It’s a Michelin-starred restaurant with a brilliant reputation but was Colin Drury impressed by The Old Vicarage in Ridgeway...?
As a restaurant reviewer, I like reasons. I like to go places that have something which makes them worth writing about: new owners, an overhauled menu, any kind of hook that deserves your attention.
But The Old Vicarage in Ridgeway? I’m here for purely selfish motives. Which is to say, I’m here because this is my last restaurant review for The Star and I figured if I’m ever going to go to one of the region’s two Michelin-starred places, best do it on expenses. You wouldn’t begrudge me that, would you?
In fact, on first impressions, it’s relatively good value. The four course dinners are £75 a head but if you can do lunch then its three courses for £40.
Still steep perhaps but then sometimes it’s nice to live like the other half, right? Hm...maybe not.
The Old Vicarage is a disappointment.
First of all, let’s talk about that price. Drinks aren’t included in your £40, of course. Nevertheless, we’re still surprised, when the bill came, to find a small glass of prosecco and bottle of mineral water have added an extra £16. Two thimbles of wine are another £15.
Perhaps that’s partially why, on the day we go, we’re the only customers.
It’s eerie somehow. Sat, me and her, in a silent dinning room, all starched tablecloths and polished glass, one half expects a schoolmaster to appear with a cane if we speak in anything above a whisper. Two flies buzzing lazily don’t help.
And the pace? Gosh, nonexistent. We book in for 1.30pm, arrive at 1.15pm, and are only polishing off dessert as 4pm comes round. Now, one appreciates this isn’t MacyD’s but one also hopes that if you go somewhere for lunch, you’re not still there as tea time comes over the horizon. At times, between courses, it feels like a war of attrition. “You win, Old Vicarage, YOU WIN! Just bring us our pudding, and give us our freedom back.”
Service is as starchy as the tablecloths. It doesn’t help when our bill initially comes out wrong - although only by £2.
So, is there anything to recommend? Actually, yes. The food is a genuine delight.
The menu may be written with the kind of deliberately complex language clearly designed to intimidate rather than impress (kumquats and glazed salsift, anyone?) but, put simply, it’s boss scran. There’s more detail on our website about the ham hock, scallops, lamb and duck (the latter, wonderful) but safe to say chef and owner Tessa Bramley knows how to knock out a dinner.
It’s funny, though. I’ve always wondered why Michelin stars are such a big deal. I mean, you wouldn’t call Europart for a hotel recommendation, would you?
I’ve always wondered - and today I’m none the wiser.