammed photos, it's just a phase and I'll get over it soon.