With MJ off to Florence for the weekend, my long Sunday walk was a solo performance, this week. I was on one of my wandering routes, rather than a set path, so exactly where I was going to stop for lunch wasn’t immediately apparent to me, so I took a recommendation and headed for A Room in the Town.
The recommendation was not without its caveats. It read: “the one on William Street served me Bonham quality lamb and the worst scallops I have ever tasted.” So it was with equal parts optimism and fear that I headed to Dundas Street.
I was on the early side for Sunday lunch, so had the run of the place, which meant I got a good look at things. The mural they have along the length of the main dining area is very jolly. The staff were similarly smiley and welcoming, and soon brought a menu and some water.
The menu offers a good range of lunchtime options, has good flexibility about pricing, so you’re not locked in to two or three courses to get value, if you’re just looking for one quick dish, and is well written and designed. We haven’t talked too much about design on quests, so far, but I do believe there’s quite a knack (I think “art” is probably over-egging it) to writing a good menu. The chaps here have the knack in abundance.
From the tempting array, I decided to go for the smoked haddock and petit pois risotto, topped with a free range poached egg, to follow my broccoli soup.
As the restaurant began to fill up, my soup arrived. It looked neat and tidy. The broccoli soup had some mustard and blue cheese croutons floating in it. It shouldn’t have, as they brought down what was a pretty fair broccoli soup. The croutons were either too soggy or way too crunchy, with no happy medium in between. Only a couple tasted even faintly of blue cheese and none tasted of mustard. So this was a little disappointing.
The risotto had a few problems, too. The sweetness of the lovely little peas was overwhelmed, firstly by the nice chunks of smoky fish, which did give the dish a nice overall flavour, but then by far too much pepper. In addition, the egg, which had been accurately poached so that the yolk gave the dish some much-needed additional wetness, contained a big pocket of the poaching vinegar-water, which I blithely bit in to, with mouth souring results. This struck me as a bit of a schoolboy error.
The dish came with a nice arrangement of vegetables. These were fresh and crunchy, and the red cabbage was particularly good. They didn’t go with the risotto, sitting much better with the other main courses from the menu, but I was extremely hungry so welcomed their presence.
I’m trying to develop a taste for real ale or at least “better beer” (it was my one New Year resolution for 2012) so supped on a bottle of Schiehallion, throughout. I’m still not sold, but will continue to persevere. I live in hope of finding one of these ale-type things that I actually enjoy drinking.
Overall, A Room in the Town is a smart place, with good, attentive service, but the quality of their dishes doesn’t match this. Take the pointless croutons out of the soup, and the glob of vinegar off the egg, and you probably had two good but unremarkable dishes. I’ve always enjoyed my trips to their William Street place, but can’t say the Dundas Street branch made such a positive impression. Maybe I’ll pop by to try their dinner menu, at some point, as I like the set-up and suspect the kitchen is capable of producing better dishes than I was served, today.
Blythe scores the A Room in the Town:
2/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 13/20
Today’s quester was: Blythe
I ate: broccoli soup with mustard and blue cheese croutons, smoked haddock and petit pois risotto with poached egg
I drank: water, Schiehallion
I wore: Hamnett jumper
Total bill: c.£17