The Doc had stipulated a twin room – even though the canvas at Mar Estang was thin enough that we might just as well have top and tailed – I guess to preclude a hotel receptionist we’d never see again assuming we were Wendys. The room itself was kitted out for disabled occupants. Everything was within reach from a seated position and if we’d wanted we could have circumnavigated the bathroom without touching the floor. Like in the Crystal Maze, only marginally funnier.
We began with a pint in The Encore, Stratford upon Avon’s sister pub to Warwick’s monumental Saxon Mill. They don’t scrimp when they furnish a joint, these cats. It looks a million dollars although not unlike a million other places whose design ethos is something like ‘contemporary comfort’; a contrived blend of armchairs and fancy wallpaper and shit. We each necked a Pure UBU (Purity 4.5%) and the Doc ushered us off toward dinner, probably conscious I was completely out of my depth on the subject of Twitter and drawing attention to us in a negative way.
The last time I ate at the One Elm I got steadily FUBAR on a cumulative cocktail of Speckled Hen, liqueur coffees and champagne and then rolled around on the roof of Benson’s Audi before finally agreeing to make the journey home inside it. For posterity therefore, because, according to its homepage, the Church Street Townhouse‘s eagerly anticipated opening was still a few weeks away, and because we’d been warned off Bernadette’s roof terrace on the grounds that it was both “windy and fucking crap”, I thought we’d settle in here.
Snagging a pint of Purity’s Gold (3.8%) we were nonchalantly but politely pointed toward the restaurant and a big-arse, not terribly well-written specials board which yielded both eventual choices was propped on a spare seat at our table. Onglet steak (£14 with chips etc ) was competently explained away as a cut and recommended rare due to its ‘fibrous’ constitution. Doc had that. I had Pork T-Bone with Caramelised Apples, Mash and a wine gravy (£13.50). We shared a Cold Cuts deli-board to start (£10.50 and a highpoint) and a decent bottle of Argentinian rouge (Malbec, £16).
Prices – excellent, Food – nice, Service – suspect. What’s sticking in my throat is an entirely needless approach made mid-starter, over which the Doc and I were making up for lost time, to ask whether we’d be ready for our main courses soon. Although it was clear we’d not finished I gave our girl a window to qualify the enquiry, which I was in no doubt had been pre-empted by a chef keen to get off ( it was 9.30pm after all ). “Would it help you out if we had them now?”, I asked. Don’t forget it’s me; I know my hosts have considerations too and my offer was a genuine one. “No – no rush”, she said. (No? Sod off, then…) After someone came to check again on our progress I relented and insisted they carry on, bring out the dead, wary that the Doc’s Onglet might, as a result of having been resting since their first approach, be more toward medium by now. In fairness it arrived pretty much as ordered. Sure enough, though, while it was perfectly edible, my t-bone had begun to dry and the mash to stiffen, presumably as a result of a lengthy lie down under the heat lamps. It wasn’t a disaster, but they didn’t cover themselves in glory.
Back at the Encore, despite advertising midnight closing from Thursday to Saturday, they had called time. It was 11.15pm. Refusing point-blank to resort to Wethersoon’s we went, at Benson’s request, for a fly by of the aforementioned, soon to be operational Church Street Townhouse. Hang on a doggone minute, though; it is open. For business, anyway, not to us unfortunately, not at this hour (but do keep it here for details of their breakfast). Nothing for it then but to make for wanker-riddled thespian hangout and institute of post-theatre pomposity that is the still-serving Dirty Duck.
Buzzing though it was, two pints of an oddly palatable, normally unmentionable IPA followed by two large goblets of their house red were arguably four steps too far. Not least because, in the spirit of the high-jinx brought on by the accessibility of our accommodation, we’d now taken largely to slating the congregation – from the impossibly chiselled off-duty actor to the vertically challenged ligger lavishing him with attention -, and to letting our gazes linger for too long on this American girl’s thigh-length socks. Alright, my gaze – Doc’s married.
Bedtime reading was a Hungry Horse menu card. Priceless. Well, not quite priceless, but desserts go from 69p.
Cheers, MD. A more adept exporter of Peak District porcelain one could not wish to get smashed with. Take it from me, the future’s Qatar.