I won't lie, I hadn't heard of the Coalshed before my partner booked it for my birthday lunch (we attended Sunday 24th). Reading up on it beforehand and looking at the pictures on the website I felt sure I was in for a real treat. There was a lot to like but, I'm sad to say the meat (a speciality?) was a mixture of inedible and nonexistant. "Huh?" Let me expand.
After much deliberating, we decided to go for some oysters (nice) and BBQ jacobs ladder (good) to start, followed by the sharing roast for main. The starters and smashing house cola really seemed to set the tone from the get-go. I relaxed right into the surety of something special occuring. A meat specialist delivering special meat. I couldn't wait.
Now, I don't know if it was representative or not, from the reviews I'd have to say probably not, but I did not get a single edible piece of meat. I'm not saying there was none, my partner piled in and took 2 slivers of beef while I was looking at the accompanyments and she was effusive in her praise. The 2 remaining slivers were not meat. Not unless you count fat as meat. I'm not being overly fussy or precious, nor am I cherry picking. I'm not in any way squeamish about fat in meat but the key is that there has to be meat to go with the fat. In this instance I had the choice of chargrilled lumps of fat (masquerading as meat) or unrendered strips of fat that were so tough I assumed I'd been given something as blunt as a butter knife and requested a change of steak knife. Neither knife was up to the job, and in trying to seperate some tiny morsal of what may or may not have proved to be flesh from the bulletproof strip of concrete I was trying to convince myself could be consumed, all I succeeded in doing was spraying myself in gravy and potatoes. I wish I was exaggerating but I can honestly say I have no idea what the beef tasted like. I do know though that some of the fat is tougher than trigger fish skin and that the gravy wears as well as it tastes.
It wasn't all sad humiliation at the hands of inanimate fat strips (kevlar). The accompanyments were really lovely. The beef fat potatoes (ironically) excellent, as were the carrots. Also noteworthy was the cheesy-leek thing (delicious) They all went quickly. Overall the portion for 2 was pretty generous, if shockingly low on (edible) meat. And that's the thing, the rest was really good but we didn't travel 50+ miles to Brighton specifically to split a side plate of cheesey-leeky stuff and some super potatoes. My partner booked it because I love a top quality meat and she wanted to treat me on my birthday.
Being British I didn't complain, even though I was savagely disappointed. I decided to make the most British of pacts with myself and mention my surprise/disappointment only if/when asked whether we enjoyed the meal. No-one did, so I stayed silent. I would have thought that anyone looking at my plate would have been shocked by the amount of obviously inedible matter going back to the kitchen but again, nothing. Certainly in other restaurants that would have led to questions.
My daughter had the burger from the kids menu. A surprisingly large patty in a dry bun that both she and I found unspectacular to eat and indeed chose not to finish. Between us we ate about 1/3. Her chips were nice though.
My partner and my daughter were excited by the puddings and ordered a selection of desserts (sweet selection, chocolate bar and donut). They didn't finish any. What I tried I found overly sweet but I'm not really a pudding person and could level that same criticism at many restaurant desserts. I don't often see either of them leave a pudding though, so I suspect perhaps the sweetness borders on the sickly side or that they didn't live up to expectations.
So, how do you square all of that up? We liked the setting, the staff were nice and friendly, the house cola was cracking (sort of a root beer/dandelion and burdock hybrid), the starters were good, the desserts at least passable if not exceptional and the accompanyments to the roast were spot on. Unfortunately, we, like most people I'd imagine, went for the meat and only 1 of us got any. The lunch was a very generous size but excessively priced at £20 per person considering its basically just potatoes, a yorkshire pudding, some carrots, broccoli and the (delicious) cheese/leek chimera. Expensive, I'd say, even if we'd had 4 slivers of actual meat between us instead of 2 and some filler. Do I wish I'd gone for a steak instead of the roast? My immediate response is yes but I'd have my worries now.
In summary, a sadly underwhelming experience that I'd looked forward to for a couple of weeks but which only really succeeded in failing to (feel free to change the spelling to maximise the pun) meet expectations (sorry, couldn't help it).