The Britannia Inn has had ups and downs on the food front over the last two decades, as one would expect. After a disappointing meal several years ago we hadn’t been back. But things change, so I had a look at the sample menu on their website. It looked good so I suggested to my father, who is visiting at the moment, that we give it a whirl. I phoned and booked in for 6.30pm the Saturday night. A friendly voice on the other end of the phone confirmed the booking and we looked forward to it.
It was a nice, truly convivial evening. The Britannia is a building with history, about which I hope to be talking in a future post. Inside there was nothing visible of its past as a coaching inn, but the exterior retains much of its original personality. The staircase up to the restaurant is endearingly scuffed, while the restaurant itself is neat, polished to within an inch of its life and well-ordered, with pale paintwork in pastel shades, and a surprisingly modern central black brickwork feature, which must have been an open fire in its past, which had recesses holding candles. In the summer it is possible to sit outside on the balcony and enjoy the view, but at this time of year it is certainly an indoors job.
When we arrived there was only one other couple in the restaurant, apart from a small group in the annexed part of the restaurant. I was really surprised that we were directed to a table immediately next to the other occupied table, particularly given that there were three other tables for two unoccupied, and the last was only occupied an hour after we arrived. We were seated on the cushioned settle, at Table 2, which is a corner table, meaning that we were sitting adjacent to each other, rather than opposite one another. I was sitting with my back to the boring window that overlooks a plain wall, and had views over my father’s shoulder out to the sea. But my father, with his back to the view, was faced with the two nice but noisy people at the next door table consuming their meals. It would have been much nicer, given that the restaurant was empty, to be allocated a table where we could have chatted rather more peacefully.
The menu treads a pragmatic line between pub food and restaurant style dishes. For example, for the main courses there was battered haddock and chips, scampi and chips, a burger, two types of steak with tomatoes and mushrooms and similar familiar pub meals, but there was also dressed crab, fried goats cheese with salad, and plaice in lemon and caper sauce, amongst others.
We ordered a bottle of sparkling water, and were presented with a small jug, with ice. That was fine. Having decided what we were going to eat, we then ordered some wine. There were three classic French wines on the menu and we ordered the Sancerre. The waiter went away, only to return a couple of minutes later to say that it was out of stock and what would we like instead? The Pouilly Fuissé. A couple of moments later he returned to say that actually they only had the Chablis in stock. Hey ho, we ordered that instead, and when it arrived it was perfectly acceptable.
I always think that it’s rather antisocial to photograph meals in restaurants, so please take my word for it that when both starters and main courses turned up, they were attractively presented. My father selected the haddock goujons with tartar sauce to start, and it arrived with a mixed side salad – a very colourful and pleasing plate, and he said that the battered goujons were very good. My tiger prawns in garlic and chilli butter, accompanied by a warm bread roll were excellent, although the chilli was incredibly mild. I asked for a chunk of lemon to squeeze over it, and it was produced with great good will and a big smile.
We both had the plaice fillet in a lemon and caper sauce. It could be served with chips, vegetables or salad, but we both ordered chips. I am guessing that the plaice was poached, because the texture was quite soft and the flavour was very delicate. It was a generously large piece of fish, with the best skin (the black side) still attached. The lemon and caper sauce was generous and full of flavour. I prefer my chips crisper on the outside and fluffier on the inside, but that’s a matter of personal preference. We were offered a selection of condiments and again asked for more lemon slices, which were produced instantly.
The service throughout was helpful, prompt and friendly. Our early 6.30 booking was strategic for a late booking on a Saturday night, and as the restaurant began to fill up it was good to see that right at the end of the season they were doing good trade. There were all age groups present, everyone chatting in low voices, and the music on the speakers was audible without being intrusive.
I can’t remember the exact bill but it was something over £70.00 and with the 10% tip that I chose to add, rounded up for ease of computation, it came to £80.00, of which around £30.00 was the Chablis.
In all it was a nice, undemanding evening out and we enjoyed it.
The Britannia Inn – address, phone number and website address:
The Britannia Inn,