Welcome to my review of a few restaurants in Watford. Some of my write ups are a little scathing and some positive where deserved. After yet another disappointing meal at a Watford restaurant I felt it was time to summarise a few of my best and worst experiences.
Lets start with Toby Carvery in Hartspring Lane which inspired this piece.
Visited for Sunday lunch.
From the outside it looked fairly welcoming with it’s old fashioned pub like appearance and lattice decor. Inside was a different manner. A young lady who appeared to be the floor manager said “Follow me.” She took us to a small table wedged next to a wall, dumped the menu on the table without a word and sauntered off. We had certainly drawn the short straw with the table. There was no view except the back of the waiting staff bottom’s which I’m sad to say were not great to look at. We had a wall to our left and a table just a few inches behind us, so it was a tight squeeze and very dark and dingy. We didn’t really expect a spectacular experience at a Toby Carvery but this spot was noisy and distracting as well as uncomfortable.
We sat for a while pondering what we were supposed to do. We decided that we obviously had to use our initiative and stood to go to the buffet. Our waitress finally spotted us and came over to take our drink order. At least she had a lovely smile and made us feel a little better. We set off to the carvery to choose some food. I quite enjoy cooking so I expect the standard in a restaurant/pub to be at least as good as something I can knock up in the kitchen! However it was more like a school dinner canteen with the sorriest selection of overcooked, gooey vegetables I have witnessed in a long time. The carrots were mush as was the cauliflower and a dish of what I think was once mangetout before it was boiled beyond belief. The potatoes were also soggy and stodgy and not at all crisp. We returned to our table to see I had been left an empty glass. I stood for a moment looking confused until my partner pointed out that I needed to find out where to fill it. It took me a few minutes to grab the attention of the staff. When I asked the male waiter he was quite helpful and showed me how to work the machine. I returned to my meal which was growing cold and less appetising by the minute.
Normally I am a slow eater but it took me about 5 minutes to eat enough slop to fill me as it didn’t require any chewing. We were quite relieved to pay and go and actually enjoyed the hour work home more than the food.
Rating: 2/10 (The 2 points are for the smiling waitress and the helpful waiter who showed me to the drinks machine. Everything else was not worthy of being awarded a point.
Barracudas, High Street:
Visited multiple times, breakfast, lunch and evening meals.
This one I’ve visited a lot, but more out of necessity than any desire or enjoyment. The thing that bugs me about this restaurant is that it has so much potential but just doesn’t get it right. The venue itself is cosy and very ambient in the evening with it’s low lighting. They also have an outside seating area which is lovely on a warm day. The food is generally acceptable, some days good, some days not so great depending on who is on. Some of the waiting staff are very switched on and friendly but sometimes there are a couple of waitresses on who couldn’t take an order to save their lives! In the past I asked for 2 poached eggs on brown toast – in reality I got a greasy fried egg sandwich on white bread. Last week I ordered a salad with prawns – I was given some iceberg lettuce with prawns on. A salad by definition is a mix of vegetables so a plate of lettuce does not constitute a salad!
The worst experience I have had at this place is when I ordered a toasted bacon sandwich for take out. I opened it on my journey to discover an un-toasted ketchup sandwich – devoid of any actual bacon. They say pigs might fly, well this one did – right out of my sandwich and into a black hole it would seem! This nutritionally lacking stodge cost me £3.50 – and for the record I am always very polite when I order so this was purely another screw up. Perhaps I am a little too British and should complain more, but I always think waiting staff might spit in your food! It’s a shame as this could be the best restaurant in Watford. They do a fabulous lobster dish which is out of this world but that doesn’t make up for soggy bread sandwiches and wrong orders unfortunately.
Rating: 5/10 – it’s 50/50 depending who is on whether you get what you actually wanted. I’m sort of scared to order these days in case something truly horrific looms up at me from plate!
Visited For Sunday Lunch
I love this place. The food isn’t phenomenal but it’s satisfactory and always enjoyable. The venue is a wonderfully ambient little place which is cosy and welcoming with gorgeous melting candles lighting up the room with a soft romantic glow, large mirrors to give the illusion of extra space and light and well spaced seating. There’s an outdoor area for sunny days and smokers too which is nice to sit in when there is space. This place is very popular, so understandably you have to be a little less fussy at peak times. The waiting staff are extremely welcoming and friendly and nothing is too much for them. Service is always with a smile and food is always delivered promptly and hot. I used to visit this place a couple of Sundays per month for their roast dinner but I have been told that they are no longer doing a Sunday lunch. They are however still serving bar food which is tasty and filling for those who don’t have a gluttonous appetite. This is a great place for bar food, snacks with friends or a drink and probably one of the nicest places in Watford for an evening out. If you are local or visiting Watford, this place is a must visit!
