When planning all the various get-togethers and parties for my birthday celebrations, it can be tricky to hunt up different places that are going to fit the bill. When it came to arranging the gathering with my badminton club for example, I knew I had to find a venue that did a reasonably priced set menu that offered quality food with mixed options, and could cater for a large group of people without batting an eyelid or getting unduly confused. I’d had a hankering to try Italian bar and grill restaurant The Village for a while, so when I stumbled across set menu selections on their website, it seemed like a match made in heaven.
The Village definitely looks the business – when you are standing outside, you are confronted by an elaborate courtyard entrance with wall and railing boarder. The stone slab area houses collections of metal wrought tables and chairs which would be ideal for summer lunch times, sat beneath the large awning style umbrellas. The tall white building behind the courtyard had an imposing and impressive exterior, with plants in red pots framing the main entrance doors. Oozing elegant charm yet also a certain homeliness, I was eager to go inside.
Once through the main doors, you could see the restaurant was nice and roomy, stretching deeply backwards. Immediately to the left was a well-stocked bar area with mirrored background. Our heels clicked on the red and grey tiled checkered floor as we made our way to the table – a long rectangular dark wood table with plenty of space all the way round. Despite being the centre of the restaurant, it felt private and secluded, as if we wouldn’t be interrupted. Smaller booth like circular tables framed the wall on one side of our table, whilst the kitchen was behind us. Further into the restaurant was even more seating, hidden behind numerous potted palm trees that were consistently scattered throughout, breaking up the monotonously plain décor of beige white paint and dark wood. Our table was for 15 people, so we took up quite a lot of space, but the venue were well prepared for us, our chosen set menu laid out in each place, accompanied by a decoratively rolled white fabric napkin and our cutlery, wine glasses scattered in trios down the length of the unadorned table.
I really liked the fact that we had so much space, and I also liked the atmosphere – we arrived at 7.30pm on a Saturday evening, so just when the weekend spirit was beginning to get in the full swing of things. It felt happy and vibrant; as if the restaurant was excited the weekend had arrived, so it was the ideal place to let our hair down for a celebratory meal. It didn’t feel too overdone either, as it had casual and relaxed undertones that helped us unwind as we perused the menu. I had opted for a three course set menu that cost £18.95 per person, and I had arranged that we would buy our own drinks individually at the bar, which makes things a lot easier with large groups of people as there is nothing more annoying than arguments over splitting the bill. With four choices for both starters and main course and three options for dessert there was plenty to pick from food wise, and the drinks menu also didn’t disappoint, for as well as housing the usual wines and beers, there was also an abundance of cocktails that are usually a trademark in any birthday venture I undertake.
For my starters, I settled on the loaded potato skins, topped with cheddar cheese and bacon, served with a dollop of sour cream in a small white ramekin. The potato skins were rather small, yet there were three of them, so this wasn’t a problem at all. They weren’t too crispy which was nice, and I enjoyed the oozy cheese topping the fluffy potato housed underneath. The bacon bits were few and far between, as well as being minute in size, so that was a tad disappointing, but on the whole, a really nice starter that did what it said on the tin. Being the birthday girl, I was treated to sharing a bottle of Prosecco with my sister and a friend at the table – it was fabulously refreshing, light and bubbly, so it was definitely slipping down nicely with my meal! I rarely have Prosecco out because of the price, but it was a really treat that I thoroughly enjoyed. Other options for starters included chicken and vegetable soup, calamari and garlic ciabatta bread.
For my main course, I decided to go for something traditionally British yet something I don’t normally eat out – the classic burger. The Village Burger came fully loaded with a slab of melted cheddar cheese oozing wonderfully over the juicy beef burger, which was also topped with a slice of pink bacon that was cooked just how I like it (I don’t like it when bacon is too crispy). Served in a toasted bun with the usual salad suspects and accompanied by a chunky tomato relish, the burger was a carnivorous delight, although the meat was a little too dense at times. There was no lady-like way to go about it, so I just ploughed in with gusto, the meat juices trickling down my arm in a very attractive manner I’m sure! The burger was served with its partner in crime, chips, which were also very tasty.
On the whole, I would say the main course was yummy and a good solid burger meal. The burger was a bit dry in places but not so much so that it was a problem and all together it was enjoyable. I certainly didn’t leave anything remaining on my plate! Some people went for the pasta served in a light garlic and tomato sauce, which to be honest just looked plain boring to me, as well as being a bit on the small side portion wise. Quite a few other people chose the half rack of ribs which came up in a similar manner to the burger, however again there were some issues with portion size. The guy next to me seemed to have more like a quarter of a rack, while the man opposite me seemed to have a full rack! This seemed the case with quite a few of the plates so I definitely feel that needs to be addressed as it should be the same portion size for all of the guests on the same table. There was also an option for Caesar salad which one health conscious member chose.
Onwards to dessert, which as we all know is an important course for me. I went for the blowout option of the chocolate fudge cake, which arrived at the table as a complete doorstop of a slice, my plate and cake drenched in a thick smothering of gooey dark chocolate sauce, in which a single scoop of vanilla ice cream manfully swam to stay afloat. It was decadent, opulent and almost sludge like in consistency, but let’s face it – that’s what we look for in a chocolate fudge cake. Pretty standard as a dessert option, I knew what to expect and it ticked all the relevant boxes. Other opted for the eton mess, with rabbit ear style strawberries poking out of the pile of cream swirled atop of the meringue mountain. It looked a little unstylish though and a bit bog standard so not overly impressive. The same could be said for the third option of mango and lemon sorbet scoops, decorated with a single shard of flaky wafer speared into the dessert. Out of the dessert choices, I feel I had the best one really, so I’m glad I made the right choice.
The meal didn’t end there though, as we then decided to peruse the cocktail menu. At £4.95 per drink, they were extremely reasonably priced which was a bonus, and the variety on offer meant that there was something for everyone as well. After my intense chocolate punch with dessert, I was yearning for something light and fruity so when I spied pina colada on the cocktail list, it was a done deal. It looked nice; again with more strawberries slipped onto the rim of the glass, however it didn’t really pack an alcoholic punch. It was very creamy with fresh pineapple flavours which satisfied the refreshing hit I was after, but I would have liked more of an alcoholic taste as well. I also had a chocolate cocktail that used cream again but was laced with chocolate liqueur. This one was presented in a fancier fashion, with chocolate sauce drizzled decoratively around the bottom of the glass before the drink was poured in and I must say, this one hit the spot nicely as I do rather have a penchant for chocolate cocktails. A couple of the others sampled some of the more fruity options, such as a strawberry daiquiri, however I think these were found lacking as they tasted more like juice than alcohol, which is not what you want when on a celebratory birthday do. One member even resorted to hitting the champagne cocktails to get some more fizz.
The Village Bar and Grill really suited the purpose – the set menu offered variety and catered for all tastes with the options available. The prices were also reasonable at just under £20 per person for three courses so a thumbs up there, and it’s great that they’ve taken the time to devise such an array of cocktails, despite them needing to be more generous with the booze measurements. On the whole I would say the food was tasty – it didn’t really stand out or scream excellence, but it was nice, cooked well and I couldn’t find fault with it really. It just seemed to be standard fare, does what it says on the tin food, which to be honest, does make things easier for large groups like we were. I prefer a bit more panache and wow factor about my food, but I absolutely loved my evening at The Village. The atmosphere was brilliant and the staff couldn’t have more polite, lovely and accommodating if they tried – they really made us feel welcome and right at home. I would be interested to return and sample the normal full menu to see if their other dishes added anything different to my perceptions of the place, but on the whole, I would say it’s worth checking out.