I’m at a bit of loss on how to proceed this week. You see for the last two reviews I’ve been riffing off the theme of the ghastly places I’ve visited, which has done a good turn for my meagre writing abilities. My righteous indignation at Milton Keynes in particular got the creative juices bubbling nicely, and I found that each word proffered itself to me with an ease that would make many a superior writer cry out in envy. No doubt my reading public is settling down at this very moment to this blog, thinking to themselves ‘Ah we’re in for a treat here, let’s see how St Nick skewers the latest locale’. Alas I am unable to oblige.
You see this week I was in York. York is one of England’s great cities, and I say that as a patriot, fully aware of all of England’s resplendent glories (and also its perishing defects). The Minster is architecturally stunning, the shops are full of quality, the station is impressive, and as I hope to convey to you in part, many of the eateries are bloody good too. One particular restaurant was suggested by my good pal, and proprietor of this blog, Cedric. Its name was Rustique.
I have become a zealot for Rustique. Facing out towards Castlegate, its street front is unassuming but what lies within is anything but. The food was superb, the atmosphere just right, and the alcohol flowing as it should. I went there with my dear parents, but the place is just within the budget for the student diner (depending on the student) and one may dine there even if the Paterfamilias is not forking out the necessary funds. To start I had the moule marinieres a la creme which I thoroughly enjoyed. For my main course I opted for the Steak Frites. Jolly excellent I must say. The frites were a particular highlight. They were thin, crispy and went delightfully well with the steak.
The judicious thinness of the chips reminds of something. It is never my desire to disrespect the auspicious proprietor of this blog, but try as I might I cannot stop myself at times from taking a few jabs at the sterling chap, worthy as he is, and I feel just such a moment has arisen. You see, although there is no doubt that Cedric is one of nature’s great suggestors, he is on occasion known to hold some rather unsound opinions. Whether it is through some taint of his upbringing, or perhaps the jejune concoction of Macedonian and Albanian that runs through his veins, I am not sure, but whatever the reason maybe, he doesn’t half have some strange ideas. One silly notion he is got in his head is that baths are immoral. The other is that chips should be chunky.
Now, I’m sure, dear reader you like me, are still reeling from the shock of this revelation, but if I might suggest one way you might re-cleanse your soul, is by visiting the grand city of York and tasting the frites at Rustique. Rest assured they are thin, as nature and nature’s god has commanded. Everything else about the place is superb, this is the very best restaurant I have had the pleasure to review so far on this blog, and another brilliant suggestion by Cedric.
Do not go to Milton Keynes. As far as you can steer clear. Avoid it with all the tenacity and ingenuity you have at your disposable. But if you find it impossible to avoid a visit to this dreadful drive-through city, you can do no better than to lunch at the charming Bogota Coffee Company.
The other week I found myself stuck in this monstrous made-up metropole and I will not shy away from confiding in you that it had a significant and deleterious effect on my soul. I am still undecided which Keynes I despise more, John Maynard or Milton. But my distaste for deficit spending and central banks aside, I can assure you that entering the realm of M.K. was like staring upon the vast, bleak, godless face of the modern world without respite.
As such, I was in need of a good buckaroo. Cedric, the chap to turn in these situations, was happy to suggest an excellent establishment for such purposes: the Bogota Coffee Company. Bogota, as you well know dear reader, is the capital of Colombia, but much to my surprise there was a distinct lack of cocaine. In actual fact what I found was a charming café, with friendly staff and free wifi.
I ordered a pot of tea and a pastrami, mustard and cheese sandwich. I feel that Cedric probably expects me at this point to discuss the food in greater detail. Unfortunately, I believe I am constitutionally incapable of describing food. Of course, you would think this was a prerequisite for a food reviewer, and no doubt you would be right. But having tasted the food, digested it, and followed the usual concluding procedures, I find myself unable to apply adequate adjectives to the experience. All I can say is that it was very nice. The milk came in a small glass replicating old-fashioned milk bottles, which was a pleasant surprise.
I suppose every putrefying place must have its saving grace. No doubt within the bustling and heaving streets of decadent Babylon there was a Bogota café. A piece of calm in a world fleeing internal repose.
Fate is an interesting thing. At times we cannot avoid its indomitable sway. Resistance in these circumstances is totally futile. One must simply accept the overwhelming forces of destiny. AMOR FATI.
