You hear it all the time as soon as someone in the street mentions anything Masterchef-related; “the portions are tiny”, “you leave hungry”, etc.
Last night I headed to Rushton Hall’s restaurant, set in the magnificent 16th century hotel grounds, to take a look at a different side of dining myself.
I’d read about head chef Adrian Coulthard’s work beforehand and I was brimming with excitement.
And I learned that you don’t just go there to eat, you go for the experience - which, by the way, was by far the best meal out I’ve ever had.
Upon entering we were urged to take a seat in the bar area, which is steeped in history, while we perused the menu.
We were given complimentary olives which would probably have been delicious, but unfortunately olives are just one of those things that neither my girlfriend or I can stomach.
After ordering we were shown into the dining area, which was quite full considering it was midweek.
I often find some restaurants can make you feel almost uncomfortable, as if they’re in a rush to push you out and bring in their next cash-cow.
But here we were made to feel incredibly welcome by every member of staff available, who all had smiles so permanent their jaws must have ached.
We were presented with a small home-made bread board with our amuse bouche, which was scrambled egg espuma – or foam, as some would call it – with wild mushrooms.
The eggs were light with the mushrooms providing a great additional texture; it was almost like the perfect breakfast-flavoured yoghurt.
Moments after devouring our entrees our starters were presented to us.
I much prefer fish to meats and opted for the scallops with cumin, crispy rice and apple – and boy were they good.
Natalie went for the trio of duck, with confit pressing, smoked breast and parfait with orange gel and leaves.
I found the parfait too rich for my personal taste but she wasted no time at all in eating every last morsel.
Our main courses were a feast for the senses, beautifully presented, smelling great, but most importantly, tasting fantastic.
I chose the black bream, which came with cucumber, potato dumplings, shrimps, a butter sauce and agretti (which I admittedly had to Google to find out what it was).
The fish was succulent with a strong hint of lemon, and the potato dumplings were incredible – imagine a perfect marriage between gnocchi and your mum’s roast potatoes.
Natalie went for the beef rump, which was perfectly pink, with braised shin, morels, onions, artichoke, spinach puree and horseradish.
Again there were empty plates and I think had it not been for the fact we were in Northamptonshire’s highest-rated restaurant, she would have licked the plate clean.
By this stage we were both suitably full – but nothing gets in the way of dessert.
I fancied something a bit lighter and went for the lemon meringue, which was encased with lemon curd and sponge with a basil sorbet.
I’m not too keen on basil in savoury dishes and was cautious that it would be a bit of a fad, but it complemented the sharp lemon perfectly.
Natalie chose the mysteriously-named ‘chocolate textures’ which, if you like chocolate, was dreamy.
There was chocolate sponge, chocolate mousse, chocolate sauce, chocolate tuille, white chocolate ice cream, chocolate cubes...breathe...and honeycomb.
The two spoonfuls I was allowed to try without having my hand swatted off the plate were delicious, but I’m not sure I could have eaten all of it.
Our waitresses were attentive without being pushy, and incredibly courteous – I don’t think I’ve been called sir as much since I last did some sports coaching at my old school.
At £55 a head for three courses Rushton Hall isn’t the sort of place you will be able to afford every week.
But as treats go, it’s about as good as it gets.
For more information about Rushton Hall or to view its menus, click here.