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{19/04/2012}   Disparities between £35 lunches

Owing to my recent car quest, “Car Chris” and I have spent a lot of time in industrial parks. After one distressing McDonald’s lunch, we went out of our way to go to a Pizza Express, the only other outlet we could find. Our two pizzas, two soft drinks and one dessert cost £35. Today, as a thank you, we detoured to The Granville, Lower Hardres, near Canterbury and had two starters, two mains, two (free – explanation to follow) desserts, a pint of beer, a soft drink and two espressos for £35. Their being the same price prompted a discussion on value for money, etc.

If anyone ever fancies a realistically priced, way above average meal in a rural pub, complete with central fireplace, The Granville would be hard to beat. It is a sister pub/restaurant to my beloved Sportsman in Seasalter, near Whitstable (one Michelin star). It was almost embarrassing handing over the same amount of money for that meal as the Pizza Express chain meal.

Pizza Express serve good pizzas, you know you will get a decent meal, it just seems overpriced. We both ordered from a lunch set menu today. There were maybe four or five choices for starters and mains and three ish for dessert. I had fat, juicy, fresh mussels in herby wine. Exceptionally good and the kind of fresh that makes you wonder how fresh mussels you have eaten previously have been. Chris had a Chinese style crispy pork salad. Also delicious. He had pollock with a generous selection of vegetables, a mussel tartare and roast potatoes. He had finished it before I had even got around to asking to try some! I ordered coq au vin, a favourite dish of mine and one I rarely see on menus. It wasn’t the stewy dish I usually have, rather slow cooked chicken, mushrooms in a meaty winey sauce, a fat bacony rasher on top, wonderfully creamy yet still potatoey mash and long stem broccoli. Wonderful and a perfect sized portion.

Two courses: £12.95. Three courses should have been £15.95 but as we arrived in the midst of a lunch time rush, thus ending up waiting too long, the chef sent us a message, apologising for and explaining the delay and offering us free desserts as compensation. Yes, we did wait quite a long time but we both appreciated first an update then the chef’s message and free puds! They were great. We both had delightfully tangy blackcurrant with silky, dense white chocolate cheesecake on a non-soggy biscuit base. Mmmm, all exceptionally good.

This was not intended as a review, though it has ended up a bit like one; my point really was something I’ve said before in this blog, namely how hard it is to know whT your money will get you in terms of meals out. Somewhere like Pizza Express isn’t a bargain option, but at least you know you will get a decent meal. At a pub, you never know, likewise non-chain restaurants. But sometimes you find somewhere that serves good quality, fresh food in a lovely environment for the same price as soggy fish and chops in an over-priced pub or restaurant. Today’s £35 was handed over easily and I have now found somewhere to eat that’s a c20-25 minute drive away from home. I would rather pay the petrol and not drink alcohol to go there than walk to a, say, Pizza Express. Go there (book if it’s not a week day) and enjoy British produce at its best.

http://www.shepherdneame.co.uk/pub/lower-hadres/granville.aspx

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