This post is not going to be as fun to write as usual. In fact, when I started thinking about doing this blog I was asked by a few people if I would be writing about the, shall we say, less than enjoyable experiences I have. Initially I thought I’d write about the good stuff- where you SHOULD go, rather than where you shouldn’t. But that doesn’t really work…
We walked past Miss Jones – the new “destination restaurant “ in Whitchurch on our way to Deli-a-gogo to pick up sandwiches for the walk I promised to go on with Kate. It looks inviting from the outside and as we were having a staycation I popped in to book a table for the evening. The décor is elegant, a bit Farrow and Ball, the blogosphere had suggested that the food and cocktails were excellent – what’s not to like? On booking we were asked if we wanted to eat downstairs in the bar or upstairs, which was more “fine dining”. We chose upstairs and left for our yomp around the country.
We arrived a little early so we could have a drink before dinner. The cocktail menu is innovative, new ideas and old favourites- good start. They also have a wide range of gin and vodka behind the bar, which is always a good sign in my book. Since our honeymoon in Koh Samui, Kate doesn’t seem to be able to see past the Singapore Sling on a cocktail menu. Considering she doesn’t really like overly sweet things this baffles me a little but she LOVES herself that pink drink. After having a relatively lengthy chat about the gins available I asked for a Chase Elegant martini with a twist. My drink was delegated and I watched as a Gordon’s martini was constructed. a bit peeved I didn’t stop him and decided to let it slide. The martini was fine, nothing to write home about but fine. Kate loved her sling because “it’s not too sweet”….!
(Cocktails for him and her seemed a bit weird – I must be a him….)
At 7.30 we were escorted upstairs to the dining room. It was empty but it was the Tuesday after a bank holiday, I wasn’t expecting it to be rammed. We were given a menu and unfortunately then left to our own devices for an extraordinarily long time. I wandered around the empty room for a while until I found a wine menu, then after about 10 minutes I went back downstairs to find someone that might like to take and order. I was met with – oh, did you want to order food? – Grrr.
The menu was safe but the ingredients were locally produced and right for August- apple, scallop, venison, a soft but seasonal start.
We ended up going for the seared pigeon and scallop to start and then rib eye and confit pork. The pigeon is described as “Seared pigeon on a bed of puy lentils in a light game broth”. Unfortunately it looked less appealing than it could have and was served in a bowl without a spoon. Because of how it is served the pigeon swam in the hot broth, continued cooking and was tough as the leather of Kate’s walking boots from earlier in the day. She couldn’t tell you how the broth tasted because it’s hard to eat soup without a spoon and I couldn’t be bothered to get up and go downstairs again to ask for one. It had the potential to be delicious and may well have been perfectly cooked at the pass, but missed the mark.
The Scallops were pan fried and served with apple puree, black pudding and Parma ham crisps. It looked nice on the plate, I couldn’t really taste them because the apple puree was very sweet and the scallops were relatively small. The balance was missing and the mouthful just didn’t work. It should have because those ingredients are a pretty well known combination. – I think Phil Vickery made exactly the same dish on Celeb Masterchef.
Disappointed in the starters, the main courses were soon delivered. My confit of pork belly came with bubble and squeak, curly kale and Monmouthshire apple cider jus. The confit was soft and yielding, it was very good, the jus was also excellent, though the apple chunks tasted a bit like that golden delicious you find wrinkled in the bottom of your bag. Sadly the bubble and squeak was basically mash, it didn’t have a crust on it. I was looking forward to the soft inside and crispy outside. It tasted good, buttery, soft, but it was more like champ and I wanted bubble and squeak. All in all the pork was a good dish, I actually ordered it because of the bubble and squeak and so felt a bit cheated.
Kate was less pleased with her steak, considering they are selling their upstairs dining room as refined it was very much ‘bar and grill”. It was rib eye so she asked for it to be cooked medium rare as opposed to her usual rare, because the fat in the middle of the steak needs a bit longer to melt. The texture was closer to well done rather than the soft tenderness you’d expect and it had more of a burnt than “char-grilled ” flavour which pervaded the meat. The chips were good; crispy with a soft interior but someone had a heavy hand with the salt so they were hard on the palate.
I think this place is probably great for it’s “downstairs menu”. It’s a busy, eye-pleasing experience, there was acoustic music and a beer tasting. The beer menu was interesting, those different Estrellas are popping up everywhere.
They have missed the mark on the fine dining part of the venture – in my opinion the food needs to be refined further. I’m sure most of these details may well iron themselves out as time goes on. I completely understand that it was a Tuesday after the bank holiday, maybe like one shouldn’t order fish on a Monday we should avoid these Tuesdays too?
Whitchurch has got some great new ventures popping up and good luck to them because in this climate you need to be great to survive. I am in complete support of the independents, they are what real food should be all about, a bit of tweaking and I think Miss Jones could be a great place to go. I would definitely go back for drinks but I think I’ll leave dinner for a little while.
We haven’t quite yet got a thing going on, but a few dates may change that.
ps the sandwiches were excellent- give them a try.
Miss Jones Bar & Grill
25-27 Merthyr Road,
029 2062 4000