“ Address: 7/8 Ruskin Parade / Selsdon Road / South Croydon / Surrey / CR2 6PW „
When my friend Juliet invited me to her birthday lunch I automatically said yes, even though I didn't know the restaurant, and it was completely on the wrong side on London to where I live. Juliet already knew where she wanted to go, having been here several years ago for her birthday. She is a popular girl, so needed somewhere that could cater for large parties thus picked this restaurant in South Croydon which is local to her. So one hot, sunny Saturday, last year fifty of us rocked up here for lunch. The invite said 12.30 for 1pm, but my sat-nav sent me in the wrong direction once I was within the vicinity. I wasn't the only one, so be warned if coming here with a sat-nav and print off directions from the Croham Arms pub/Croham Road area. Fortunately my friend Amy was kind enough to run around the streets of South Croydon to rescue me. It is also worth noting that parking (which is available on the street outside the restaurant and nearby) is £4.50 for a maximum of two hours. A lengthy lunch is always going to take longer than that, so under Amy's local knowledge we parked about 5-7 minutes walk away on a residential street at the other end of Selsdon Road where I could park for £2 for three hours. The reason that parking is difficult is that the station is nearby - the restaurant is just a five minute walk from South Croydon over-ground station, and a longer walk or a bus ride from East Croydon station. The restaurant is located on Ruskin Parade on Selsdon Road, but the end where there are lots of shops and restaurants. The restaurant in double-fronted and there were tables outside if you fancied it. It is L shaped with the base of the 'L' going across the front of the restaurant, which has tiled floor and a sort of medieval inspired theme going on with wooden doors on the walls, iron 'gates' and bright red or yellow napkins accompanying the plain ivory tablecloths that cover the red checked under-cloths. It was very bright and gave the restaurant a light, airy feel (although lack of natural light at the back, may mean you don't get this feeling there. Walls are bright or mirrored, so it all looks very modern and cheerful. They have a number of blackboards dotted about the walls with specials on, or special mid-week lunch offers. If I was to criticise the interior is that the seats could be a bit more comfy. I definitely had a numb bum by the end of the meal. Everything is at ground level, including the lavatories, so this is an option for less-abled diners. Loos were clean and in good decorative order. We had a massive table down one side, split into three to allow access to the people against the wall and to help divide the bill up. Juliet has said they were experienced with groups, and they certainly seemed to cope with fifty disorganised people (that may just have been my end of the table). The waiting staff were always helpful and friendly and not above a little flirt with the ladies. All in all, we were here just over two and a half hours, which is not bad going considering the size of the group, as the first half hour was just arriving and scanning the menu, and much of the latter half hour was sorting out the bill and saying our goodbyes. Considering there was various levels of faffing and we didn't order until 1.30pm, starters were swift to come out. To start with I plumped for grilled goat's cheese which was served on ciabatta type bread with a small garnish and drizzles of balsamic (£3.65). I really enjoyed it, it was a good size for a starter, just enough to take the edge of my raving hunger, but not enough to fill me up that I didn't feel able to cope with my main course. The whitebait was a popular starter (I think it was a special) and was a generous portion. For my main there were two veggie options on the a la carte (none on the specials board) and I fancied the spinach and ricotta crepe. I queried its vegetarian status with the waiter as it stated it had a parmesan glaze ('real' parmesan is an EU Protected Designation of Origin product and has to be made using calf rennet, so it's definitely not suitable for vegetarians). The waiter promised to check. He didn't come back to me and someone else brought the food out. I queried it again and was assured that my dish did not have the Parmesan glaze - I can only trust them on this. I would like to see a better selection of vegetarian mains hare, as their menu was quiet extensive otherwise. The crepe cost £6.95 which was very reasonable and was two rolled parcels of spinach and ricotta in a tomato based sauce and was very enjoyable. I didn't quite manage to finish it though. The sea bass and salmon were popular choices (£9.95 and £7.95 respectively) and were beautifully served. Someone else had the char-grilled rib-eye steak (£8.95) and they thought it well cooked as was the chicken with bacon and mozzarella (£6.95). I can't comment on the meals of everyone there, but the general consensus of those seated near me was that the food was well cooked and good value for money. I didn't have a dessert, finding my first two courses satisfactory. All desserts were £3.25 and the selection included tiramisu, vanilla cheesecake and apple and blackberry crumble (the latter scoring very highly with those that sampled it down my end of the table). Overall my two course meal and two soft drinks came to about £17 with service. Staff members were on hand with card machines for those who wished to pay that way and dished out menus so people could work out their share of the bill without checking the receipt. I thought the standard of food and the value were excellent, I would just prefer to see more vegetarian options on the menu.