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The Grove House Hotel and Oak Tree Restaurant (Wallasey, Merseyside)

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Address: Grove Road / Wallasey CH45 3HF / Merseyside

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      14.12.2011 13:28
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      Bit posh for me, I'll stick to pub food from now on!

      ** This review is of the restaurant only **

      We visited this restaurant for the first time recently, after receiving some vouchers from family as an engagement present. It's not somewhere we'd normally go, as we're more jeans and pub type people rather than fine dining, but we were looking forward to going somewhere different, and having a night out that was technically free! Also, this restaurant/hotel is run by the same people who run the hotel where our wedding reception is being held, so we were curious to see what the standards of service and food would be like.

      --The Restaurant--

      The restaurant is attached to the Grove House Hotel which has 3 AA stars. We live about five minutes away from this restaurant but decided to drive anyway as neither of us were that bothered about drinking and getting taxis involves faffing and extra cost. The car park to this restaurant is tiny and there were no spaces left by the time we got there. Turning the car around was tricky because the car park is so small, then we had to try to find on-street parking which made us a few minutes late and wasn't the most laid back start to a meal!

      I booked the table about two weeks beforehand, which makes me sound organised but is only because when I phoned they were very busy at weekends so I had to book for the Saturday after the one we originally wanted. Even then, they only had about three time slots available, so they are obviously popular and fill the restaurant regularly. A good sign in most people's eyes.

      --The Service--

      The level of service received at this restaurant was excellent. As soon as we arrived we were seated in the bar area whilst our table was being prepared. We had our drinks brought over and someone took our coats. I must admit I started to feel a little uncomfortable at this stage because I'm not really used to going places where people fuss over you. We were brought menus to look at prior to being seated, and when our table was ready the waiter took our drinks through for us. We were seated in the corner next to a radiator which was a little on the warm side but didn't cause too much of a problem.

      Service throughout the meal was excellent, if not a little strange. I felt the waiter was very old fashioned in his manner and dress sense, he reminded me of Jeeves! He brought a basket of bread before our meal, and held it out for us to pick one each. They were very attentive and checked that we were happy with our food and came over to take orders for drinks when our glasses were running dry.

      --Décor and Layout--

      The restaurant had a really old fashioned feel to it, with old fashioned carpets and oak panelling. It reminded me of the library in Cluedo. The room is a reasonable size with nooks and crannies, and tables ranging from a party of 12 to us on a table for two. It didn't feel overly spacious, and I noticed when the waiters were wheeling the dessert trolley round (yes, they still use these here!), it blocked the path for customers who were returning from the toilet. The clientele mainly seemed to be older than us, and I got the impression this restaurant was used by returning customers as well as people staying in the hotel.

      There was music playing in the background, which was a bit of a strange mix between really old fashioned stuff and some modern music. The music didn't really fit in with the hotel's ambience or era, but it was non-intrusive so it didn't bother us.

      The restaurant looked really clean and welcoming, and the bar was very modern compared to the restaurant part. The toilets were exemplary and had a little cloakroom attached which is where our coats ended up. I found the layout of this restaurant a little odd because there was the odd step here and there to get to different parts of the restaurant, so not all areas would be accessible to someone in a wheelchair, or if they are it would involve a bit of a fuss involving ramps etc. The pathways were also quite narrow, and the restaurant tables were quite close together so I'm not sure how suitable this place would be if you had mobility problems.

      --The Food--

      When we were given the menus there was the normal menu and a set meal menu which was an offer of two courses for a set price. This menu offered a starter and main course for £18.95, which doesn't sound cheap but actually isn't too bad once you've seen the price of the rest of the menu! The only problem with the set menu was that a lot of the main courses involved an additional supplement for one reason or another, which meant it didn't really work out good value and the menu was more limited. So we chose from the normal menu.

      The food was quite expensive but because we had vouchers we decided that rather doing our usual trick and picking the cheapest thing on the menu, we both went for something we really wanted. I chose a stuffed mushroom starter and my fiance had a posh sounding poached egg on toast. I must admit, I did wonder how they got away with charging £7 for egg on toast but I had a little taste and it had a lovely sauce with it and was on beautiful soft bread. It was delicious. My mushrooms were also very tasty, and they were stuffed with cheese and came with a rich creamy sauce. The portions were small but the food was so flavoursome you didn't really need huge portions.

      For our mains, I had the rack of lamb, and my fiance had belly pork. Again, both these dishes were absolutely fabulous. The lamb just fell off the bone and was one of the most tender meats I've ever tasted. It was served in a rich sauce with fresh vegetables and roast potatoes. I tasted the belly pork which isn't something I (or my partner!) would normally choose, and that was also very tasty and tender, not the way I would expect this meat to be.

      The menu is varied and they have a separate menu for vegetarians which gives a bit more choice than the usual one or two meat-free dishes. It is quite expensive though, with the cheapest starter being around £6.95, and the higher end you can pay nearly £10 for a starter! The mains cost between £15 to £20+ but you do get a better quality of food and with the main courses they're not mean with their portions like some of these places can be. You get a good amount of vegetables as well so you shouldn't need to order side portions of anything. They also state on the menu that they're happy to cater to individual dietary requirements so I imagine if you had any allergies or special requirements, the staff wouldn't make you feel like you're being awkward but would go out of their way to help you.

      The starters vary from the usual soups and salads, mushrooms, risotto, black pudding and many more. For the mains they serve every kind of meat you could wish for - fillet steak, rib eye steak, lamb, chicken and specials such as grilled lobster, seabass and mussels. They offer desserts which aren't listed on the menu but are displayed on a trolley. We did see the trolley whilst we were there and it seemed to be mainly cakes and they offer a cheese board. All these desserts seem to be on offer for around £4.50. They also offer coffee and liquors.

      --Drinks--

      I didn't really examine the drinks menu thoroughly because it looked a bit expensive and I only ever drink house wine or cider when I'm out. I got the impression if I'd asked for cider I would have got some strange looks, so I had a couple of glasses of house white instead. These were about £4 for a small glass, so I made them last a while! They were fruity and very enjoyable though, not at all bitter like some 'cheap' wines can be.

      My partner had a couple of cokes as he was driving, these came in very small glasses which didn't last long. He described them as 'thimbles' of coke rather than glasses. These were about £2 a glass.

      --Overall--

      We enjoyed some really lovely food during our night out in this restaurant, and we enjoyed it even more because we had some vouchers to pay for it! I thought the service was excellent, and if it's fine dining you're looking for this is a good experience from a food and service point of view.

      Personally, I'm unsure I'll ever visit this restaurant again, partly because of the cost and partly because it just took me out of my comfort zone. Although the food was excellent, I'd never pay this much unless it was a really special occasion, and if it was a special occasion I'd probably go somewhere with a more special atmosphere than a restaurant attached to a hotel down the road from where we live.

      Also, there is something about being waited on to this extent that makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I think I'm just too used to going to pubs or lower end restaurants, so I felt a little strange at someone taking my coat and carrying my drink for me. Bizarrely, at the end of the meal we had to go hunting for our coats because it wasn't obvious where they were kept, and it turns out the waiter had put them both in the ladies toilet which had a cloakroom where the sinks were. I found this a bit odd because if I'd known this was where they'd end up I probably would have advised my other half to take the car keys out of his coat pocket!

      Overall it was great food, great service, but not for me.

      Grove House are also a hotel, and hold functions including weddings at this venue. For more information, their website address is: http://www.thegrovehouse.co.uk/

      Thanks for reading

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