Monday, June 14, 2010

Non, non, Monsieur Michelin! or, 'It's NOT written in the stars'

After my exquisite experience at the Michelin-one-starred restaurant, Bohemia, in St Helier (see under Jersey), I thought – as I travel on – that I would attempt more of the same. So, this week, being in the Isle of Wight, I hied me off to the Michelin-one-starred Hambrough Hotel, Ventnor, for dinner.
Something is wrong. If Bohemia is worth one star, the Hambrough is a ‘minus two or three’. If the Hambrough is correctly valued at one star, then Bohemia is worth three or four. There is no comparison between the two in any way. And since my Hambrough meal for two (one bottle of wine), at 189 pounds, cost me more than my four-hour Bohemian festival, with flowing champagne … well, as I say, something is very definitely wrong.
Specifics? My starter was John Dory with a crab ravioli. It looked nice, but the fish was overcooked. The ravioli was fat and fine ... the best thing I would eat all night. My main course was pork with boudin and apple. The pork was fatty yet dry, not tender, the boudin no better than what I’d eaten for my B&B breakfast and the apple a horrid wrinkly thing (with skin) which brought back bad memories of childhood. I left most of it, took disappointed refuge in the cheeseboard, and my night was saved from utter disaster by a double portion of époisse. It is still (at the princely price of 7 euros a piece) the best cheese in the world.
The white burgundy was on a par with Bohemia’s but, at 40 pounds the bottle, so it should have been. The two inches of pleasant port, at 26 pounds, I resent.
The young lads serving tried hard, but 2 ½ hours to eat a few hundred grams of food is far too long. They were out of their depth, and way too slow. And the room? Half old, tarted up, strangely bare, uninviting …
My companion for the evening, who knows her way around this town as few others do, has promised me that Ventnor can do better. I know the island can: last year I had several splendid meals at Fox’s in Bembridge. It may look like a caff, but the food is first-class, and you can dine royally for 30 quid..
So, Monsieur Michelin …? You led me into a few traps in the old days (a horrid meal at the Cagnard in Cagnes-sur-mer in the ‘80s is still vivid), but Bohemia memorably restored my faith in you. It is now severely shaken.

Parting shot: can someone please confiscate the Hambrough cook’s salt cellar, permanently …

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