Saturday, 18th August 2018 – The Butcher’s Arms, Greens Norton
Greens Norton is probably the nearest village to where we live, and the local pub seems to have gone through some interesting times of late, changing hands more than once, before finally being bought by a consortium of villagers, who are now running it as a pub and dining room, with the assistance of a fledgling commercial operator in the pub sector, the Proper Pub Company, who seem to have started as an outside catering events business.
Anyway, several months after they re-opened the Butcher’s Arms, we figured we should give it a go. A number of people we know locally had been and liked it, but we needed to check it out for ourselves. We arrived slightly ahead of schedule and decided to have a drink in the bar first, opting for a glass of plum cider, which was delightfully fruity, slightly sweet, and altogether a pleasant way to start the evening. The bar is described as being dog-friendly, and I can attest to that, after having a Bernese Mountain dog lean on me and then step on my foot!
We moved through to the dining area promptly and ordered our food, while starting in on a bottle of prosecco. And that was the point at which the wheels started to come off slightly. We ordered starters from the bar and garden menu, and those were fairly timely in their appearance. We shared a portion of crab arancini with tomato and coriander salsa, which were excellent, crispy and well packed with crab, with none of the filler you sometimes get in fish-cakes and similar, and the rice still pleasantly al dente, and some za’atar spiced cauliflower with dates and pine nuts, which was for me nowhere near as successful, with the za’atar proving somewhat dry, and the dates really not very nice. Not their fault, I don’t think, but it just didn’t work at all well for me.
We also ordered a plate of Serrano ham, Manchego cheese and sun blush tomatoes which seemed to be a tad short on the tomatoes. Instead there was a small pile of leaves, which were not very exciting. The ham, and the cheese, however, were good, and the cheese was not cold, which was all to the good.
We had pretty much polished off the prosecco by now though. Our red wine, a Pietas Veilles Vignes Carignan, was produced, and we started that as the starter plates were cleared away. The wine was good, a nice fruity offering, with some decent depth to it and we were looking forward to our mains which we knew would match it well. And would continue to do so for some considerable time. If you know me at all, you will know I hate to be rushed at dinner, but even for me, the wait was becoming ridiculous. We’d been over an hour since finishing our starters, and no one had been near us since that point. Eventually, I attracted the eye of one of the waitresses and asked whether they’d forgotten about us.
Cue the waitress looking slightly rabbit in the headlights and rushing off to find out what was happening. She returned to say it would be another five minutes, and that the kitchen had been caught out by a rush of people ordering food in the garden. This seemed a not unreasonable reason, but we would have much appreciated being told early on that there might be a bit of a wait, rather than having to grab someone to find out what was going on.
Finally my rack of lamb with vegetables (spinach, kale and peas) appeared, served with a pomegranate sauce, and some potatoes that were hiding underneath four separate chops. It was big, and by this time I was starting to feel tired so I struggled to finish it, leaving much the of the vegetables, and half a chop. The meat was fine, slightly overcooked for my tastes, but not everyone likes their meat rare (although I did ask for it to be served pink). It was all perfectly fine, but the wait had taken some of the edge off.
Lynne had the venison burger, which came with sweet roasted twice-cooked onions, blue cheese, toasted brioche, sweet potato fries, and blackberry slaw. The fries were very good, and I gather the bun was actually good, having some substance to it. The burger I was allowed a taste of and it too was good. It was just that they rather fell down on some of the basics of hospitality. It had taken over two hours to get two courses, and we were too late for dessert, which was OK in some respects as by then we didn’t really want to eat anything else.
The table next to us had been hit by much the same problems, and were given 10% off their bill. No such concession was offered to us so I just didn’t bother to point out that they had managed to miss the cider off the bill. I figured that was a fair exchange. I think this is going on our “tried it once, won’t be going back” list. It would have been so easy to keep us on side; they just didn’t appear to think of it.