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Nice food... shame about the portions
3:13pm Thursday 5th April 2012 in Eating Out Reviews
PAULINE COLE has a hit and miss meal when she ventures out after work
The Vale Hotel Bar & Bistro, 32 High Street, Cricklade, SN6 6AY.
Tel: 01793 750223
After a hard day at the office and excited at the prospect of not having to cook, I took my family of four to the Vale Hotel in Cricklade.
The bistro was warm, clean and pleasantly lit. The tables were set nicely, with plenty of elbow room, and the staff were extremely polite and helpful.
First things first, we ordered our drinks – a bottle of house Merlot at £14 a bottle, and a pint of Bob ale from the famous Wickwar brewery at £3.20 – then sat down to consider the options on the bar and restaurant menu.
We were all very hungry so decided to opt for starters, all at £4.50. Between us, we chose the pan-fried mackerel fillet, a ham hock terrine with homemade chutney and toast and the butterfly king prawns and chilli sauce.
The terrine, cooked with ham and parsley and held together in a savoury jelly, looked and tasted great. The chutney had a sweet flavour and went perfectly with the rough texture of the terrine. The toast, however, was disappointing – two of the tiniest triangles I have ever seen. It wasn’t enough and looked out of place on the plate.
The butterfly prawns came wrapped in pastry and tasted fresh and crisp. The chilli sauce wasn’t too hot and the two made a lovely combination.
We weren’t so happy with the ‘fresh’ pan-fried mackerel fillet, which our waitress admitted was from a packet and came laid on top of a sparse salad. The taste was acceptable but nothing special.
Main courses can be ordered from either the restaurant menu or the bar menu. Our waitress informed us that the special of the day was Cassoulet, a speciality dish from the south of France, and at £9.50 it sounded temptingly tasty so two of us decided to give it a go.
Its rich, red sauce made it look attractive, but it lacked flavour (probably because of the lack of meat) and the small helping was disappointing, not least because it didn’t come with any vegetables or rice. We ordered bread (at an extra £1.50) to try and bulk out the meal.
The non-meat eater of the family chose calamari rings in sweet chilli sauce with chips, at £7.50. The simple rings were pan fried and not overcooked, so the taste was pleasant and the texture not at all rubbery. The chips came on a side plate and the sweet chilli sauce had just the right level of heat.
The fourth member of the family chose confit duck leg with sauté potatoes and braised red cabbage at £11.50. The duck was cooked to a high standard and the glazed potatoes were gorgeous, but at the risk of sounding like a moaner, again it lacked vegetables. The small teaspoon of red cabbage was almost lost on the plate, which didn’t help the presentation. It did, however, arrive with a rich gravy that gave the meal a hearty feel.
Only two of us wanted a third course so we decided to share a cheese board, served with chutney, celery and biscuits, at £4.95.
It arrived with four types of cheese to go on the crackers, but again the portions were tiny. The pieces of cheese looked like the last bits leftover from a bigger chunk, and we were dismayed to say the least. The celery was dry and looked like it had been sat there for days. I mentioned my concerns to the waitress, who simply didn’t know what to say.
In all it was a hit and miss affair at the Vale Hotel. There was nothing wrong with the cooking or the service, per se, I just don’t think it would be my first choice for a return visit.
At the end of the day, I felt the bill of £87.80 for the four of us did not represent a fair price for the food we received.
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