Eating out

After considering our options for the second week of my husband’s fortnight long break from work, we decided to stay at home but go out and about from there. The weather had turned wet and my teenage boys, being overly attached to their electronic entertainments, reluctant to commit to any ideas we suggested for days away. Add to this mix my own minor health issues and we have ended up spending the week fairly quietly. We have, however, managed to eat out locally on a couple of evenings.

I have developed a dislike of cooking so a meal out is a real treat, although eating out with teenagers can also be a challenge. By checking menus beforehand we can select a venue that offers the type of food that they are likely to be willing to try, but there are no guarantees that they will show any sort of enjoyment of the experience. I find this apparent sense of entitlement frustrating. I mean, what do I expect, gratitude?

Having determined that we would regard this week at home as a holiday, and treat ourselves accordingly, we were keen to try out some new venues. All too often we return to favourite places as we wish to celebrate an occasion and do not wish to risk disappointment over a meal that is intended to be a treat. We gain a great deal of enjoyment from eating good food but the cost of going out has made this an indulgence, albeit one that we have been allowing ourselves to do more in recent months than for many years.

Our first foray was earlier in the week when I hobbled down the tree lined drive to the Bowood Hotel to eat at their Brasserie in the company of my little family. I thought that the casual menu would suit my boys and the food did not disappoint. Service was excellent and the atmosphere relaxed and convivial; it should have been a very pleasant evening.

However, for whatever reason, my boys decided to squabble. Nothing loud or embarrassing, just jibes and unkind comments thrown at each other over the course of the evening that tarnished my enjoyment. My husband and I agreed that, if they considered this behaviour acceptable during a supposed treat, then we would leave them at home next time.

And that is what we did. Last night we decided to try out The Bridge Brasserie, a venue that had been recommended to us but which we had yet to explore for ourselves. Leaving the boys to find their own entertainments, we caught a bus into town and spent a very enjoyable few hours indulging in what turned out to be delicious and well prepared food. Service was excellent and the various dishes presented in a timely and attractive manner. I do not like being rushed when eating, but here the waiters were attentive enough to note when we were ready to move on without hovering. The ambiance of the place was friendly yet discreet; it was a very enjoyable experience.

We like the current fad adopted by good restaurants  of small portions, artfully presented, combining interesting flavours that complement each item of food on the plate. I have read reviews of other places that suggest some patrons feel short changed when charged a large tariff for a small amount of food; we prefer flavour to quantity.

The Bridge Brasserie certainly ticked all boxes for taste and presentation, but nobody could complain about portion size. This generosity did not detract from the deliciousness, merely surprised us. I could not finish my main course and skipped pudding to avoid spoiling the pleasure by overeating.

My husband would have liked to have seen a little more variety in some of the wine recommendations but, mindful of the pricing structure and clientele at which the establishment is aimed, enjoyed the drinks offered with each course. I was happy with my well chilled and tonic heavy G&T (just as I like it) followed by a fruity white wine that held up to the deliciousness of the perfectly cooked lamb.

Just as, after recent experiences, we wonder how we can provide a family holiday away from home that will suit my teenage boys, so my husband and I are now wondering at the wisdom of including them in meals out. It is important that, as parents, we expose them to different situations to enable them to pick up on social cues and learn acceptable behaviour. It is also important that we, as adults, are allowed to enjoy the experiences ourselves.

I need to mull over the best way to proceed as regards balancing family time with the enjoyment of expensive experiences, and to discuss with my boys why they sometimes behave as they do. Perhaps all we need are ground rules for participation. In the meantime, The Bridge will be added to our list of places worth considering for celebratory nights out. We will undoubtedly return.

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