Friday, March 9, 2012

Review: The Central Bar

Since I moved out of home, I’m kinda slightly embarrassed to admit how much I miss my mother! Haha! To be fair I am in the very fortunate position to only be living 25 minutes away from her, so basically a free bus ride away, but still- we’re very close and I talk to her at least every day on the phone. Anyway, now that I consider myself a bit more free and independent, I thought I would start regularly treating my mum to lunch when I could afford it, considering how many “free lunches” I have received from her in the past! I still had my Tastecard, which free trial ended on Friday, so I thought I would take her to one of the restaurants on their promotional list. “The Central Bar” was on that list, I checked out the menu online and I thought it looked like a good place for lunch, so decided to take her there.

The place is quite small, and I feel that if I went there on a night out for cocktails, I would start to get annoyed very quickly if it got busy- because the bit in front of the bar is really really narrow- so I’d be having to squeeze past people all the time. Not the best designed place I guess. However, me and mum checked out the menu, and I noticed it was different to their one advertised online (maybe this is because it’s seasonal, or special based, I’m not sure). I realised that compared to the online version, there were less vegetarian choices, which wasn’t the best for my mum, but since it was only lunchtime, she was happy having one of the “lunchy options”- which included omelettes, jacket potatoes, and baguettes with various fillings. There was only two other veggie options besides that, which if I remember right was an oyster mushroom filled filo parcel (mum likes mushrooms, but not oyster mushrooms- she finds Chinese mushrooms a bit slimy) and “goats cheese lollipops” (one of my mums biggest challenges recently as a vegetarian is that it is definitely in “food vogue” that any vegetarian option on a menu must include goats cheese somehow, and she hates it, haha). She decided on having a mushroom and cheese omelette, and I was swamped with all the meaty options, but decided to go for the homemade pork and beef meatballs, served with spaghetti in a tomato and red pepper sauce.

Now when I ordered this, underneath on the menu it said you could order a small portion (in brackets it said “3”, with the price of £4.95) or a large portion (“5” for £7.95). I of course, figuring the £4.95 option was like a starter portion (like you get in some Italian restaurants actually), ordered the large, and when it arrived, I realised they really meant LARGE! 5 Mahoosive meatballs, on a big tower of pasta- I’ve got to say that you all know how skewed my portion sizes are, considering some of my recipes, but this plateful even defeated me! Mum’s omelette was massive too, with loads of French fries and a good fresh looking salad garnish. The meatballs were delicious, really flavourful, and very moist- I think using a combination of pork and beef when making meatballs is always a winner, because the pork keeps the meatballs from being dry, and the beef adds flavour and stops the meatballs from tasting too “piggy”, if you know what I mean. The spaghetti was cooked properly, and the sauce had been seasoned well, with a tasty sauce, if there would be one criticism it would be that the sauce was a little too sweet. I think perhaps a tsp less sugar in that sauce and they would be on to a winner! One point that I noticed, and I always think attention to detail is important in a restaurant, is that the side of my plate was quite badly chipped, which didn’t look all that good, but to be honest I couldn’t be bothered to complain- I was so hungry!

The service there was quite attentive too, considering by the time we got our lunches, the place was filling up very quickly, and there was only one man waiting all these tables (a very cute French man in fact, haha), I was quite impressed. Service was quick, and once we finished our lunches we both got a couple of coffees. When the coffees arrived, the cups were actually too hot to touch! I think perhaps it was the design of the cups and the fact they had been resting on top of the coffee machine, but this was slightly impractical, as we had to wait for a while before we could actually pick up our coffees to drink them! Although they sell Illy coffees, which is always a good sign- a lot of people rate Lavazza as the best type of coffee, but I rate Illy much better, I personally think theres nothing better on the market.

The bill came, although this took a while I guess, as the waiter was so busy, and he had to write the bill twice because the first time he forgot about my Tastecard and I thought it was a very reasonable price. We had ordered 2 cokes, 2 main meals and 2 coffees and the bill came to £22, which of course I got £7 off, because of my Tastecard, so it ended up being £15. I think considering the sheer size of the portions in this place, and the good quality ingredients, this was a very fair price. My main criticism of this place is that despite me really liking the style of the menu (lots of homemade comfort lunchy foods like pasta, curries, fish and chips, pies, ploughman’s etc.) there was not enough vegetarian choice on the menu. With that improvement made, I think me and my mum will definitely go back there again at some point. I think I would rate the food a 7/10 (marks down for chipped plate, overly sweet pasta and not enough veggie choices) , and the service an 8/10 (just points down to the wait for the bill really). Overall 7.5/10.

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