The capacious Bugle Coaching Inn in Yarmouth’s pretty town square was the venue for a Sunday lunchtime liaison. The welcoming pub has cosy nooks, a proper bar serving good beer, a light and airy conservatory indoors and a pleasant courtyard garden outside. Matt and Cat sat with a friend in the non-smoking area and, once their introductory pleasantries were over, set to the serious business of choosing food.
Having consumed copious amounts the previous evening, Cat, in particular, was after something moderate and wholesome. Scanning the menu and passing over the baked potatoes, burgers and other pub fare, Cat finally found what she was looking for – a side salad; hopefully full of vitamins and nice and cheap at £2.95. Matt was not feeling quite so restrained despite the excesses of food and drink less than 24 hours earlier. He was taken with the baked potato with chicken, coriander and lime mayonnaise. M and C’s companion had his head turned by the specials board but eventually went with that pub standard: burger and chips.
Whilst waiting to be served at the bar, Cat observed a patron lean conspiratorially to the barman and say, “you’ve got that food critic Matt in here today”. Fame and glory at last (although there was no mention of “that Cat”).
Remarkably, after such excitement, Cat remembered to ask for her salad without raw onion and cucumber. A medium sized bowl of fresh and crispy iceberg lettuce arrived, adorned with quartered tomatoes and a topping of home-made coleslaw. It might have been a little more interesting if there had been at least another type of leaf such as rocket, spinach or even round lettuce. However, if Cat would insist on going ‘off-menu’ by rejecting nearly 50% of the salad’s ingredients, she couldn’t really complain that the remaining three ingredients rendered the salad unimaginative.
So, to Matt and his potato. It looked pretty good; the average-sized spud was accompanied by the same fresh and crispy salad that Cat had chosen but with raw onion and cucumber as bonus ingredients (Cat’s thrill at her reviewing partner being recognised meant that she forgot to specify onion-free salad for him). The potato was topped with a big dollop of chicken and mayonnaise. Disappointingly, there seemed to be no sign or taste of the promised coriander and lime. Matt even offered it around to see if his companions could detect a hint of these elusive flavours. Alas not. However, right at the end of his meal, he bit into a lime pip – proof, indeed, that the chicken and mayonnaise must have once been in the presence of what was presumably the world’s most discreet-tasting citrus fruit.
The final dish on the table was the modest-sized burger and chips. Not wanting to appear rude, Matt and Cat did not help themselves to a taste as they normally would with each other’s meals, but waited to be told how it was. The chips were declared nice and fluffy, the burger pretty standard and the meal was considered not really worth the £7.95 paid.
So, despite the establishment being given the ‘heads-up’ that food critics were in the building, perhaps the message didn’t make its way to the kitchens as Matt and Cat got no preferential treatment with their meals (and, indeed, did not expect any). Still, the service was prompt and the surroundings very restful. However, the experience led to a lively – and so far unresolved – debate about whether a pretty average meal in a very nice location is better or worse than a very nice meal in a pretty average location.
The Bugle Coaching Inn, Yarmouth