- Food & Drink
There are a set number of activities you can do in Britain on a Bank Holiday. You can do DIY, making several increasingly enraged trips to B&Q to buy slightly differing lengths of pipe, planks and rawlplugs. You can go to the pub and spend all day getting drunk, although if you do this you run the risk of making your Bank Holiday weekend just like any other weekend. You can go to a Heritage Centre and watch a battle re-enactment. And you can go to a Garden and walk around it with a carrier bag and a pair of secateurs, stealing cuttings for your patch of earth.
This Easter Sunday, Ma & Pa Gin and Crumpets and I drove to Exbury Gardens in the New Forest to admire spring in bloom (and we didn’t steal any plants, let me make that clear). Unfortunately for us, spring was not quite in bloom. The cold winter has driven spring back and most of the plants were sporting tender green buds and a nervous look. Still, there were daffodils, bluebells and snowdrops and benches for sitting on, so we counted it a good day.
After an hour or two of squelching along muddy paths, we needed lunch. In the picnic area hardy Britishers were unwrapping their sandwiches with blue fingers. We laughed at them and their chattering teeth. We were going to eat indoors, with our coats off, at Mr Eddy’s restaurant.
We had made a mistake.
Mr Eddy’s is an airy building with a tacked on barn-style extension lounging outside the main gate. As you walk in the first thing you see are baskets of crisps and chocolate, followed by a display of enormous cakes, all of them sliced into slabs as big as a greedy, giddily excited child’s face.
Then you reach the jacket potato and soup station, manned by two students bouncing with Bambi-ish nerves. They kept their eyes firmly fixed on the floor as they tried to deal with an order for 4 jacket potatoes, an order that had drawn the colour from their faces and set panic in their eyes. Customers ordering food in such enormous quantities had obviously not been expected.
We waited for just under 10 minutes and, following a further order for 2 more jacket potatoes, we hit the assistant with the most fiendish question in our Difficult Customer Armoury: “What is the soup of the day?”
The girl grabbed the menu, read Soup of the Day: Ask Your Server For Today’s Choice, then said: “I will find out for you.” She disappeared into the kitchen, where people did appear to be actually cooking, and returned with the triumphant answer: “Vegetable.”
Unidentified vegetable. My favourite.
Stirring the slurry, I lifted the first spoonful to my lips and could identify carrot and celery. Potato must’ve been used to achieve the gloopy texture, but for something so ostentatiously thick it was incredibly watery. A compost heap purée, it required sachet after sachet of salt and pepper to make it taste of salt and pepper, an improvement on peelings and hot water.
The bread rolls were mostly crust and not much crumb, all air and shattering sides when you broke into them. I asked after dad’s coffee. “I’ve had worse.” I know he has – I’ve made him coffee. And if my coffee is the comparison, then this is a bad beverage indeed.
This dismal slop cost £15.15 for 3 soups and bread, a bottle of water and something masquerading as coffee. There were also pre-packed sandwiches and a hot food station offering drying chicken breasts, pasta and something vegetarian but I recommend keeping your coat and hat on and joining the crowds in the picnic area. No matter how much it rains, you will still enjoy your lunch more.