Fortunately, there were no signs barring bearded burpers, so I was able to partake in the traditions of scotch egg, seared sirloin, Yorkshire pudding… Err, it was afternoon tea, right?
Now I’m not sure if Mrs. B.B. is trying to fatten me up, or whether putting the bins out on time earlier in the week really won me some favour.
Either way, having cooked me her signature rack of lamb dish on the Friday, treated me to home-made blueberry pancakes Saturday morning:
…and then driven me 1 hour to The Walnut Tree Inn for 3-courses that very same evening, it was now Sunday and time for the Park Plaza’s (well, technically, Laguna Restaurant & Bar’s) afternoon tea – with a twist.
Yes, it wasn’t any old afternoon tea.
In a bid to curb my sugar intake, I opted for the savoury (gentlemen’s afternoon tea), whilst Mrs. B.B. went hyper with the traditional version.
Mrs. B.B. has covered the décor and service in her review, so let’s get straight down to (gentle)man’s business…
Finger sandwiches or STEAK?!
Ok, it was £2 more, but, “honestly, if I don’t have slightly stale finger sandwiches whose filling I can barely taste given the thickness of the bread, I can have steak ciabatta?!”
It seemed an absurd trade off, and as a result I didn’t have high hopes, but it was some of the best steak I’ve ever had.
It wasn’t tough or chewy – a little bit of gristle – and they didn’t feel obliged to do anything to distract from the flavour. Caramelised onion, a few sautéed mushrooms, but mainly tender, seared sirloin stake. Perfect.
“It was comfortingly warm and crispy.”
Saying that, I couldn’t resist dipping it into the bloody mary sauce which came with the chorizo Scotch eggs – possibly the highlight of the meal.
The egg yolk was still runny, the chorizo was slightly spicy and moist – and it was comfortingly warm and crispy. The glisten from the juices after my first bite was a beautiful sight – and it sent my taste buds into a frenzy.
The only things I didn’t dip into the sauce were the desserts (I’m not that much of a lout!), and the two fishy options…
Can we get back to the meat already?
Not a huge fan of prawn cocktail – and it was a bit awkward to eat out of the shot glass – I kicked it over to Mrs. B.B. after a couple of tentative nibbles (don’t worry, I stole plenty from across the table – including a finger sandwich to finish mopping up the bloody mary sauce).
The smoked salmon was… smoked salmon – on a dry blini (not a fan generally) with crème fraiche and tiny bit of caviar you could barely taste.
“More of the sirloin steak! Yes, please…”
Both the fish dishes were perfectly fine, but I was eager to get back to the meat – and the mini venison burger, which was a delight. I expected something fairly dry, but it was so moist and clearly made with high-quality mince – again, no need for fuss: a big slice of tomato, a lettuce leaf and a thin layer of mayo. I was more than content – even if I (thankfully) couldn’t make out the advertised juniper berry or redcurrants in the mayo.
I made the mistake of leaving the Yorkshire pudding until last – so it was a bit cold and had lost its crunch. However, more of the sirloin steak! Yes, please… The creamed horseradish dip had some serious kick – my senses took a battering at this point, but it was almost addictively painful.
Sweets… but not to be savoured
Boy, the sweets were… well, sweet!
I don’t know if they were trying to overcompensate, but they could have taken it down a notch or two with the rum baba filled with Chantilly cream and raspberries.
“The raspberry chocolate shell reminded me of those cheap pink chocolate mice of my youth.”
I did like the effect of breaking through the thick outer shell with a spoon to get to the creamy centre – my very own MasterChef judging moment.
The raspberry chocolate shell reminded me of those cheap pink chocolate mice of my youth, which, even then I would struggle to consume too many of – with the Chantilly cream it was way too much. I also seemed to be missing the advertised raspberries – however, there appeared to be pieces of rum soaked sponge hidden within.
The duo chocolate mousse was smooth, but it wasn’t light and airy. It was also very rich and intense – although the bitterness (and the fact it was served in an espresso’s cup) saved it from being overwhelming.
Did the sugar leave a sour note?
So, I’d opted for the savoury afternoon tea, but still left with a sugar sweat and a requirement to hit the exercise bike when I got home.
To be honest, I could have done without the sweets entirely – this is where the kitchen faltered, and I started to worry about my long-term health.
Maybe I’m too much of a rough man, but a few veggie side dishes (maybe a homemade coleslaw), or just a pint of the bloody mary sauce, and I’d have left completely satisfied – rather than lightheaded from the sugar rush.
However, I booked it for the savoury; on that score, it really delivered, with some high quality ingredients and top drawer cooking.