Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lifeboat Inn - Out!

Being such a lover of French food it’s never difficult to think of an excuse to whip out the white fluted-edged plates and bee tumblers and rustle up some French bistro delight or indulge in the finer culinary artistry of a soupçon of haute cuisine.  And generally on August 19th I find an excuse to go French.  Perhaps others would plump for Bastille Day or hide a little china king in a cake for Epiphany but being singular I go come over all French on this day and get out the pearls to celebrate Coco Chanel’s birthday. And being here with the ever wonderful D and MC I thought they’d like to join me in this fête.  I have no idea what Coco thought about food, French or otherwise but she did utter some marvellous statements, my favourite being - “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”  And on top of all that wisdom I am a huge fan of her camellias, the quilted leather and that indefinable “je ne sais quois”.
In the quest for our own ‘classy and fabulous’ dinner we decided on the restaurant at The Lifeboat Inn in Thornham.  D and MC have eaten here on previous occasions and we have a choice of the unbookable bistro part or the restaurant and seeing some of the restaurants tables around these parts get snapped up quick so we go for more ornate restaurant menu. The Lifeboat Inn prides itself on the view out to sea but I can't see the sea from the window next to our table as there are fields full of those round hay bales stretching as far as the eye can see. Perhaps I need to be peering out of one of their bedrooms above to see beyond the golden fields.
Being in that French frame of mind I'd been pondering the chicken liver pâté and melba toast on the chalkboard from the bistro part of the pub, but it seemed cheating when we were sat in the restaurant with the ‘finer’ tale d’hôte menu so plumped for the chicken, ham and chorizo terrine with a spiced tomato chutney.  I did mention my concern about the tomato chutney and the said they would leave it off.  What they did instead which was much nicer was to drizzle my plate with a fruity Cumberland sauce instead.  Which complemented the terrine very well and dare I say would work way better than the chutney would have done.  Biased moi?
For my main course I was able to be a little more Gallic and ordered prime fillet of beef with a wholegrain mustard mash and a wild mushroom brandy and peppercorn sauce.  In reply to the waitress’ usual question when ordering a steak, I replied rare – seeing I love both steak tartar and carpaccio I clearly don’t have a problem with how little my beef is cooked.  But when it arrived after a curiously long wait I was disappointed to see that someone had either overruled my choice or just messed up their timings as it was well into the ‘medium’ spectrum possibly nudging ‘medium to well’. I know one of the best ways to fall foul of a kitchen is to diss their ability to judge steak doneness so I let it pass as I suspected such a mention would have also put me to back of the queue for tickets and we’d already been there a while. 
D and MC fared better with their Baked lemon sole with duchess potatoes and a lemon and caper butter and an Oven roasted rack of English lamb with Lyonnaise potatoes and a minted gravy.
 An observant reader might spot the theme on theme in the main courses and that was chives, not super finely snipped chives to ass a little mild onion bite to the dish but long stalks of chives.  I guess I’m in favour of an insistence on edible garnishes.  When chives are presented as thus I’m not entirely sure if I shouldn’t painstakingly slice the chives into more acceptable rings, place between by two thumbs and blow to see if I can make that squealing noise a blade of grass would or just push to the side of the plate.     
For dessert I wanted something clean and fresh and no tarte citron was to be had so a trio of fruity sorbets were procured to cleanse my palette.
I wasn’t overwhelmed by The Lifeboat Inn, we had an unbelievably long wait for drinks on sitting down, we spotted other diners going to the bar and coming back to their tables armed with their beverages are wondered if we should also.  The request for a jug of water was studiously ignored and as the sun set and the restaurant plunged into gloominess it was even harder to attract the eye of the slightly harassed looking waiting staff.  I think it would be too harsh to hint that the Lifeboat needed a life belt or was sinking more that they have some great competition around here who are trouncing them in the food and service stakes.  Perhaps they could be accused of resting of their laurels of past years, as they seemed popular but it lacked so much lustre.  It was certainly not bad but if my taste buds need rescuing I’d call many of the other tastier options along the coast.

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