A bientot! – a recent round up and a French dining preview

It may have been all quiet on the Love to Dine blogging front of late, but it certainly hasn’t been quiet on the dining front, with repeat visits to Woods, La Marina, Laguna, 1812 and The Print Room in recent weeks. I never like to blog about the same place twice unless something has changed fairly dramatically, but at least one of the above now has a new chef on board and a new menu imminent, so watch this space in the coming weeks!

Although I haven’t blogged about it, we dined recently at the Chewton Glen, listed, at least in years gone by, as one of the top ten country house hotels in the world, and also a favourite at one time of Michael Winner (make of that what you will!) although he is no longer a fan. Mr W and I went along to one of their regular lunches with a guest speaker – on this occasion, ex-MP, former occupant of Countdown’s dictionary corner, wearer of garish jumpers and raconteur extraordinaire, Gyles Brandreth. The setting was fantastic (it happened to fall on the unseasonably warm weekend that we had in early October), the company on our shared table was good, the conversation and banter from Gyles was excellent, but the food was, sadly, very, very average, if not verging on unpleasant in the case of the main course (confit neck of lamb served with a cassoulet that looked more like tinned baked beans and in my case had only one paltry morsel of the promised chorizo). The service was also very disappointing – although the waiting staff individually were doing their best, a lack of organisation let them down, and the dining experience reeked of mass catering at its worst. Nevertheless, I’m keen to go back to the Chewton Glen and experience a meal when they’re not trying to please the masses. Perhaps that makes me a glutton for punishment (or just a glutton) but rest assured the experience will be duly blogged, and if they get it wrong again there will be no third chances!

There will now follow yet another hiatus in my blogging as Mr W and I are off for a short break in the South of France, which is also experiencing unseasonably warm weather at the moment, so I’m looking forward to some al fresco dining. We’ve got a lunch at Michelin starred Le Mas Candille to look forward to, which was out of this world the last time we visited and I am hoping won’t let us down on our return. We’ll also be dining at least once at ‘Chez Robert’, a much more modest venue in the village where we’ll be staying. Mr W describes it as a French version of a transport cafe, in as much as it’s where a lot of local workers go to have their lunch at a set price each day. It’s certainly a bit rough around the edges, and it’s a set menu every day, which sometimes includes some slightly hit and miss options, but on the whole it’s always a fantastic experience – you’re guaranteed to get to try something that’s new or different from what you might have chosen off a menu, the service is warm and friendly, there’s a great atmosphere, the portions are generous, the wine is plentiful (and tastes better the more you drink!) and the food is generally pretty good.

One of the things I love about France and the French is the pride that they take in their food. Chez Robert is a prime example of this. Even the cheapest roadside cafes offer lovingly prepared, good quality food, and I am not sure that I have ever experienced a really bad meal in France, regardless of price (well, okay, there was that McDonald’s situation on a school trip when I was 16, but we won’t talk about that). It’s really refreshing to experience this kind of food, given the depressing mass produced pub food or chain restaurant fare that is often the only option for diners on a budget in the UK. Similarly, restaurant service in France is something in which the people take a tremendous pride: waiting is a career, and not something people do as a stop gap or in lieu of anything ‘better’.

I’m looking forward to a foodie few days away, and will be back to blog on my return about some of the experiences we have during our trip.

A bientot!

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