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Big prices don't always mean big quality
Vecchia Roma (East Molesey)
Member Name: magenta23
Vecchia Roma (East Molesey)
Date: 30/09/09, updated on 30/09/09 (89 review reads)
Advantages: The Lobster soup, the service.
Disadvantages: Very samey choice of mains, that were tasteless, decor, prices.
I had not heard of this restaurant up until a few weeks ago, despite me living in area and it having been there since 1971! Tucked over the bridge and around the corner from Hampton Court Palace, Vecchia Roma (meaning old Rome) describes itself as 'a touch of Italy.'
Five of us went here for a meal on a Monday night for my partner's mother's birthday. The place looks bigger from the outside than it is and three of the ten or so tables were taken. The waiters were traditionally dressed with their white shirts and waistcoats and were obviously well trained on all the etiquette of fine dining. (It's a shame we weren't, there was much confusion over which forks to use etc etc)
For me at least, this was a free meal. Just as well because I couldn't have afforded the prices. This place obviously thought it was the bees knees and charged as such. Admittedly the menu provided some very expensive ingredients, but still.
As we ordered drinks, my partner said 'bruschetta' to the waiter with a knowing look. We didn't order that did we I thought, then thought it might be some weird etiquette thing I'd not known about and maybe I should say it too. It was in actual fact a code word, in which if you say 'bruschetta' you receive free bruschetta with your drinks and 3 course for the price of 2. Check the website if you are intending to go, I don't know if this offer changes from time to time.
Drinks and bruschetta came swiftly while we chose our starters and mains from the somewhat bodged together menu. It wasn't the content of what was written but the way it was presented. Printed out on paper the menu was presented in plastic Vecchia Roma folder, and then the prices scrawled on in biro. Actually slightly blinded at first by the hospitality of the staff and formal atmosphere I had a look around and it dawned on me that the whole place was incredibly tacky. Hanging baskets with plastic flowers were against a backdrop of Roman style stonework, printed on plastic and pasted to the wall. The black gothic style chandeliers were a saving grace décor wise, but beautiful as they were, they just didn't go with anything else.
Trying to block out the few Boyzone, Bee Gees and Elton John songs that were on a loop. I concentrated back on the menu, after all, the people I was with raved about the food here, and that's what we were here for, right?
Starters ranged from £5.95 to a whopping £14.95 for the half lobster. I chose the Lobster Soup which was very tasty and surprisingly the cheapest thing there. I guess it's not much expense to them if they are using lobster anyway, they use the offcuts for the soup I guess. My partner, true to form chose the Calamari, which he said was delicious and the Crayfish Cocktail looked good as did the mountain of Mussels two of the other people on our table had.
The choice for mains isn't what you would expect from a high street Italian restaurant. Forget pizza, there's none here, and the choice of pasta isn't exactly extensive, mostly for starters, though you can ask for the starters as a main. Main course here very much focus on meat and seafood.
The menu is split between A La Carte and a set menu where two courses are £16.95 and three £18.95, though we picked ours from between the two and they seemed happy to do this. I guess the charged the meals separately, but as I wasn't paying I didn't want to nose into the bill too much!
Typical choices from the set menu were (I won't give you the Italian!) -
Poached Salmon with Mornay Sauce
Calves Liver pan fried with butter and fresh Sage
Veal Escalope coated in Breadcrumbs and pan fried
Chicken Breast with Cream, Mushrooms and Asparagus Tips
Spinach and Cheese Ravioli with Butter and Sage, or Tomato and Basil Sauce
Typical Choices from the A La Carte menu were-
Scampi Vecchia Roma - Scampi saute in Butter, Thyme, Brandy, Mushrooms and Cream
Grilled Dover Sole
Whole Lobster Thermidor with Garlic Butter
Sea Bass with Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar and Spring Onions
Roast Rack of Lamb
Veal Cutlet coated in Breadcrumbs and Pan Fried
Breast of Duck with Orange Sauce
There were a few vegetarian options on the set menu, however the A La Carte was Meat and Fish only. Not really a restaurant geared towards the vegetarian crowd. This place is obviously very proud of their meat.
Having had Lobster Soup to start, I felt I couldn't have Lobster again, and most definitely couldn't ask for a £30 main course! All the meat dishes to me sounded disgusting- big hunks of meat, gravy, boring veg was the image I got and I wasn't wrong. My other half had the Lamb. Bits of bloody meat swimming in brown juice and served with boring boiled veg. Yuck! Ok, I know many people love a roast, but I can't stand it. Let's face it however you flower it up on a menu a lot of the meat dishes here were Italian Roast dinner, apart of course from the organs, but I'm not even going there!
Predictably then I went for fish and ordered the Sea Bass, other choices on our table were the Scampi Vecchia Roma and one of the specials, Skate Wing.
Again the mains were prompt to arrive and knives and forks were changed for those of us having fish. Mine was truly disappointing my fillet was full of bones, a few I'm fine with but there were so many it was a hassle to eat. It was very bland and I'd ordered a side salad to go with it which was equally disappointing. Big pieces of iceberg lettuce with a creamy dressing on a tiny side plate not only looked ridiculous but was very messy to eat, would have been better in a bowl I think. At £14.95 for a badly cooked and seasoned piece of Sea Bass, I think the lobster may have been better value for money in the long run.
The others said theirs was nice, but then so did I! I must admit the scampi did look tasty. The skate didn't!
After mains, a little birdie had told the waiter there was a birthday in our party and he came around with a hunk of tiramisu with a sparkler in it and serenaded her, she was made up.
Desserts are put on a trolley and brought to the table where you pick what you would like. There were marinated boozy oranges, tiramisu, mousse, and chocolate cake, or cheese and biscuits for those with less of a sweet tooth. The somewhat mangled tiramisu after the sparkler was taken out was replaced with a fresh piece for the birthday girl. Most people had this, I predictably went for the chocolate cake and my partner the cheese and biscuits.
Desserts I think, were generally a hit.
I refrained from coffee and chasers. Though the others did and overall the bill was £227 for 5.
Overall, the food was a bit hit and miss and although service was excellent the surroundings were a little tacky. I couldn't help thinking this place thinks of itself being in a league above where it actually is. Maybe when it first opened in 1971, it was the place to eat, I don't know but not now. I 'd go back for the Lobster Soup alone, because that was divine, the rest I could take or leave. With the final bill resting at over £45 a head, with the special offer and without service, was it worth it? No. I have eaten out better for under half the price.
Summary: I just don't get what all the fuss was about.
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