“ The Castle, The Wharf, Bude, Cornwall. EX23 8LG.Tel:01288 350543 „
I visited The Castle restaurant last month and I have to say it was one of the best meals I've had in years. It's situated in a beautiful historic building overlooking the bay. The restaurant is quite small but it's cosy rather than squashed together. I found that the service was impeccable, the food fantastic and beautifully presented. The menu was original and made use of lots of seasonal and local ingredients. The desserts are especially good, and for those who have difficulty in choosing just one I can recommend the assiette of desserts which included a creme brulee (probably the best one I've ever had!), a pistachio souffle and an amazing chocolate torte. They have a set menu option available Weds-Friday too which makes things very reasonable (3 courses for £19.50). They also have a great cocktail list with a 'cocktail of the month'. From speaking to some locals the restaurant gets very busy so you'd be wise to book in advance. If you visit Bude but don't visit the Castle restaurant you'll be missing out!
On our recent trip to Bude Mr Tart and myself were looking for somewhere posh to eat on the Saturday night. We had despaired because a wander around the town the night before had established that Bude was not awash with restaurants. We used the Internet to see if we could find anywhere and came up with the Castle Restaurant, which promised fine dining and stunning views - it looked perfect! LOCATION: The Castle is located inside Bude castle. This is not (much to my historical disappointment) a real castle but a Victorian building with some Victorian revival towers and crenellations thrown in! The castle overlooks the water and the location is good for those promised stunning views. The Castle is easy to spot in Bude and was within 10 minutes walk of our guesthouse. There is car parking nearby if you are coming from further away. THE EXPERIENCE: We booked our table fairly late in the day. When we phoned we were told that the only table they had available was near the kitchen. We didn't really have much choice as the only other restaurants would have meant driving and we both fancied a drink. Our table was next to the kitchen but all the tables are near to it as the restaurant is tiny. It is made up of just one room with about 12 tables and the kitchen is open plan and part of the restaurant itself so you can see all the food being prepared. Although this made it a) quite hot and b) quite noisy, I found it really fascinating to watch. As the restaurant is quite small I imaging it would be wise to book, especially in the season. The waitress came over with the menus. There was a wine/cocktail menu, a set menu and an al a carte menu. The set menu offered seven smaller taster courses for £37. I wasn't too keen on some of the dishes on there and we thought it was a bit pricey so we opted for al a carte. The waitress brought us a complimentary bottle of water (one of those refilled with tap water but which looks the part!) and we ordered a cocktail each, a mojito for Mr Tart and a margarita for me. These were £5.50 each, so not cheap but no more than I'd expect to pay for a cocktail elsewhere. They were good and very strong! We then ordered. We were given some bread after we'd ordered. The bread was really nice, flavoured with herbs, but it wasn't warmed and I think this is such a disappointment. It's such a little thing but something that I think makes a big difference, especially when a meal is supposed to be fine dining. To start I had Parma ham with broad beans. It came as a piece of toasted bread with broad beans and Parma ham on top. It was quite tasty but it could have done with more ham and more seasoning. Mr Tart had the scallop cappuccino. This was a really clever and inventive dish. There were layers of scallops combined with a slightly spicy butternut squash puree topped with foamed milk and served in a cup to look like a real cappuccino. Mr Tart declared it delicious and said the scallops were really well cooked. For the main course I had the rump steak. This came with chunky chips (actually more like potato wedges) and was covered in a jus and garlic butter. It was very good but for the price I would have expected some veg with it. There was not quite enough of the jus as well. Mr Tart had the pollock which came with noodles in an oriental style sauce. He said it was nice and light but again, expensive for what it is. For dessert we both went for the chocolate brownie. This came with a blackcurrant sorbet inside a ginger snap basket. It was really good. The brownie was very chocolaty and rich but the blackcurrant offset this perfectly and we both cleaned our plates. Now on to the service. This is where the Castle Restaurant really let itself down. Although the staff were very friendly, there were only two waitresses. These two also acted as hostesses and bar staff. TWO!!! It just wasn't enough. The restaurant wasn't huge, but it was full and it was Saturday night. It meant that sometimes food was left on the plate after the chef called for service and you could see the chefs getting annoyed. The two had a system - they would go to the tables one by one, but although this was a vaguely sensible system as everyone got their fair turn, it meant that if you wanted something when it wasn't your turn - you were stuffed. When the waitress brought our main courses Mr Tart asked if he could order another drink. Instead of just saying of course and asking what he wanted, we had to wait our turn (despite her being at our table). She didn't put it like that obviously, but said that she would be back in a minute. Mr Tart also wanted a spoon to eat his main course. The waitress took about 10 minutes to come back to us by which time there was no use for the spoon as most of it had been devoured! Mr Tart asked for a pint of cider (he asked for the pear cider which was advertised on their wall and even pointed to it) and when it came it was a small bottle of apple cider. Not the biggest problem, Mr Tart drank happily, but it just showed that it was too much for two to cope with. The main example came when we came to order dessert. We were waiting for a good 10 minutes just to order and because we thought it would take ages for the dessert to materialise Mr Tart ordered a glass of red wine to keep him going (not sure he'll appreciate me making him look like an alcoholic but never mind.....!). Turned out that the red wine made its appearance after the dessert came (which was again between 10 and 15 minutes)! Mr Tart looked at it and said to me that he really didn't want it any more. I said he should have told the waitress when she brought it, but he's not one for confrontation......so being the selfless girlfriend that I am (and never one to shy away from confrontation about bad service!) I stepped up to the bar and said (politely I might add) that we had ordered it, but expected it to come rather more quickly than it did. The waitress wasn't exactly apologetic but was very understanding and it didn't appear on our bill. It may have been that someone called in sick at the last minute leaving those two in the lurch, but if that was the case they should have explained it as such. As it is, I'm inclined to feel less than happy with the service because it was just so disorganised. We paid around £80 for our meal. The starters on the menu range from £5 to £7. The mains from around £14 to around £17 and the desserts were about £5. The prices weren't astronomical but I thought they were quite pricy for the food. The portions weren't massive and I've had better food in other places for less money. The selection of food wasn't huge, there are about five starters, five mains and four desserts. The food changes regularly to keep up with what seasonable products are available. CONCLUSION: I've given the Castle three stars. I did like the food but thought it was overpriced. Some of the food was really innovative. The setting was nice and the views over the sea were spectacular. It was the slow service that really let this place down. We just waited too long for things. I don't think I'd go back but I think in Bude it probably is one of the best places to eat. There aren't very many places to choose from. Perhaps we caught them on a bad evening but it just spoilt our 'posh' night a bit. So to recommend or not....well I'm undecided. I'd say if you're stuck for somewhere to go in Bude then this is OK, but I would go back to Coasters (see my other review) over this one everytime.