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Author Topic: The Lodge - Toronto - Bishop Auckland  (Read 2267 times)

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Offline Stromboli

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The Lodge - Toronto - Bishop Auckland
« on: Sep 23, 2010, 20:05 »
This place has been in and out of ownership over the past few years, with extended periods of closure. My previous visits faired from middling to poor but I am pleased to say that it now seems to have some uniformity about it. New owners with their chef Gareth being said owner.

This bodes well as almost without fail, when I have been to an establishment where the owner is the chef the quality tends to be higher. You see owners who don't cook in their own place may begin with a very good chef, someone with talent and flair but often that chef will move on, called by higher wages and a new challenge. So; the owner brings in a new chef but he or she does not live up to the standards of chef numero uno. Reputation drops and there-on-after things become difficult. So it was nice when the Manager introduced me to Gareth and told me a little about him.

This was lunch time so I cannot divulge on their alcoholic drinks menu but I did notice that the lunch menu, although not small was concise. There were choices of lighter bights, no doubt to induce the working lunch folk and then a menu of larger meals and that is exactly what I and my better half went for.

As our soft drinks arrived so too did the obligatory basket of bread and butter.

Of the choices masterfully put in-front of us by the Manager we both decided upon the Pork Terrine. this arrived in timely fashion beautifully presented on a long slender white porcelain plate. To the left were leaves of beet, rocket and others with a light dressing then moving right we had a decent sized slice of the pork terrine itself and then a slice of toast propped carefully against a small jar of chunky apple sauce from which was protruding a teaspoon. This looked good.

Trying the dish in it's various connotations I can say it was good although for my personal taste a little more oomph was required in the terrine, perhaps more seasoning? That said we did have salt and pepper on the table if we desired it but having tried it with the apple, I was in no hurry to adjust it. The only other point I would make is that with the amount of terrine on the plate another slice of delicate Danish toast wouldn't have gone amiss.

This course was cleared away and soon afterwards our main lunch meals arrived. Between the two of us we had chosen North East Cod with Pancetta and Kale and Calf's Liver with an Onion Marmalade and Peppery Mash.

Again neither of us were disappointed and both were displayed beautifully. The cod was perfectly cooked and for lunch was probably the choice to make, not too heavy, not to little. The iron/bitter tasting kale was crunchy and the pancetta set it away nicely, whilst the liver I had was cooked to perfection. I hate overcooked liver but when it is done properly I prefer it to Venison. This was set on a roundel of the onion marmalade and creamy mash, which rather than being peppery seemed to have mustard grains running through it. It was served with a teeny jug of Jus (reduced meat gravy in this case) and both were accompanied by a bowl of fresh steamed veg.

I must admit that looking at the dishes, despite previous experiences I thought there would not be enough. I was wrong as by this point I was thinking of coffee not desert but the Manager once again came over to see that we were happy bunnies and persuaded us to share a desert.

This was bakewell tart, probably the best presented desert I have ever seen. To the left of the rectangular plate was a small shot glass containing Creme Anglais (a custard to you and I), then moving right again was a square of bakewell tart and then a scoop of good, possibly homemade, ice cream. Overlying it were a sprig of young cranberries and a long tapering sugar strand at the base of which was lying a hazelnut.

In my opinion the combination was perfect.

we had our coffees, paid our bill of less than £30 and left after being introduced to the Gareth through his hells kitchen style hatch.

I cannot wait to try the evening menu.


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Offline Stromboli

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The Lodge, Toronto, Bishop Auckland
« Reply #1 on: Jul 22, 2011, 23:28 »
I would like to start this review by apologising to the following:

The Quarry Burn, Hunwick, The Joiners Arms, Hunwick, The Red Lion, North Bitchburn and many, many others. I would like to apologise to their owners, managers and especially front of house staff.

It is so very easy to forget how important the people we see and speak to at any establishment are. I remember on numerous occasions asking a waitress or waiter to compliment the chef on his cooking, I remember thinking to myself how good a place was based solely on the food received. I remember how wrong I was.
The difference between a good place and a bad place can so easily overlooked as tonight suggested.