Rating: 8/10 I really can’t fault them. They score excellent on all areas!
Chimichangas King Street.
Visited For An Evening Meal
There’s obviously been a great deal of thought put into the layout and decor as it’s a very attractive restaurant space. They have combined a rustic look with bamboo cane and wood with modern looking scattered mirror mosaic and a soft golden glow from low hanging lanterns. The inside has a very clean and warm look about it which is very inviting. When I visited at a peak time on a Friday evening it was full to the brim though and extremely loud. It was a warm night so we preferred to sit outside in the balmy evening air. Unfortunately the waiter forgot about us and we waited fifteen minutes without even a drink, so we had to go in and order. The waiter did apologise for the wait and brought us our drinks, although ordering our food took longer still.
The Menu looked like there was quite a few options. I couldn’t quite make my mind up and the mains looked quite heavy, so I decided on two starters as I hadn’t eaten much and decided that this would be the right amount of food. I ordered a calamari starter and a prawn starter. Then I asked to order a main to be wrapped for my partner which I would take home. This seemed to confuse them quite a lot! At first they said I would have to re-order half way through my meal or when I got the bill. They then decided that it was ok to order it now as long as I told them when I finished eating for their timings. This seemed fair enough so I agreed.
Then the food arrived. My friends dish looked very bread heavy – obviously the bread was to fill her as there didn’t seem much of anything else. She told me that her pina colada was bland. Shame – it took long enough for her to get it!
Then my food arrived, A sorry little pile of calamari on a tea plate which was bland and probably not enough to sustain a kitten – and I have a small appetite! My second starter of prawns was slightly tastier, but reminded me of when you over cook those cheap scanty bags of economy prawns in your student days. I left hungry and disappointed. This was a first for me as I have never before left a restaurant hungry! When I left, they brought out my partners main wrapped up. I pleased to see it was still very hot and raced home. Unfortunately when he unwrapped his chicken fajitas we discovered that the portion size was meagre, the chicken was dry and it looked like it had just been thrown in the box with no presentation. The cats weren’t even interested and normally they eat anything! It certainly wasn’t worth the £15 I had paid for it. In total I paid nearly £30 not including drinks (plus whatever it cost my friend on top) for us all to be hungry afterwards and to have assaulted our tastebuds with unappetising, bland morsels of food that our pets even turned their noses up at! It’s a nice venue so I think it could be a good option for light nibbles and drinks but I doubt I would return for a meal.
Rating: 5/10 The points awarded are for how pretty the interior is. Zero for the food and service.
Tips and pointers.
These tips may help you if you are dieting or a fussy eater.
1: Always ask for the dressing on the side. If you don’t like the flavour or it’s too high in calories you need not ruin your whole meal if the dressing is on the side rather than over the whole dish.
2. Find out of the restaurant has a tendency to leave dishes on the hot metal plates. If so ask for your steak cooked slightly less than normal. For example if you like your steak medium, ask for it medium rare and it should come out just right.
3. Don’t assume a salad is a salad, ask what’s in it and ask if they are happy to tailor it to your request. Most places are, although occasionally you will get the bog standard response “That is how it comes” from not very well trained staff.
4. I have ordered Frutti Di Mare Linguine in various restaurants. This is a dish that only turns out well in high end restaurants. Generally most places will serve you a mountain of linguine pasta with a spattering of seafood. It’s a very heavy dish and you are generally better off ordering a seafood dish or fish unless you love endless piles of pasta!
5. Are you a fan of fish but a bit squeamish? Ask if it comes with the head and tail. If so ask them to remove it for you. Personally this doesn’t bother me but have seen many friends baulk when faced with a beady eyed dead fish gazing back at them!
6. Discreetly have a peek at other peoples plates so you can get an idea of what to expect. Don’t stare or salivate – you will just creep them out!
7. Always be observant and see how clean the venue is. If the seating area is not well maintained or dirty and this is basically their shop window – think about what the state of the kitchen must be like! If the service areas are dirty then the food preparation areas are likely to be a cesspit of despair where bacteria thrives. They don’t call it Deli belly for no reason!
8. Finally, always be polite to your waiter, especially when returning food – just in case! 😉
Let me know if you enjoy these reviews and please leave your comments. I will blog more about Watford restaurants soon.