First impressions count – unfortunately.
My parents, visiting on a whistlestop tour of the area from mid Wales, were instantly charmed by Rothwell, Rockingham and Rushton and spellbound by Lyddington in Rutland.
They travelled back west impressed with the area and the people, and possibly with a copy of the Northants Telegraph’s property section in their suitcase.
My parents, and one of my brothers, had spent two nights here, the second of which at Thrapston’s Bridge Hotel.
Here, too, first impressions count. We ate at 7.30pm on a Saturday, and although there were a few people in the bar, there was not one other diner already in the restaurant.
Our unease at this eventually grew to near-intolerable levels. It’s not that we don’t like each other, but we all hoped (as it turned out, in vain) to be joined by more eaters.
What did everyone else know? Or had we come while the restaurant was shut, with the management too polite to turn us away?
Those first impressions, unfortunately, were hard to shake, clouding our perception for the rest of the meal.
That picture of a young King Edward VIII watching over our table – a bit creepy.
The music volume has been increased – to stop our chat echoing off the walls of an otherwise empty room?
Was mum given the same sweet chilli sauce with her appetiser and her starter? It’s probably unfair that first impressions count for so much.
Indeed, if anyone else had been eating, we would instead have been impressed by the fact we were given appetisers – tasty potato skin chips with that sweet chilli sauce.
The menu as a whole had a decent range, which we took advantage of by each opting for different starters and mains. My brother’s leek and potato soup (£5.25) was as good as a leek and potato soup can be.
Mum’s vanilla and parsnip veloute with scallops (£6.95) was fine, but dad wasn’t blown away by his wild mushroom and cheddar cheese tart (£5.50).
My own pea and ham risotto (£5.75) was cooked perfectly, and was big enough to be a meal on its own.
The common themes developing were both the size of the portions and the price, factors which may not have been entirely unrelated. On the flip side – I’m no connoisseur but I trust my dad on this – the wine was noticeably good value.
The main courses, too, were not cheap. My belly of pork (£15.95), was delicious. Dad’s shoulder of lamb (£16.95) and my brother’s chicken breast with tomatoes and mozzarella (£15.95) were also tasty; mum’s goat’s cheese and spinach parcel (£13.95) was too much for her to finish. Unfortunately it meant there was a lot of food uneaten – waste is never good, but particularly galling at those prices.
My parents couldn’t manage pudding, but both my cheese plate (£6.95) and my brother’s millefeuille of strawberries and dark chocolate (£5.50) were again of near-epic proportions.
A large part of the enjoyment of a meal is the experience, which again made it a shame that our experience had been of eating alone, although we were told staff were surprised by it being so quiet.
The food was fine, but if the restaurant had been bustling it would have tasted that bit better.
It was not cheap, but there was certainly no scrimping on portion sizes, which were nothing short of king-sized.
We eventually headed home, leaving Edward VIII to gaze out over an empty room once again.
VALUE: OK considering portion sizes
FOOD: Copious, tasty
DISABLED ACCESS: Yes
FINAL TOTAL: £110 with wine
HUW’S STAR RATING: 5.5/10