The number of decent restaurants this close to Aldershot can be counted on the fingers of one foot, so I was quite keen to try this, on a Sunday, with my wife and daughter.
The building outside is aggressively modern and looked rather deserted. On venturing inside, through automatic doors, again it looked deserted until a porter spotted us and showed us to the restaurant, to a friendly greeting from the lady at the desk. To avoid undue repetition, I will say here that all the staff we dealt with were, without exception, friendly, helpful and just nice. The decor is all brown and cream and the tables are reasonably well spaced. They are also a decent size.
The menus and wine list both come on a single sided sheet about A3 size, with the food menu written rather large, in order that the not excessive choice should take up the whole space. The wine list was typed in a more normal font and had a reasonable selection, better than I have seen in many hotel restaurants, with several listed by the glass (in two sizes). I started with a large (250ml) glass of NZ sauvignon blanc at £8.35. A pretty average specimen. I then went on to an Aussie Pinot Noir (£32.96 the bottle), a likewise average specimen.
The menu bore no resemblance to that described in the Square Meal review or, indeed, to that shown on the hotel website. Square Meal describes the cooking as modern European and the website shows a menu touching pretty much all the bases you would expect from this description. The menu we were presented with could have come from any run of the mill hotel. The most obvious choice was steak, fillet, rib eye or sirloin being on offer and featured prominently. There were also 4 so-called “Classic” dishes, of which I recall slow-cooked lamb shoulder (which my wife and daughter had) and chicken curry. There was no discernable theme to the menu, other than a desire, understandable in a hotel, to include something to please everyone. I started with the asparagus, as did my wife, and went on to the sirloin, medium rare, with a side order of beans. My daughter started with a Caesar salad.
My wife had asked for a green salad and a latte, together with a jug of tap water and lots of ice, as soon as she sat down and these were brought quickly.
The starters arrived very quickly. My daughter’s enormous bowl of Caesar salad was too big for her as a starter and she gave some to my wife. By contrast, the half dozen puny stems of asparagus looked positively meagre. My daughter seemed to enjoy the salad. The asparagus would have been a lot better if it had not been fridge cold and surmounted with some unnecessary stuff. There was tasteless chopped egg and some crispy herb – parsley perhaps, but its nature could, in no wise, be determined from its taste, which was singularly lacking.
The slow cooked lamb, which my wife and daughter both had was dominated by Moroccan-style spice. Sadly, the meat could have been anything – there was no taste of lamb. My steak was a generous piece, medium rare as ordered and with a decent flavour. Not the best I have had but very far from the worst and quite enjoyable. The lamb came with couscous, so my wife had ordered sides of dauphinoise potatoes and carrots, both of which were as they should be. My side of beans were OK. The steak came with a generous supply of thin chips, which must have been quite good, since I polished them off all by myself. It also came with some roasted cherry tomatoes, which were very good, and some watercress, which I ignored.
My wife passed on dessert, but my daughter had a raspberry tart, on which I heard no comments, but which soon disappeared. I chose the cheese. There was no choice – three were served. One was a cheddar, one a blue and one a washed rind, possibly Tunworth. They were a surprise – excellent cheeses in excellent condition and truly delicious. These would not have been out of place in a 3 star establishment. They were accompanied by 4 large slices of a fruit and nut bread, far too much for the cheese, which was excellent in itself, but, to my mind, was a bit too fruity to go well with the cheese.
The bill came to £138.75, without service, which was left to the guests discretion and was not entered on the credit card machine. I hope that most guests did leave something, since the service was good.
If the menu is as we saw it, then the restaurant is probably not worth using unless you are staying at the hotel. There were, however, many good things and so I hope that what we had was just a cut down selection for a Sunday. If so, this hotel restaurant would be worth a small detour.