And so the fates had contrived to place me in, of all locations, Hull and in search of food. Cedric’s colossal conk, always primed and ready to sniff out the very best eateries, was true to form, and had already hunted down a suitable solution to suggest.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, I do not wish to suggest an air of superiority, but when I discovered the name of the place in question was “Dope Burger”, I must say I did have my doubts. But Cedric insisted that this was a place he held in highest esteem. And when a man with a proboscis quite as impressively large as Cedric’s insists, one is wise to follow.
When I finally showed up at the old locale I must say my doubts only deepened. The place was windowless. I think that windows are a useful addition to buildings. They provide air and light. When they are absent, these qualities are also absent. I would conjecture, and I dare say the more archaeologically astute of Cedric’s readers will confirm, that windows are probably as old as buildings themselves. They go together like ham and eggs; love and poetry. So this was not a good start.
Furthermore, the walls were graffitied with grotesque creatures. Why? Does this enhance the food? Is it designed to create an appealing atmosphere? Is it meant to be amusing perhaps? I cannot say that I was amused. But then I must remember that all these things are a matter of taste. It could be that many of Cedric’s readers are sorts of people who enjoy eating in a windowless shack on the edge of Hull, surrounded by sinister looking spectres. Or if all else fails there is the option of takeaway.
Anyway, onto the food. This was excellent. I ordered a cheeseburger with fries. The fries were well salted and coated in a light dusting of paprika. Very good, this was definitely compensating for the hideous hideout on the edge of outer darkness that I found myself in. The Cheeseburger was very good as well. The meat was succulent and the cheese was oosingly satisfying.
In the end it was a tale of two experiences. In terms of the environs I was horrified, in terms of the food delighted. Perhaps, dear reader, you will tell a different tale, should you visit.
Dear loyal reader,
Interested observers often ask me what it is like being friends with Cedric Conboy. To this I can only reply, with the utmost respect, that it is a wild ride. Not only do I now find myself charged with the task of writing a guest restaurant review, but I am also scheduled to participate in a podcast on Graham Greene’s novel ‘the Power and the Glory”. Two things I would never have expected to be doing before I met the proprietor of this charming weblog.
Now Cedric, as the title of the blog implies, is full of suggestions, many of them outstanding. So, when I found myself in Solihull in need of a bite to eat, I wasn’t surprised to find Cedric popping up on the old Whatsapp, simply brimming with marvellous ideas. The place I eventually decided upon, having received a good dose of wisdom from the oracle, was the Beech House on the Warwick Road. A fine establishment if ever I saw one.
But first dear reader, if you would permit a sentimental aside, Solihull is a very dear place to me. You see, this was the part of the world, where my grandparents decided to settle down and raise their three children. My grandpa has recently passed away, but although his body has left this place, his memory remains. Solihull will forever stand for me as a reminder of the decent, kind and gentle man who for many years called this his home.
Now onto the drink and grub. I think it is fair to say, knowing him as well as we do, that although many accolades and praises can be levied at the door of Cedric Conboy, it would be a step too far to describe him as a real ale man. No, I imagine, if he were to find himself sat down in the pleasant and polished environ of the Beech House, he would order something decidedly fruitier. This being my time to shine, I decided to order a pint of Mad Goose. A champion beer.
For the main course, I ordered the salmon, which came with new potatoes, broccoli and a delicious lemon sauce. Excellent stuff, and if I had the descriptive abilities of Cedric, I might be able to do it some justice, but alas I am lost for words. Suffice to say, it was all cooked to my liking. For a desert I opted for the cheese course. This came with three cheeses: a cheddar, a stilton and a goat’s cheese, as well as red onion marmalade, biscuits, two slices of bread, grapes and celery. I have but two complaints. Firstly, the slices of bread were too large and secondly there was no butter. We seem to have become as a nation embarrassed by butter at least as far as restaurants are concerned. Perhaps we consider ourselves too good for it. This I think it is fair to say is an iniquitous practice matched only by the antics of Sodom and Gomorra.
Finally, I have been commissioned to give some introduction to the atmosphere at this charming spot. It was not what I would call heaving. No in fact, to be precise, in the place at that time there were seven other people. Still, this is most likely due to the time I chose to attend: a weekday luncheon. The staff were courteous and attentive. I enjoyed the setting, and the kitchen was open-planned so I could observe the cooks’ work. Furthermore, I enjoyed having a peek at the wood-fired oven (installed for the pizza). The napkins were a particular highlight. All in all, a splendid place to spend one’s hard-earned dough.