Friday, 5 January 2007

Review: The Walter Hicks Resturant in The White Hart, St Austell

Many moons ago myself and about 15 other people went to eat at the White Hart in St Austell. The food was pretty good but the service was so bad we complained. The hotel, via the St Austell Brewery, could not have been more apologetic; the girl whose birthday party it was got a bottle of bubbly and substantial dining vouchers. Respect to the brewery.

Since then we have been back a few times, last night being the most recent.




The White Hart is one of St Austell’s most famous hotels, shadowed only by the Travel Lodge next to the Mevagissey roundabout. Built over 150 years ago it was the town residence of Charles Rashleigh, who built Charlestown. The Hotel bar has recently started getting pretty lively at the weekends which is great for St Austell but probably not too hot if you're staying there, unless you are on a UK Karaoke Tour.

In may 2005 the hotel’s restaurant was rebranded as The Walter Hicks Restaurant. For those who are not up with the big boys of Cornwall’s past, Hicks was the man who mortgaged up his farm in the 1860’s and decided that his future lay in beer. He started off with the Seven Stars and over a short time turned his skills into what is now a world renowned brewery and collection of hostelries.

Last Nights Meal

Since myself and my domestic assistant have started these reviews, going out has changed: we pack notepads and cameras and dictaphones and that a critical eye for aspects of places we never really thought of before. The first smile when you walk in, the d├ęcor, the business. Last night, save for two elderly diners, the restaurant was empty. We certainly didn’t need to book and were shown to the table and offered drinks right away.

The restaurant does lack a certain ambiance due to the brightness of the lights, but it’s a pleasant place to sit and eat.

The Menu

The menu didn’t pack much of a wow but nonetheless it was wide ranging. Price wise it was in the same range as the Seven Stars (review) and the King's Head (review), the highest priced meal being an 8oz steak at £10.95.

We skipped starters and went straight for the culinary jugular. I ordered “Cornish Fish Trio” with lemon sole, haddock and monkfish (£8.25). There was a generous portion of the fish and it was well presented. How was it? Well, unfortunately, although the fish seemed fresh it had been overcooked so that it was dry and each of the varieties seemed to meld into one taste and texture. A bit of a shame since these fish should all stand on their own fins in terms of taste, and definitely texture. This didn’t happen here.

The salad was fresh and nice but, as so often happens in local restaurants, totally undressed. How does this happen? At what point in the process from idea to plate does someone think a salad without dressing is anything other than leaves and onions? Salads need dressings! Start the revolution! I asked the super nice waitress for some dressing, and she obliged, but I could see her vinaigrette strokes as she shook the big squeezy bottle into a little bowl. The dressing wasn’t fresh and wasn’t that nice.

Overall my meal gets a 5.5 out of 10. It could have been a 7 with a good fresh dressing and without the roasting of the fish.

My domestic assistant ordered a “Mixed Bean Bourguignon” with wild rice and garlic bread (£6.50). It looked pretty good, had a wide variety of beans and the wild rice was a good addition. Don’t forget this is veggie so it’s not really relevant to the rest of us, but her meal got a 6.5 out of 10 and she noted that it was a pretty good effort for an otherwise carnivorous eaterie.

Conclusion


The whole meal, with drinks, came to twenty two pounds, which is very reasonable.

Based on last night and other nights and people's opinions, The Walter Hicks Restaurant is never really as full as it should or could be. The experience is a couple of points better than the food, the service can’t be faulted and for a “what shall we do tonight” option it is worth trying out, for sure.


We will return. We will review.


Seven

Stars

Kings

Head

The Walter Hicks

Food

6

9

6

Service

7

6

8

Ambiance

6

7

5

Setting

4

8

7

Value

5

7

8

Overall

6

8

7



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