Returning for round two of three course dinner in The Garden Bar and Restaurant brought us a good feeling. The staff on night one were superb and the food wasn’t bad so we were interested to see if the menu would be the same or we would have new decisions to make.
As it turned out, we did, but just a couple. A calamari dish had been added to the starters and a lamb dish to the mains. Puddings took a different shape with the addition of blackcurrant cheesecake and chocolate fudge cake.
The service once again were friendly and welcoming. A glance at the table plan plus a mass of smartly dressed people in the bar indicated that a wedding reception would be taking place in the restaurant. We got in for an early sitting at 7.15. Drinks were the same again after deciding the Sol beers would go perfectly with the calamari – very latino.
Two plates of fried jumbo squid rings along with a wedge of lemon, sweet chilli sauce and a salad leaf garnish arrived at the table. The calamari cut like butter, no overcooked rubber bands here! The combo of lemon, sweet chilli and calamari was a decent one. We loved it.
I went for the lamb rump, for main, with fried potatoes, rocket leaves, tomatoes and pesto. Oddly I wasn’t asked how i’d like the lamb cooked. The other mains looked enticing with us finally settling on salmon with prawns, linguine and a white wine and cream sauce.
As with the first night, the lamb arrived glazed in a sauce, well presented along with tomatoes, rocket and roasted potatoes. As with the first night, the meat was overcooked. Grey lamb isn’t to everyones taste and if you’re going to serve a quality cut, like the rump, then pink is going to be a popular option, why not allow it?
The tomatoes around the edge of the plate also needed more cooking, with skin barely blistered and a raw interior when paired with the rocket, it resembled a salad done badly. Flavours again though were very good, the pesto and the rocket worked superbly with the lamb, tomatoes and sauce. It’s little details again that just lets the cooking down.
The salmon was equally overcooked. To the naked eye, it looked the part but texturally it was dry and underseasoned. The cream sauce as well needed a good whack of seasoning to wake up the flavours of white wine, cream and rather bland prawns – not the finest plate of seafood pasta that you’re ever likely to eat.
The speed of service, possibly with the wedding parties arrival imminent, went into overdrive. Three courses hit us in the space of 45 minutes but yet again the staff were attentive, friendly and interacted really well with everyone. Once again, a credit to Sketchley Grange.
We decided to head in a different direction for the desserts. A blackcurrant cheesecake with vanilla cream and berry coulis and a lime tart with berries and chantilly cream – two cracking puddings if done right. Now there’s no easy way to say this but to serve semi-frozen cheesecake in a restaurant is just unacceptable.
The appearance of the cheesecake instantly aroused my suspicions that the chef had been taking shortcuts. The taste confirmed it. Venture down any supermarket frozen dessert aisle and you can sample exactly what I was served, surely any chef can’t get satisfaction from sending this out? Even if the plate did look attractive.
The lime tart was equally poor. A thin layer of lime curd on a rock hard pastry tart shell with a slightly warm quenelle of chantilly cream – it’s fair to say that the pastry section had a shocker. With that, we got the bill and headed off into the night.
Having eaten twice in The Garden Restaurant it’s easy to see how much potential this restaurant has to become a local hotspot. The staff, as mentioned, are superb. The dining room is well run and the customers on the whole seem happy to keep coming back.
The food however needs looking at. Cooking methods on meat, fish and poultry need more attention. The emphasis on fresh food also really needs to take effect, buying in terrines, desserts and possibly other foodstuffs is simply not going to cut it.
The restaurant has the right idea. A good menu, affordable food and great people serving it. A few tweaks on the cooking and a fresh approach to making the dishes from raw ingredients in-house will take this restaurant to the next level, no doubt about it.
Opening Times: 1900-2115 (Monday to Friday)