Now I did deliberate whether to review a chain restaurant or not as it isn’t quite in-keeping with my ethos as a Food Adventurer which is all about hidden gems and supporting local businesses, but I’m pleased to say Mrs Munkee and I went for it. Miller and Carter are part of the Mitchells and Butlers group who also operate Vintage Inns, Harvesters and Scream Pubs however this iteration of their restaurants couldn’t be further removed from its siblings.
Miller and Carter are, from their own admission, ‘experts in steak’ and has a very premium feel. The décor is simple but classy with dimly lit booths and predominantly wooden furnishings offering a sophisticated backdrop to your meal. We were greeted as soon as we walked through the door and directed to the bar which was well stocked with mainstream beers, wines and spirits; my criticism here would be that I would want to see some more craft ales and ciders to complement their menu. However the bar did carry a strong cocktail list that set it apart from the other restaurants in the group. First impressions were strong…and my ice started to melt towards reviewing a chain restaurant.
Service was slow, however we did sit down at 8pm on a Saturday evening and all the tables were occupied with more people waiting. Having said that when we were attended to the waitress was well versed on the menu, personable and helpful; for me I don’t want anything more than that or it becomes overbearing. Job done.
This is the crunch for any Food Adventure: how good was the food?
Grazing Course – Trio of Breads
This is a simple course and it was presented and done well. No issues but nothing to shout about.
First Course – Black Pearl Scallops
This was served with pan fried chorizos, crispy potatoes, vegetable tartare and tarragon infused hollandaise. The presentation was a little busy for my liking but it was still structured and thought through. The texture difference between the chorizo and the scallops worked well to make you really aware of what you were eating. The scallops were obviously cooked first as they came out a little colder than the rest of the plate but they were well cooked and not rubbery. The key to the dish, for me, was the crushed, crispy new potatoes. They added wholesome, earthy notes to the dish that sat beneath the softer flavour of the scallops. After I’d finished the dish I was left with an unpleasant greasy residue from the chorizo which wasn’t visually appealing but it didn’t detract anything from the flavour. The portion was adequate for a starter and, although it was towards the higher end of the pricing on the menu, still represented value for money.
Main Course – 45 Day Aged 8oz Rump Steak
This was served with skin-on chips, a lettuce wedge with parmesan and garlic sauce and peppercorn sauce. If these guys were ‘experts in steak’ I wanted to test their claim with my choice. Once again the dish was well-presented and the lettuce wedge, served in a rustic wooden bowl, was an inspired touch that certainly departed from the Harvester’s all-you-can-eat salad bar! So how was the steak cooked? I’d requested it to be cooked rare (which is the only way to have good meat in my opinion) but, I’m disappointed to say, it didn’t come served bloody and was more medium rare. Having said that the flavour was fantastic. The meat was soft, well-seasoned and hot. I felt the garlic butter was unnecessary and masked some of the great flavours locked within the meat. The peppercorn sauce was much thinner than I was expecting but it acted as a perfect dip for the salty skin-on chips as opposed to a pour over sauce for the rump steak. Finally, the lettuce wedge: was it just a gimmick? No, I don’t think so. It added a light crispness to the, otherwise, heavy plate which served to refresh the palate in-between forkfuls of succulent beef. Overall, I really enjoyed this dish and I didn’t want it to end. I would have liked my steak to be rare but it was still a really great dish.
I have to hold my hands up – this was great and definitely worthwhile reviewing. The service, although slow, was appropriate, the atmosphere created and the buzz around the restaurant intensified the dining experience and the food, on the whole, delivered against my expectations. Although I didn’t manage a dessert to finish the whole menu was appetising without being too expansive or confusing. To top it all off, when we received the bill at the end of our meal it was great value for money.
Verdict – in a word, surprising! This has changed my opinion about how I should view chain restaurants and will be a little more open-minded on my Food Adventures. Mrs Munkee and I will definitely be returning to test the ‘experts in steak’ again.