Fair Oak Road
The American "all-you-can-eat" concept has finally taken hold in Blighty in a big way with the Toby Carvery, a popular pub-restaurant chain that offers a traditional roast-meats-and-veggies buffet at very affordable prices.
Usually I shy away from buffets because there are precious few vegetarian items to be had and I feel as though I don't get my money's worth, but at the Carvery - even though the very name illicits thoughts of sliced meats - they have a special vegetarian section that is very well received.
One of the things I really love about England is the enlightened view the British take on vegetarianism. EVERY restaurant offers loads of vegetarian options, and on each restaurant menu there is a prominent "V" symbol by each, allieviating the worry and question asking that usually accompanies my dining out experiences in the States.
So cheers to the Carvery for offering a vegetarian carvery experience - even though I didn't give it a shot this time around. You see, on the day we visited the Carvery they were offering two lunch specials: either the all-you-can-eat carvery or a Ploughman's with a pint of Stella Artois, each for £5 ($10).
I do love a ploughmans, and when you throw in a pint it's a no-brainer. The ploughman's won.
Readers of this blog will probably see quite a few photos of the ploughman's lunch in the coming weeks because it's one of my favorite meals; so simple and healthy in concept yet so difficult to find back home. I tend to eat a lot of them while I have the chance.
Traditionally a meal prepared for farmers (plow men) by their wives, the ploughman's lunch needed to be able to survive the heat of the day and still satisfy a hearty appetite. It usually consists of crusty bread and butter, a wedge of fresh cheese, a light salad and/or tomatoes, pickled onions or other pickled vegetable, and a piece of fresh fruit - usually an apple - all washed down with a mug of ale. Ahhhhhhh.....
The ploughman's at the Carvery was decent but not a patch on ploughman's past. The bread, while warm and crusty, was a regular, no-nonsense supermarket baguette and although the cheddar cheese was locally-made and gorgeous, there wasn't nearly enough of it. I was surprised to find an orange on the plate instead of an apple, but no biggie - except that the orange was so cold that I couldn't hold it long enough to peel it. I took it away to eat later.
And don't get me started on the pickled onions! I love pickled onions, but only when they are either small enough to eat whole, or I'm given a knife in which to slice them up into managable pieces. At the Carvery, I really struggled to slice the lime-sized onions with the butter knife I was given, and our server disappeared before I could ask for a proper knife. I hacked and sawed, but in the end the onions won.
Still, a ploughman's AND a pint - all for £5 - is a really tasty bargain.