Le Chalet is a Salon du Thé, although they describe themselves as a French Tearooms and Bakery. I am just showing off. In addition to offering a large range of teas, they are also a French Restaurant with an impressive menu, especially if you like cheese in all its forms.
As this series is called Let’s Do Lunch, afternoon tea was out, as was dinner. Fortunately, they offer a Lunch Board for £9.95 which looked very appetising.
As its name suggests, you get a full lunch presented on a board, which is a pretty neat idea. The food comprises Sandwich, Soup, Fries, Side Salad and a Small Home Made Cake. The sandwiches are available in either Baguette or Sliced Bread and from the eleven choices, I opted for a Croque Monsieur as it was pretty chilly and wet outside, so I thought that a hot sarnie would warm me up a treat. There was also a choice of soup between Onion and Soup of the Day. Having ascertained that the latter was mushroom I chose that, and no, I am not going to make the joke about my being a fun guy. I settled down to do the Telegraph crossword and take in the opulent surroundings reminiscent of a Parisian Tea Room.
My wine, a Pays d’Oc Merlot at £5.50 for 175ml, arrived swiftly, along with a glass of tap water which I had been offered when ordering but I had to exercise all my self-control by not drinking it before the food arrived. I don’t mind a delay in service as it indicates that everything is freshly prepared and the place was quite busy. Eventually, my waitress, Maria J, according to the bill, arrived and placed the board on the table. She then noticed that the sandwich was Egg Mayo in Baguette rather than my actual choice. She offered her sincere apologies and quickly returned the food to the kitchen. After a couple of minutes, she returned to say that the correct sandwich was being prepared and would be out shortly and apologised once again. A nice touch. A little while thereafter she returned with the correct combination and laid it on the table, expressing the hope that I found it worth waiting for. Sadly, I didn’t.
I began, as one does, by attacking the soup, which contained more salt than the Pacific Ocean, an observation I made to Maria when she returned to ask how everything was. The offending cup of broth was swiftly removed and replaced by the Onion soup, which I had said I would be happy to have as a substitute. I have to say that this was excellent and very authentic, as you would expect, with cheese-covered croutons floating on top melting to form cheesy strings when lifted. The salt content was as you would expect and so all was good in the world. Well, not quite. The Croque Monsieur had been made with extremely fresh bread and so, as it was also made in the traditional French manner by being done in the oven rather than toasted, had not crisped up, meaning that it was a stodgy hot cheese and ham sandwich. I had mentioned this to Marie when she returned with the replacement soup, but it was edible and I was hungry so it had mostly disappeared by the time she got back. Once again, profuse apologies were forthcoming. The fries and the salad were very good and the small chocolate cake in choux pastry was sublime.
Whilst I was finishing my wine before eating the cake, the owner arrived at the table to say how sorry she was about the state of the meal. She was gracious enough to say that, had she been served what I was, she would have had no hesitation in returning it as well. When I had finished I asked for my bill and Maria returned with it, along with the card machine and a voucher for £10 by way of compensation. I am quite willing to accept that it was one of those days when, if something goes wrong, everything goes wrong. I felt almost guilty when I introduced myself and told the owner that I was there to review the place as her disappointment was palpable. She did give me an explanation as to why things had not gone right and said that she has scheduled an appointment with the chef in a couple of day’s time, but she did add that it was an explanation rather than an excuse because there is no excuse for serving food which does not meet her high standards.
I have said many times before in my reviews that anyone can look good when everything is going right. It is when things go wrong that the real character of a restaurant is revealed. I have been to places where it has almost been insinuated that it was my fault for not putting up with mistakes, but here things could not have been handled better. I must stress that I do these reviews incognito and no one knew who I was until the bill was paid, the voucher issued and I had put my coat on to leave.
This is the first time I have ever wished that I could ignore the lunch and call again another day, but the whole point of these articles is that I tell it as I see it. I must be true to myself and, more importantly, to you, although I do intend to use the voucher in the future to see exactly what they are capable of when there are no kitchen crises.