Given that dad was working on the evening of my parents’ anniversary, they decided to head for a meal at lunchtime – kindly inviting me to join them. Not wanting to head into town, we stayed local with a visit to The Tickled Trout, one of the chain of Vintage Inns which are dotted across the country.
Our first stop was the drinks menu – well, it was a special occasion -from which we selected a bottle of red wine plus a coke for the designated driver (also known as dad). Upon ordering the bottle, the waitress immediately lifted the spare wine glass from the table… along with mine. Mum and dad were first to react, asking her to leave my glass where it was. This she did without apology, giving me an odd look as she walked away. After she glanced over a couple of times, I was tempted to show her my I.D. without asking – although the main problem with this story is that she should have asked for I.D.. I’m under no illusion that I look my age (I would I.D. myself without doubt) and if the waitress was unsure she should have asked for confirmation.
With me suitably embarrassed, we waited for the waitress to return with the drinks and to take our order. The drinks did indeed arrive, but our order wasn’t taken and we had to wait a few more minutes before she returned. We then faced another fairly long wait for the starters, hungrily watching as other tables were served. When the starters did arrive both dad’s and my choice of Salt and Pepper Calamari looked promising. The menu had stated that the squid would have a chorizo-flavour seasoning and chipotle mayonnaise, and the crispy batter certainly did have a red tinge. Sadly, however, I couldn’t discern any chorizo flavour – nor any salt or pepper – on the calamari, although the batter was very light and broke apart beneath my knife and fork. Dad thought the squid itself was pretty well cooked, while I would have argued it was a little over-cooked. The chipotle mayonnaise was very nice, although I would have said it contained a sweeter pepper as there was no heat to the mayonnaise. Meanwhile, mum enjoyed her Oven-Baked Mushrooms which came in a delicious garlic and cheddar sauce. The sauce was creamy with a good strong flavour, and the dish was filled with a good portion of mushrooms.
After another sizeable gap our main courses arrived, with mine barely fitting on the table! My Stone-Baked Continental Meat Pizza arrived on a huge wooden board, which made eating a teensy bit awkward. The expanse of crust with no topping looked a little peely-wally for my liking, but was actually pretty well cooked with a nice chew. The toppings were also pretty good – a type of salami and a ham (I couldn’t decide if it was Serrano or Parma) adorned the pizza, but the real winner was the caramelised onion chutney that had been dolloped on top. Sweet chutney tempered any heat from the onions – a great match for the mild smokiness from the cured meats. I opted for dressed salad with my pizza rather than chips (how healthy am I?), but given how good mum’s chips were this may have been a mistake. The crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside chips were an accompaniment to mum’s Hunter’s Chicken – a chargrilled chicken breast topped with cheddar and a slice of streaky bacon glazed in ginger beer. The “slice” of bacon looked more like a gammon steak, and though we got no hint of ginger beer the glaze did have a slightly sweet yet smoky flavour. The chicken breast was, sadly, overcooked and dry meaning it needed the accompanying sauce.
Dad’s choice was one I had seriously considered, and his Lamb Duo did indeed look very nice. The pan-fried lamb rump was, according to dad, perfectly pink, while the shepherd’s pie was filled with tender pulled lamb. The lamb from the pie was certainly nice – tender and melt-in-the-mouth, dad’s only issue was that there wasn’t enough of it. With the vegetables on the plate being well-cooked as well, this was probably the winning main course.
The good thing about not having chips with my pizza meant room for dessert, although I couldn’t get excited about many of the options. Traditional desserts seemed to have gone through a slight makeover, with many having some extra added ingredients that I didn’t fancy. I settled for the Melba Crème Brûlée – a regular crème brûlée with peach and raspberries encased within the custard. The first disappointment came when I realised that my crème brûlée was stone-cold – I am a firm believer that the top should still have heat and the inside should be at room temperature, instead of being straight from the fridge. Inside, peaches and raspberries were a completely unnecessary addition which really added nothing to a custard that was moments away from curdled. The overall flavour of the custard was nice, and so perfecting the cooking and removing the fruit would actually make it a good dessert.
Mum’s dessert also had a twist, with apple being added to her Sticky Toffee Pudding. The sticky sponge tasted quite strongly of apple, and was quite nice in it’s pool of custard (which looked too yellow to be home-made). Dad decided to forgo a sweet dish, opting for the British Cheeseboard. The board was well stocked, with five good sized chunks of cheese, two types of crackers, butter, grapes and the same gorgeous onion chutney that had been on my pizza. There was actually so much cheese on the board that dad ran out of crackers before it was finished! The selection of cheeses was also good – with blue and goat cheeses both featuring – so it’s a shame that they hadn’t been taken out the fridge longer before being served (something which is, admittedly, more difficult in a restaurant during quiet periods).
Overall, the food was a mixed bag with some lovely dishes and some not-so-great elements. Also disappointing was the service – the waitress who served us the most was not particularly polite and her attitude was just a little off. Not quite the experience we were hoping for, it’s a shame that The Tickled Trout let itself down on this occasion.