Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Boxing Day and The St John Inn

To adapt the writings of the great Stephen Fry from his article as television critic of The Listener magazine many years ago: a short word about The St John Inn, "no"; a long word about The St John Inn, "unconscionable".
The Millbrooker Towers' permanent residents and a full complement of boomerangs (Dozybean, The Depitty and The Wizzers of Soz) were taken out for lunch on Boxing Day by Milly and Trickers as their contribution to the festive feasting.

It was, of course, a generous and most welcome thing for them to have done; as such what I have to say about the travesty, the rip-off, of a poor meal badly served reflects not one jot on my mother-in-law's kind Christmas gesture. She never reads this stuff anyway, but I think her opinion will match mine, judging from the rolling eyes that greeted our thanks after the food had been finished.

Things began well, after a smiley welcome from co-manager Lauren, with a very nicely kept pint of Jingle Ale for me, ......a G&T for Dozybean and a fruitshoot for Loki.

Soon enough the remainder of the party arrived and drinks were procured before taking our table in the dining room at the rear of the pub. Here's the family on parade at table (thanks to the other diners for struggling with my camera to get a shot of all of us). From bottom left, clockwise: Trickers, The Wizzers of Soz, Mrs The Millbrooker, Yours Truly, The Depitty, Milly, Dozybean and Loki.A brief perusal of the menu began a minor feeling of foreboding that this might be a rather unimaginative meal. Unimaginative is, of course, ok in itself - as long as what's served is served well. In my experience, though, unimaginative menus are usually accompanied by unimaginative cooking, presentation and service.

We selected from the "bar snacks" in lieu of starters. The Depitty and I had small portions of scampi. Everyone else shared some garlic bread and a small bowl of olives. The scampi was adequate, but served on a stone cold plate ensuring that by the time I was on the last couple of pieces they were also stone cold. That's really amateurish, guys, an elementary schoolboy error in the kitchen.

The olives were so cold that the oil in which they were preserved had solidified around them; no attempt had been made to slightly warm them before serving and the so-called "farmhouse bread" to accompany them was, frankly, some bake-n-take style baguette freshly heated up. Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. Not only amateurish, but uncaring. I didn't try the garlic bread, so won't comment, but even if it were the most glorious garlic bread ever served, two out of three items served were well below par.

Loki did ok with his sausage and mash, but he's 21 months old and wouldn't know decently served food if it jumped off his plate and bit him.

Mains arrived, a lacklustre serving from a lacklustre menu. The Depitty and I had burgers topped with grilled Stilton, chips and salad. Mrs The Millbrooker, Milly and Dozybean had lasagne. The Wizzers of Soz had a three bean chilli, Trickers had fish and chips.

Let's start with the chilli because it attracts the least opprobrium. Wizzers said that it was "quite nice". That's as good as it gets.

Trickers' fish and chips was, and I paraphrase, "..not anywhere near as good as the fish and chips at Taunton Deane [Service Station]". So, freshly cooked battered fish and chips in a country pub that advertises itself as a provider of good food is not even up to the standard of a motorway service station. Not doing well here, are we?

The lasagne was served (like the scampi) upon cold plates accompanied by cold garlic bread. The bread was sent back and fresh stuff was provided; they managed to get it lukewarm this time, even though it was burnt to a cinder on one side. The lasagne itself was one of the smallest and stingiest portions I've ever seen, but considering its microwaved tasteless awfulness this was probably a blessing. Soggy burnt cardboard with a spot of cheese on would probably have looked (and tasted) better. How in heaven's name do you ruin a lasagne? One of the simplest and most effective pasta dishes known to man, yet the St John Inn "chef" couldn't manage it.

And so to the burgers. They arrived (also on cold plates - are you detecting a theme here?) sandwiched into stale microwave-hardened buns with some floppy salad and some just about acceptable chips. The burgers were dry and hideously overcooked, the grilled Stilton topping was wafer thin and grilled until it was dead, dead, dead. Absolutely godawful and not really acceptable fare for a gathering of friends at a barbecue, let alone from a professional kitchen charging pub grub prices. No relishes were provided (a basic requirement with a burger, I'd have thought), although Lauren did bring us some mayonnaise and a spot of mustard after she'd checked to see if we wanted anything.

The service (with the exception of the occasional smiling and pleasant visit from Lauren) was perfunctory; we got the definite feeling that the waitress would rather have been anywhere else than waiting at table on Boxing Day. Fair enough, I'd hate it too; indeed I do detest my own job but I do try not convey that to the punters.

We did go for puddings - mainly to prolong our enjoyment of Milly and Trickers' company who were leaving for home straight after the meal and partly to see if mein hosts could succeed in dishing up ice cream without error.

The answer, sadly, was "no". You remember the common theme of all the hot dishes? Yep - cold crockery. So what do they do when they're serving ice cream and cold puddings? You've got it - the plates were piping hot from the dishwasher and our puddings disintegrated before our eyes.

There might be a myriad reasons for this dreadful meal being served, but frankly the St John Inn staff and management should hang their collective heads in shame at the careless and shockingly poor quality food that they were prepared to serve and charge for.

So, dear reader, I'd have to recommend that you avoid this appalling imitation of an eatery. Perhaps on other days they fare better; perhaps our experience was just a one-off. But I wouldn't take the chance if I were you.


For the brave - if you fancy booking to eat:

St John Inn, St. John, Torpoint, PL11 3AW

Bookings: 01752 822280

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The garlic bread for the starter was pretty good, though, and Lauren was a very smiley and polite hostess - it wasn't all bad over there.