Tuesday, 24 August 2010

24 August 2010 - The Peking, High Street, Dorking

An unintentional comedy nosebag

Where to start? We had planned a pleasant evening at the William IV pub in Albury (www.williamivalbury.com). Their website encouraged us to expect something out of the ordinary with its talk of using 'local produce whenever possible' and 'including sometimes the free-range pork that Giles [Giles Madge - 'your host'] raises himself'. The menu at the pub refers to various breeds of pig, for added interest. Well, the beer was good but the menu was, to say the least, uninspiring - as far as we are concerned. No effort is made to incorporate the rare breeds into the menu - the only pork dishes we could see, both on the list of specials, were 'pork chops' and 'cumberland ring'. Shame. We didn't stay after we'd finished our beer.

So we headed off to Dorking, already later than we wanted, where we knew there would be a few places to choose from.

We walked past the Bali (we've been before - http://oldhorsesnosebagclub.blogspot.com/2009/08/january-2009-bali-5-6-new-parade-london.html) and the Gurkha Kitchen (almost empty). We passed an empty Thai restaurant and came to the Sang Thai and the Peking, which are next to each other. We chose the Peking, as Paul and I had had a Thai meal last weekend. A pity, that.

First impressions were good. Nice tables, a friendly greeting, a moderately priced buffet. The prawn crackers brought to us while we looked over the menu were tasty enough. We happily chose 6 starters (salt & pepper ribs, barbecue ribs, smoked shredded chicken, chicken wings, Mongolian lamb and sesame prawn toast) and three main courses (crispy shredded beef, sea spicy shredded pork and chicken with satay) plus egg fried rice and Singapore noodles. We were ready for it.

OK, maybe we're spoiled. You can tell from some of my previous posts that we have been to some very nice restaurants, but...
  • the smoked shredded chicken was almost cold
  • the chicken wings were overly greasy
  • we had to ask for the barbecue ribs twice
  • the Mongolian lamb, when it eventually arrived, was very fatty with some tough pieces - and had clearly been hanging around as the sauce was cool and thickened
To be fair, the salt & pepper ribs and the prawn toast were fine.

As for the main courses:
  • the crispy shredded beef would have been good had it been warm - or, better, hot - and if the batter had still been crisp
  • the chicken with satay was OK but we were not convinced it had ever seen a peanut
  • the rice was bland at best
On the plus side:
  • the sea spicy shredded pork was very tasty and
  • the Singapore noodles were among the best we've ever had
  • Paul and Lyn's jasmine tea was very good and did not grow bitter. and it was refilled part way through the meal
We also noticed that some of the serving staff were a little on the brusque side.

Still, the comedy service lightened matters. The waitress who almost threw our dishes at us with a mumbled 'Your lamb'. The finger bowl that was taken in passing - and before we had even been served with the missing barbecue ribs! The disintegrating heated towels.

Overall, a patchy performance on all fronts.

Our rating: TWO STARS

PS: The comedy continued on the way home. One of us, who shall remain nameless (Lyn), managed to fiddle with a knob on Paul's seat by the head rest. That would have been OK, except that (i) he was driving and (ii) it made his seat shoot back till his feet struggled to reach the pedals! (Visions of clown cars, doors dropping off etc.)

Peking on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 8 August 2010

EXTRA! EXTRA! Restaurants in la Belle France, no. 2

On our way to Toulouse airport for our flight home, we stayed over first at Najac, then in Toulouse itself.

At Najac, a beautful medieval village (www.najac.com), we stayed  in a Logis (www.logishotels.com/en.html) the Belle Rive (www.lebellerive.com). It was nicely located - our room looked across the river and up the hill at the local chateau.

We ate at the hotel; their menus read extremely well. Stupidly, I didn't make any notes but the food was very good. I do recall that Paul had the Astet Najacois, a local speciality of roasst pork and filet mignon. I had the Boudin au canard - basically, black pudding with duck meat. Both very tasty and beautifully presented.

Finally, for our single night in Toulouse, we ate at Benjamin (found in the trusty Rough Guide to France). Again, not entirely clear now about what we ate, other than that I had the local speciality, cassoulet. The food was good, but the service was rather slow and desultory.

EXTRA! EXTRA! Restaurants in la Belle France, no. 1

Paul and I recently spent a fortnight in France. We are lucky to have friends who are willing to let us use their lovely holiday home in rural France, near Monistrol d'Allier - not far from Le Puy-en-Velay, where the lentils come from.

Monsitrol is a pleasant little town on the pilgrimage route through France to San Sebastian de Compostela in Spain. The main restaurant was, until recently, at a hotel called Les Gorges and, particularly for a French eatery, frankly dire.

Fortunately, it has new owners and (wisely, I think) a new name - Le Pain de Sucre (The Sugarloaf). Even better, the restaurant has been renovated from a dreary, dull room, to a bright and airy one. And, better still, the food on offer is extremely tasty. We visited three times over the two weeks we were there and were never disappointed. They do delicious, thin-crust pizzas and and an excellent €18 menu with 3 courses. Their confit of duck was delicious.

On 20th July, we decided we fancied lunch out. It makes a change from my standard baguette, paté and cheese. :o)

We chose to visit a restaurant we had only recently discovered (despite passing close to it many times) in nearby St Christophe sur Dolaizon; the Auberge du Grand Chemin, run by Julie and Julien Bonfils. They are a charming couple, welcoming and friendly. The food is excellent.

We took a table inside, out of the hot sun, to profit from the €16.50 (four course!) menu. Outside, you get to choose from a selection of salades and other dishes.

After Julie had taken our order - in good English and with a cheerful smile at our attempts a French, Julienpopped out of the kitchen to give us an amuse-bouche in a shot glass. It was made up of mashed Le Puy Lentils, covered in salted Chantilly cream, sprinkled with chopped peanuts. We were, to be honest, dubious, but really enjoyed the tastes.

To start, we had the trout with green lentils and the gratinée of bleu d'Auvergne (a very tasty take on cheese on toast). Next came the cocotte (in this case, a beef stew) and small steak in a green pepper sauce. Delicious. This was followed by fromage blanc (unmatured cheese) with cream and honey. Very nice. Finally, we were treated to an assiette gourmand ("greedy plate") made up of four tiny desserts: maccaron; compote of banana and apple covered in cinnamon crumble; choux buns with Chantilly cream and chocolate sauce; and a blueberry sorbet. I think we must have enjoyed this, because we finished every last morsel.

The cost of two menus, a 50cl carafe of a good house white and two HUGE cafés au lait: €45. Very good value, so far as we are concerned.