So, the evening following the Macaroni Cheese, it was just me and the kids. Ads was doing a pop up restaurant at a very nice mansion and so once again I was faced with cooking something. Hmm.
“Let’s go out and eat,” I suggested to the children. “I know – we’ll go to the Bonchurch Inn.”
The Bonchurch Inn is a beautiful place. To get there you drive up a steep shute and pull into a courtyard draped in grapevines and surrounded by ancient stone buildings. It would have quite a sleepy, French feel to it if it weren’t for the lovely Italian proprietor who gives it a distinctly Italian feel. Notorious for delicious homemade lasagna, I was very much looking forward to chilling with my babies and having some lovely food. However when we arrived at 5.00pm the sign on the gate said shut. Until 6.30. And we were hungry. Eeks.
“I know,” I said to the kids. “We’ll go to The Pond Cafe.”
The Pond Cafe is back down the shute. It is opposite Bonchurch Pond. Over the years it has gone from being a tea room, to a super posh restaurant, to a super posh restaurant with a reputation for being a bit shite, back to a restaurant with 2 Rosettes again.
“What does 2 Rosettes mean?” Roo asked me as we pulled up.
“It means, young Roo, that the food is going to blow us away!” I grinned, getting out of the car.
I was barefooted (still haven’t managed to replace my sandles that were washed away) in shorts and a jumper. Roo was also barefooted, in shorts and a t.shirt (he digs a bit of barefootedness in the summer). Pix was fairly decently dressed and just plain gorgeous, so that made up for any footwear our party may have lacked.
“You may have a table outside,” declared the French/Italian/Bonchurchian waitress, avoiding eye contact with our feet.
In the past I’d have been mildly uncomfortable at turning up at a posh restaurant looking like a gypsy with offspring. In the past I would have worn my best frock, sat very upright in my chair and used my knife and fork so stiffly that my wrists would start getting cramp. Thankfully those days are long gone and since visiting the Fat Duck and developing Naturally Sensational, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’ve got a credit card, you can be as pikey as you like.
It was a gorgeous balmy evening. We sat down nicely and were presented with the menu, which, looked utterly gorgeous albeit expensive and thanks to my ability to read a smattering of Italian as well as words I’ve picked up from Ads and the deli – Actually Made Sense.
I think the pleasantness of it all was making me feel a bit heady and decadent, because all of a sudden I was throwing caution to the wind and not only ordering us main meals, but also ordering a sharing board to start, copious amounts of peach juice and wine and dessert.
After a short wait the waitress sailed out with our sharing board.
I stared at it.
She stared at Roo (who had resourcefully brought a chunk of A4 paper so that we could play that brilliant game Consequences).
I’m not sure that the waitress thought that Consequences was appropriate for The Pond. Sadly, I wasn’t sure that this Sharing Board was appropriate either.
The best bit about the starter were that the olives were warm. I like warm olives. They do something for me. I think the flavour of olives can sometimes get a bit much but they are moreish and the warmth sort of softens the flavour. Warm olives were a nice surprise.
I won’t go into the rest of it, except to say that Pond – if you read this – cheap artichokes have no flavour and you if you served wet cardboard, coiled into rosette shapes it would tantalize my taste buds more.
To be fair, I didnt take a lot of notice at the disappointing Sharing Board as I was having loads of fun playing Consequences with the kids. Have you ever played that game?! It’s so funny – so unexpected – and so horrendous when you see the results. Sometimes whole chunks of a person’s body can end up in the wrong place.
Having said that, no final Consequences picture has ever made my mouth drop open like it did when the waitress presented me with my v expensive main course of Wood Pigeon and Polenta.
Shall we vote on it? Here’s a photo of our Consequences picture;
And here is a picture of my meal.
Which is more shocking?
The bread was burnt and the pancetta nearly broke my tooth. The pigeon was so over cooked that it would have been easier to saw up the sole of my granddad’s shoe. The red sauce bit around the outside had hardly been reduced and was smattered around the plate like a thin wishy-washy water.
The icing on my Wood Pigeon surprise were the two little wings. These are supposed to be a quirky addition – a little mouth-sized chunk of tender meat. I’m not quite sure what the chef was thinking when they put these burnt little bony things on my plate, but it was quite a scary moment when I tried to eat one, found my gob full of pigeon bones and then had to debate whether spitting or swallowing was the best option.
In the end I swilled it down with a mouthful of wine and prayed for the best.
Dessert arrived finding me slightly shocked. Pix had a very nice panacotta. Roo had chocolate ice-cream which was grainy from where the chocolate had split (but it WAS home made). I had two scoops of chocolate ice-cream (grainy) and one scoop of … The Most Delicious Ice Cream You Have Ever Had The Pleasure Of Melting On Your Tongue.
Oh My God.
Wanted More … but only had one scoop.
But at least our meal ended on a note of beauty and gorgeousness.
Then our bill came out.
Thankfully, I’d had such a hilarious giggle with Pix and Roo and playing Consequences that I didn’t care about swallowing pigeon wing bones, teeth breaking pancetta and cardboard artichokes. I’d been so blown away by the terrible-ness of everything that bill was like water off a camel’s back.
So here is my conclusion of the The Pond. Ahem. If you go there, avoid everything that doesn’t start with the letter P (Polenta, Panacotta and Pistachio) … with the exception of the Pickled Artichoke and Pigeon (wood). Or just have some ice-cream and then head up to the Bonchurch Inn and order some of that lasagna.
If you DO risk The Pond, make sure you don’t expect too much – other than a large bill.
Finally, I know that some of the things that I’ve said there are harsh. But it’s also true. And sometimes the truth hurts. The truth is that I make shite Macaroni Cheese, but hey, I’m not working in a 2 Rosette, Michalin recommended restaurant.