Recently, I passed the 21st anniversary of my birth (woohoo! Survival! Major milestone! etc. etc.). In order to celebrate this I went for a lovely lunch with my family to a restaurant that by rights I shouldn’t have been allowed within 100 metres of (Auberge du lac). I say this because I swear every single employee at this place is French and I kept overhearing people on nearby tables talking about their newest Ferraris. I’m afraid I don’t have that kind of money to spare on multiple Ferraris.
However while I may be unashamedly not-so-posh but rather middle class, it was my 21st and I was going to enjoy it, thank you very much! So I dressed up, groomed myself and we went to the Auberge. We ordered some delicious red wine that had notes of red grape and alcohol and were then led down to a welcoming dining area, overlooking a gorgeous lake with a view of Brocket Hall (a really impressive building).
After a few moments of sitting we were given some artisanal bread and butter before the starter came (Goddamn I love artisanal bread and butter). I had ordered the goat’s curd served with a sauce that tasted like smoky quince jelly, a truffle drizzled fig and a salad, a great tease me of what was to come. The curd was light, the sauce was rich, the fig was sweet and the salad was fresh; it had a balance of flavour that I would expect from a dish in such a restaurant.
The main was a slow cooked beef cheek which melted in the mouth with a beautiful savoury gravy, tender stalk broccoli and the whippiest, smoothest mashed potato I’ve ever tried. By this point the wine was really making it an effort to string together coherent assessments of the food’s quality beyond the phrase “oh my *list of swears* this is good”.
Then for dessert I had a peanut butter and salted caramel parfait with which I’d ordered a dessert wine. Unfortunately, this betrayed my lack of education in dessert wine: I was given two options with a long-ass explanation of flavour profiles. With a 50:50 chance of making the right choice, I chose the fucking wrong one (I appreciated the waiter pretending that my choice was unusual rather than wrong but I noticed the surprise), so… GO ME! Oh well, the dessert wine was still a sweet, fruity, tropical dream to drink which means I couldn’t have fucked up that badly.
Now, looking online at Auberge du lac with my trusty google search bar I saw that there is a rating of 2.5/5 for this place. What unpleasable miserable sod is rating this place 2.5? I’ve eaten at greasy takeaway places on Ilkeston that have given me borderline food poisoning with higher ratings than two-point-bloody-five. Hell, maybe I was blinded by the fact that I saw it for what it was: a treat.
Yes, it is an expensive restaurant so maybe the food wasn’t quite up to the price bracket but when you’re going to a fancy restaurant you are soaking in the food (which was beautiful), the service (which made you feel like royalty) and the ambience (which was as good as the beautifully picturesque setting of the surrounding countryside). Maybe I should have gone with the impossible to please ego of a stuffed shirt critic, who hasn’t had a good day unless he’s eaten the latest season’s premium caviar (which is THE MOST overrated luxury in the world, it’s nice but not £3,600 per kilo kind of nice).
My point, in this rant, is as follows: fuck numbered reviews, what they do is boil down the complex experience of dining to an arbitrary number that tells you as much about what is on offer as the blood type does about a human being’s personality.
In closing, a qualitative, well thought out review will tell you so much more than an average number that is skewed by one person’s exaggerated ‘bad experience’ in which the waiter allegedly spat in their face and slapped their children. I feel like I’ve made my point, my name’s Jake Tenn and I give this article a 9/10.
Images and featured image by Jake Tenn