We were fortunate enough to win a meal for two at this hotel's country kitchen restaurant and tonight we took advantage. We had booked rather late in the evening but the restaurant was still busy which is always a good sign. I began with the soup of the day a very nice carrot and coriander whilst my partner chose to help himself from the hors d'oeuvres. Main course was a carvery and two specials of the day - one of which was sea bream. I love fish and would have considered this. However I have to be honest you really cannot have fish on a carvery menu unless you are willing to cook it fresh on the spot to order. Sadly I had to forgo the sea bream - pre-cooked on a carvery station is a no-no for me. The carvery meats on offer were Suffolk ham, Packington pork and if I recall correctly Hereford beef (forgive me if this is incorrect). I had the beef and a tiny bit of the ham. I was most impressed that we were not offered the first slice of beef when we mentioned we like our beef "pink." Sure enough the subsequent slices were slightly pink - just how we like it and a pleasant surprise as other carvery's seem to insist on medium or well done beef. There was also a good selection of vegetables although again some of them had suffered from being out (but covered) for a while and we were one of the last bookings of the evening. Again this is an issue at other carvery's we have visited but I would rather they were covered instead of open to the elements. The parsnips and red cabbage were lovely and not overdone but I gave the cauliflower cheese a miss. I also enjoyed the horseradish which tasted as it should (firey) rather than a bland soggy mess. My partner had a slice of pork and beef and loved both equally. After our main course we were rather full but couldn't resist trying the bread and butter pudding served with custard and a jug of more on the side. Deliciously light. I ordered a coffee and I am sad to say it wasn't very nice and just from the smell I could tell it was powdered (sorry I am a coffee snob I love freshly brewed coffee). I mentioned this and the maitre d'hotel quickly rectified my disappointment by bringing me a coffee cafetiere from the bar. This brings me to the main point of my review. You can argue a carvery from anywhere is fairly similar depending of course on the quality of the main ingredients. The differentials are the ambience and the staff. The ambience was lovely (the only thing that could have made it better would be a roaring open fire) and the staff were a credit to both the hotel and their parents. They were very young but very customer focused and friendly - nothing was too much bother. Excellent. From the 18 year old chef who had managed both the country kitchen and bar orders on his own (the other chef was ill) to our waiter and the young manageress (maitre d'hotel) who solved my coffee-ache. All had excellent manners, polite, friendly and thanks to the chef I now know a new way to cook ham (steam it in the oven wrapped in foil, in a bain marie). They offered solutions to problems and were happy for me to give them both positive and negative feedback (such as the fish and the coffee) as they see it as a way to learn and to improve. Yes I could go to a local carvery pub chain offering mass catering and wait for ages to be seated, served, have more vegetables that I know what to do with and be squashed into seats. Or I can pay more and not be rushed to finish and vacate the table. The whole evening was lovely and even though we were the last to leave we were not at any time asked to hurry up or presented the bill for our drinks until we asked for it. Three course carvery dinner is £17.50 or I understand £15.50 for Sunday lunch.
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