We visited the Lodge in Toronto, Bishop Auckland having previously having had superb food and good service and tonight we expected no difference even though we knew there was new management as I really, really wanted to will those who take on a challenge like running a business to do well.

Upon booking the gentleman shook my hand and I have to say I was impressed with that. It said to me that this man wants this to work, he cares, is passionate and wants the customer experience to be good. Upon arrival for our meal it was not quite the same.
We arrived at The Lodge about 3 minutes late and as I approached the bar area I apologised for our late arrival which suitably was responded to by a 'no problem' and a smile. Good!

Then nothing happened until I asked for some drinks and this is where the customer service savvy should kick in. Normally you find a member of staff letting you know how the ordering system works, asking if you'd like a drink and perhaps recommending a main course. I am right in thinking that?

So time passed and we sat in the well decorated and comfortable seating area at the front of the house, whilst perusing the menu; and having decided what we all wanted for that evening we sat. We sat for a while longer and personally I was wondering if we were to be seated and then asked for our orders or to go to the bar and order there. A few more moments passed and my wonderful wife took the initiative and asked me to go to the bar and find out the answer. Indeed it did seem to be the case that you order your food with the young lady at the bar. It does seem odd to me that no-one mentioned this to me or any of our party upon arrival.

We  ordered just two starters, pate and garlic bread. Nice and simple, easy to do, just what we wanted. Then for our main courses we decided upon a steak (medium rare), and two of their sizzler's (minds going back to the early 90's).

Then we sat again, comfortable, enjoying each others company but after 45 minutes the finger tapping became prevalent. Shall we walk out? What's happening? Give them a chance? ( all of this with only 6 people in the restaurant). Discussion continued as a couple entered the bar who were told they may have to wait 15 minutes for food ( I remember thinking that it might be more like an hour) but at no point did anyone to come to us and explain that there may be a delay for whatever reason. Had they I probably would not be writing this now.

Eventually, after an hour of waiting we were sat at our table and our starters we presented to us and you know what? They were absolutely fine. The pate was of decent quality and the onion marmalade was nice. The garlic bread was also very good and a cut above so many you find.

We then sat for a while longer whilst the lady behind the bar walked through the restaurant, got in  her car and drove off. 35 minutes later the chef appeared. He took our starter plates and apologised for the delays explaining that he had been let down by some staff. This is good, this stops us thinking about shoddiness and explains that there is a problem but everything will be fine in the end. Why did this not happen right at the beginning?

Our main courses arrived and the steak (Medium Rare) was superbly cooked, my sizzler (beef in black bean sauce) was exactly how I remembered it in the nineties and again was pleased. The beef sizzler in Thai sweet chilli though was a little bland and needed more of the sticky, sweet chilli sauce. Overall though the food was not bad, it just didn't set us alight, probably due to the lack of information from staff and waits that had tainted our judgement.

The lady behind the bar then appeared (having nipped to get some supplies I guess)  and said that they were very sorry for the delay and that any deserts would be free of charge. Nice thought but just too late, we had to move and pick up our son. We asked if we could have the two glasses of whit wine removed from the bill instead of having free deserts and accommodatingly the answer was yes.

So once again to all those restaurants we have frequented in the past I and we whole heartedly and unreservedly apologise. You may not have delivered the best food and your toilets may have been in need of service but your service was exemplary. You met us with a smile, quickly explained and apologised if there was a problem and above all you let us know what to do and what was happening.

To the Lodge all I can say is that front of house is uber important and today taught me this. Nothing particularly wrong with your food, the premises, or indeed the chefs comments. It should have just happened sooner.

Please, please, please take this as constructive criticism and I will return. The next time I am sure that it will be better. I will you to do well.

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Offline tilerman

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Re: The Lodge, Toronto, Bishop Auckland
« Reply #2 on: Jul 23, 2011, 00:05 »
I am a big believer in feedback, especially pubs/restaurants. Everybody should be asked to fill out a customer survey on every visit! how else can they improve themselves.

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Offline Stromboli

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Re: The Lodge, Toronto, Bishop Auckland
« Reply #3 on: Jul 23, 2011, 00:32 »
Exactly what it is meant to be. Feedback. You are right!

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