Saturday, March 14, 2009

Vacation: The Hut

The Hut
Bournemouth Road
Chandler's Ford
Hampshire, UK
Telephone: 02380 266626

It has been several years since we last stepped foot in The Hut, a Beefeater-brand pub of the Whitbread chain which comprises over 140 restaurants in the U.K., and I was surprised by the stylish, modern make-over that has taken place. Before, it felt a bit dowdy inside.

The Hut still looks like a traditional pub on the outside...

Now it was bang up to date with intimate, cozy booths, low lighting and contemporary fixtures and artwork. I'll admit to being slightly concerned by the etched images of leaping flames on the front door, which reminded me of something you'd see at an American steakhouse, but the theme is understandable since the chain prides itself on unique chargrilled meats.

...but inside it's stylishly up to date

The restaurant was advertising something called "Flaming Good Meal Deals" where diners before 6:30 p.m. can order a main course from a set list for £5.95, two courses for £7.95 or a three course meal for £9.95, and there are several vegetarian items to choose from for each course.

From the starters menu nachos and honeydew melon were the only two listed as vegetarian, although the server informed us that the garlic and herb breaded mushrooms were also vegetarian, even though the menu didn't indicate it as such. The restaurant also offers at least one vegetarian soup of the day, and on the day of our visit it was an enticing tomato-basil with peppercorn.

Although we were seated quickly and our order taken in a timely manner, the starters we ordered (soup for Steve and me, garlic mushrooms for my father-in-law) were slow to arrive. As the restaurant was virtually empty, we couldn't understand the hold-up. When it finally arrived the soup had a nice tangy flavor, although we could have done without the wedge of butter that came with the side of crusty bread. It was frozen and of absolutely no use.

Tomato soup with crusty baguette

On the mains list there are three vegetarian selections: Mediterranean spiral pasta, Mediterranean tomato risotto, and a quesadilla wrap. Knowing how difficult risotto can be and not really wanting the hassle of sending it back if it was wrong, I opted for the spiral pasta, which I figured would be difficult to mess up.

The pasta was ok but certainly wasn't worth the amount of time it took for it to arrive. The menu advertised it as a "rich tomato sauce with courgettes, peppers and soya beans, topped with cheese shavings." I wouldn't describe the sauce as "rich" at all - watery yes, but rich? Not so much. I was also at a loss to find the courgettes and soya beans, but after a thorough search finally located two tiny bits of diced courgette and a couple of soya beans hidden at the bottom of the dish. The pepper seemed more of a decoration than part of the meal; it was charred and inedible.

The spiral pasta was a letdown

We noticed that very few were taking advantage of the "Flaming Meal Deal" the day we were there - in fact there were very few in the restaurant, period. I cannot imagine how the restaurant would cope with a busy lunch service; Steve requested vinegar for his fish and chips and was over halfway finished with his meal by the time the server got around to bringing it to him.

I'd hazard a guess that word has gotten out about the exceptionally slow service. Our two course affair took over two hours and while we considered a dessert course (I really fancied profiteroles) at the end of the day we didn't want to waste another hour waiting for it.

1 comment:

Mark D said...

The Hut has always been like that! I guess the recession means they only staff it as sparsely as possible and then the food is slow so they get less trade and they need even less staff and we go around again. My Mum likes it though!