FOOD MONSTER: Homestead, St John's Park, Bracebridge Heath
THE fight for cheap food is building up in our area.
There are plenty of pub chains all looking to try and bring you in with good deals and cut down prices.
And I'm glad. After eating out at a couple of places I'm really concerned that people are paying over the odds for their food.
There has been some questionable pricing of meals at various pubs and you come away wondering if you got any value for money.
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Some argue you do get what you pay for, and I agree with that at the top end. In a good restaurant I think you cough up the cash which is right for the skill of the chef and the standards of the ingredients used in your dishes.
But there is a lot of cash and carry cobblers out there being peddled for too high a price.
So I do welcome with open arms places like the Homestead on Bracebridge Heath.
Until recently part of the Two-For-One chain, it has now had a very nice refit and is labelled as a Fayre & Square.
The refit at the Homestead is a long time coming.
I had eaten there last year and it was a bit dark and dingy to say the least.
The new layout of the restaurant and the soft furnishings have brought more light and warmth into the place.
The set up also allows for plenty of little nooks to eat in so you're not out on display to the entire restaurant floor.
I went along with my Far Better Half (FBH) and our friend Little Richard to try and get a good idea of the meals on offer.
The menu is all the traditional favourites you would expect.
There are a range of meals like lasagne, scampi and chips, fish and chips, pies, pasta and a grill section.
There is enough variety for everyone and it all does what it says on the tin – simple down to earth descriptions of your meals.
Ordering at the bar, Little Richard went for the soup of the day to start while FBH and myself shared a combo for two.
The starters were not long in the waiting and were not disappointing when they came.
Little Richard's choice was a vegetable soup with plenty of diced veg mixed in there and served with a good couple of slices of bread.
However, I was wondering if he should have bothered ordering a starter when the combo for two was slapped down in front of FBH and myself.
It was a beast of a platter. Onion rings, scampi, chicken wings, chicken breast bites, wedges and garlic bread plus a big dollop of barbecue sauce to knock it all back with – oh and there was a small offering of salad.
Little Richard could have easily have dipped in to this and it was more than a good workout for our jaw muscles prior to our mains.
Little Richard had ordered a steak and ale pie. Again, this was another massive portion. The pie was presented out of the dish and had a big serving of peas and chips with it plus some gravy.
It might not have been a perfectly crafted piece of cooking, but it was satisfactory and the same could be said for FBH's lasagne.
FBH's lasagne came with garlic bread and salad and with both meals in the two for £10 this seemed a decent price.
I shelled out a bit more for the barbecue bucket which cost £9.79.
Out of everyone, I was probably the most disappointed. On the menu, this behemoth of a bucket of meat looked really tempting – half a rack of ribs, chicken skewer, two sausages, chicken wings, onion rings, chips and garlic bread.
It was a meaty meal and if done perfectly had the chance to be brilliant.
Sadly, different elements were off the pace.
The chicken skewer was a bit dry and the ribs were nothing short of cremated.
That said, the chicken wings were nice and juicy with a fair bit of flavour and the sausages were done well with a good herb taste to them.
Again, there was a massive dollop of barbecue sauce to work this down, but some of the meat was a bit too dry and I needed a good swig of my drink to work it through.
By the end of this we were all stuffed and the dessert menu made me queasy just looking at it, which is a shame, because they looked like some gut-busting sweet options.
The service throughout was friendly and efficient and the place was clean and tidy. My only gripe was someone did not keep a good eye on a couple of elements of my dish.
Apart from that it was good value for money and an ideal place to go if you want something cheerful and you want to have a meal which is not going to cripple your wallet.
THE DAMAGE: Combo for two £7.59, Soup of the day £3.29, BBQ Bucket £9.79, Steak and Ale Pie and Lasagne £10, two Pepsi Colas £3.60, Still mineral water £1.65.
FINAL VERDICT: The food is filling, but the value could not be ignored. Also a very nice refit for a pub in need of a bit of a scrub.