It’s always nice to make new dining discoveries, especially when they’re only a short drive away.
We’d never even heard of the Oak Royal Golf Hotel, let alone its Lark Hill Restaurant, but thanks to the wonders of Tripadvisor and seeing a few reviews raving about it, we thought we’d try it out.
On arrival, we found that everything certainly looked very new and the hotel is in beautiful surroundings.
Inside, it is just as impressive looking as it is modern and wonderfully decorated with great attention to detail and manages to combine a smart look with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
The toilets in particular are well worth a visit as they are stunningly and tastefully decorated.
The staff were friendly and attentive when Hubby and I arrived for lunch and we were deftly seated and handed a Table D’Hote menu and informed that this was the only menu they were serving for lunch today.
This was fine with us and as the set menu contained some appetising options and priced at £16.95 for two courses or £19.95 for three courses, it seemed a good value option.
We had gone for a late lunch at 2pm and were surprised to find we were the only diners and the restaurant remained deserted for the first half-hour or so of our dining experience when a few groups arrived for afternoon tea for a 40th and a baby shower.
One of my gripes when it comes to a restaurant offering a Table D’Hote menu is when you are offering a menu that is restrictive with a limited number of options, make sure you have the ingredients for everything on it.
I can understand later on in the evening after a particular dish has been extremely popular, the staff informing you that they have run out of it.
But to be told on a Saturday lunchtime that one of the six starters isn’t available is inexcusable.
And if a certain dish isn’t available, you should at least be told before you order it and start looking forward to it.
Hubby chose the Goat’s Cheese Bon Bons for starter while I liked the sound of the Moules A La Creme which came served with fresh herbs and crusty breads.
Sadly, I never got to taste this starter as the waitress returned a few minutes later to tell me they had run out of mussels so I went for the Chicken Liver Parfait instead.
Our starters were both beautifully presented, particularly mine with its little glass jar of apple and date chutney and accompanying toast.
The parfait was beautifully smooth and tasty and the apple and date chutney went with it delightly well.
Across the table, Hubby’s starter of goat’s cheese bon bons wasn’t quite as successful. Served with beetroot puree and raisin salsa, there was nothing wrong with it, but it wasn’t as nice as he thought it would be and tasted pretty uninspiring.
For main course, I chose the pan fried seabream with wilted spinach, shell fish consume, sauce viege and salty fingers.
I was intrigued as to what the salty fingers were. However, I didn’t get to find out as when the dish arrived, there was no sign of them.
The seabream was cooked well and there was certainly wilted spinach and the whole dish came swimming in a shellfish consomme which was absolutely delicious - but hard to eat as there was no form of potato whatsoever to mop up the soup. In fact I could have done with a spoon.
Hubby chose the roast salmon with bacon and leek tartlet, confit tomatoes, red wine mushrooms, baby leeks and tarragon butter sauce.
The salmon was cooked to perfection and the idea of the bacon and leek tartlet was nice while the tarragon butter sauce was superb.
But again - the dish just felt it was missing potatoes in any form. Many set menus craftily omit potatoes or veg so you have to pay extra to order them as side dishes.
However, we were never even given this option and no mention was made on our menu of side dishes.
Both mains felt they were missing something.
On to dessert - and my pet peeve of all items on a set menu not being available raised its ugly head again.
The duo of brulee with homemade shortbread caught my eye and the waitress went away to find out what the two flavours were while I waited in anticipation.
She returned to sheepishly inform me that the duo was actually a singlet and the one creme brulee flavour was vanilla.
As this was too ordinary after the build up of the “duo”, I went for the artisan lemon tart served with raspberry sorbet and soft fruits.
The lemon tart was pleasant enough and I liked the way the top of it was soft glazed a bit like a creme brulee, but the taste did lack the wow factor.
And instead of the raspberry sorbet described in the menu, I received a scoop of strawberry ice cream without any mention of the change.
The ice-cream was very nice … but what if I couldn’t eat ice cream and had only ordered this dessert because of the sorbet?
Hubby’s dessert choice of Indulgence of Chocolate proved a real winner though. He received a dark chocolate brownie, a milk chocolate mousse and white chocolate ice cream and it looked stunning.
It tasted amazing too … according to him - although I can’t verify this as he ate it so quickly, I never got the chance to have a taste.
One of the problems with online reviews is that when they rave about the place, your expectations are high.
One reviewer described how pleased they were to receive complimentary bread with a choice of butters and oils.
However, on our visit we weren’t even offered a bread roll!
We may just have visited on a bad day and not experienced this restaurant at its best, but we left feeling a little bit disappointed.
Although some elements of the meal were very good and had great potential, we felt some corners had been cut and to omit or change ingredients was just sloppy.
With a little finesse, attention to detail - and some potatoes please - the food could have been excellent.