Friday, 12 December 2008


Tuesday was the day of the Sewing Group's Christmas lunch. We went to the Grand Hotel on the seafront at Tynemouth. It was a cold, sunny day.

Bill and I have been to the Grand a couple of times before, once for New Year's Eve. His mother, Ellen's, 90th birthday party was held there in July 2004. It's a gorgeous building

in a great location at one end of Long Sands.

This is the first time that I've ever had to pay for my meal in full in advance of the day, but that was required for us to book a table; I think that's quite strange. A £5 deposit is the more usual custom.

I was about the first to arrive, but saw others arriving as I went in the front door.

We met first for coffee in the lounge,

where we had a look at the menu (the Christmas Fayre lunch).

We then took our places at our table in the dining room and began our meal.

Those shiny tubular things are "Christmas crackers'. One invites another to pull the other end, causing a small firework inside to 'crack' and the toys inside to fall out. In addition to a toy (mine was a key ring with a dolphin; others were small sewing kits, tiny playing cards and a set of round dice), there is always a joke inside (What is a boxer's favourite part of the joke? The punch line) and a paper hat.

We all dutifully donned our hats. It's one of those British things I couldn't believe the first time I saw it.

Full grown, serious adults all wearing paper hats at an elegant restaurant. Isn't it wonderful?

There were a few staff dressed in charming little maid outfits (nothing kinky, mind), but I never could catch their pictures.

We were seated under this massive chandelier. Nora told us that years before she had been seated in the same place with a bunch of the girls from the factory at which they all used to work. The plaster above it broke and the thing actually fell down onto their table. The title of the newspaper article reported that 'Group of Girls Get Plastered'. I was hoping the building was in slightly better repair now.

This is a popular venue for weddings and wedding photos, particularly this gorgeous stair case.

This is the 'Prawn, smoked salmon and cucumber tian, beetroot jelly with dill mayonnaise dressing'.

I'd never heard of a 'tian' (and I love salmon and shrimp), so I had to order it. According to this website, "The tian is really just a small stack of three different layers." The Tightwad Gazette has an article about the way menu writers glorify ordinary food and it's a hoot. I'll have to share it with you one day. I know that chefs here in England are trained to write flowery food descriptions as part of their schooling. Flowery words or not, my 'tian' was delicious. I'd skipped breakfast to save room for this meal!

Unfortunately, the four ladies who ordered the "Smooth chicken liver parfait, cranberry and cointreau sauce, oatcakes" all said the liver was off for some reason. They all seemed familiar with liver pate but no one wanted to eat this stuff. The waitresses removed the plates, but nothing else was offered in place of the liver, which I thought was bad form.

This is 'Roast northumbrian beef, fondant potato, red wine porcini mushroom sauce'

The beef was more than a bit tough in places and the potato (just a big one cut into a tower shape, so far as I could tell) was a bit under cooked; the sauce was lovely.

'Served with buttered sprouts, honey roast carrots, and parsnip'. Actually there were also baby new potatoes and a few green beans in there, but I don't remember finding any parsnip. (Joan ordered the 'Seared salmon fillet, leek mash, citrus hollandaise').

Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of my dessert. I went with the 'British cheese, biscuits, grapes, celery and spiced plum chutney'. I was going to get the 'Winter assiette - white wine and thyme poached pear (warm), mulled wine jelly, vanilla pod ice cream', but Joan said the last time she had it there, the pear was quite hard. And then she went and order that dessert herself! I told her my cheese plate had better be really good. I enjoyed the Brie and the smoked cheese. The crackers were OK and the cheese with red fruit mixed in was nice. There was a toothpick with 3 grapes threaded on it and no celery, so I didn't find out what the chutney was like. I was really disappointed in the presentation of the cheese board. Maybe that's why I forgot to take the picture.

As we began to gather our things to leave, I asked Nora if she'd asked for the bill. She reminded me that we'd all paid in advance, so there was no bill. I got up and spoke to one of the waitresses about the 4 ladies whose starter was sent back. Should they not get some of their money refunded?

As we gathered our coats, the girl brought me a £10 note, which I took to the desk to get changed to distribute the £2.50 to each of the 4 ladies. I probably should ahve tried for more, but since none of them had said anything, I wondered if it was only me who thought it was wrong.

Just reviewing the pictures here, I've spotted that the lounge has a wonderful selection of magazines on offer. I may wonder in some day (appropriate dressed, of course) for a coffee and see if I can order some liver pate and crackers for £2.50. What would you guess were my chances?

1 comment:

Rick Stone said...

You do know you're going to get a reputation hanging out with so many older ladies. As to the food, was those pictures of just the appetizers? Afraid that food wouldn't hold up for us hearty eating Americans. ;->