Anyone who reads this twaddle regularly will know that my great passion is food and beer… No wait a minute… my TWO great passions are food, beer and moaning… hang on now – my THREE great passions are food, beer, moaning and old Monty Python sketches. Well anyway being a fat bloke means that food is my greatest passion and as usual I’ve got definite opinions on the matter, particularly food served to us in local restaurants where we spend our hard earned cash (or nash)!
Over the past couple of weeks myself and Meine Ubergruppenfuhrer have been eating out an awful lot… not because we’re flush with money or anything (hurry up and pop your clogs Granny ’cause the bank account’s getting low) but simply because we’re a couple of layabouts who are just too idle to cook every night. We have been enjoying the Hartlepool fine dining experience in quite a few local eateries and have noticed some quirks and quibbles that might need addressing:
When we went there for a meal last week we thought that Farrars restaurant at Navigation Point served good food but the service was a bit strange… As people were arriving they were all being shunted to the back of the restaurant to sit and eat – where the tables are really close together. Too close for comfort we found, we were elbow to elbow with other diners and our chairs actually touched those of diners sitting behind each of us on other tables! The tables situated near the front of the restaurant were left vacant whilst we all sat and huddled together in the gloom at the rear. The restaurant probably has one table too many in this little space. They also misheard my little Angel-of-Doom and thought that she didn’t want a drink! Imagine that if you will… ’cause I can’t! Then they dished up a steak with the wrong sauce covering it… peppercorn instead of diane but Mrs H was in such shock about waiting for a drink that she just ate it without sending it back!
The Dilshad on Church Street continues to be excellent (it’s been our favourite curry house in the area for a year now) but there are quite a few good curry houses around and about so us Poolies are well spoilt for choice. Their Lamb Korai (it’s so good that it’s worth the capital letters) continues to impress me whenever I eat it. For me, the only down side of any curry from anywhere is the inevitable dose of Johnny Cash the next day (why Johnny Cash I hear you ask – Well surely its obvious… it’s because you have a ring of fire)!
Just a few doors away from the Dilshad is the Aroma Thai restaurant (it seems a bit strange to me that the owners have chosen to name their restaurant with a synonym for smell) which is a favourite restaurant of ours – we eat there whenever we can. The menu is simple but perfectly formed and very well cooked and presented… and if you go there early on in the evening then the early bird deal is great value for money… not that the prices are particularly expensive later on.
The Staincliffe Hotel was also visited during our gastronomic travels. The Ocean restaurant specialises in fish and was a nice environment to dine in – and as a plus the food was simply top notch. However, heres a quiet word of advice if you are planning to take your latest beau there for a romantic meal – get a mortgage first!… A meal for two on a Friday night came to 90 – and we only had one drink each. Our main courses were 25 each… but they were absolutely fantastic. Service was a little on the slow side but it was a lovely evening and we were in no rush so we didn’t really have a problem with this.
Tabarrinis down at the Marina was a big night out for us… we had eight people round the table all pigging out on what turned out to be some great food but we made the mistake of going on a Saturday night when the restaurant was packed and the noise levels were simply astonishing. The cheeseboard was excellent here though – I usually finish a meal with the cheeseboard and inevitably it is a disappointment – but on this night care had been lavished and the presentation was great, there was plenty of cheese (and a good choice to boot) plus plenty of biscuits, a choice of butter or spread and lots of garnishing salad plus slices of apple and some grapes. It was so good that me and Mrs H returned there a few days later for a rematch with the meal and the first two courses were again good but the cheeseboard was a limp affair… shame really.
All of these restaurants (apart from the Staincliffe Hotel) have one thing in common… when it’s time to pay the bill, you go up to the desk and pay. What happened to you as the diner staying in your seat, the waiter/waitress coming to collect your money in a discreet case or wallet and then bringing your change back to the table with an after eight or two eh It seems to be a thing of the past in Hartlepool. This is a double edged sword for me… I want this little bit of extra service but it would cost me money – another reason I go to these restaurants and any others I can find that have this practice is that as they’re not providing me with service to my standards then I don’t leave a tip… I am paying for the cookery side of things in the cost of the meal but the gratuity is for the service… and if it doesn’t come up to scratch then sorry… no tip. I know I’m a tight old curmudgeon but as I always go back to these restaurants they probably know this and spit in my food anyway!
Waiter! Cheque please