Do you ever get the feeling that a place just doesn’t want you there? I got it on a trip to Warwick.
First, the car park ticket machine ate my coins and refused to spit out a ticket. I had to call Warwick District Council’s “Our Parking Meters Are Rubbish” hotline. A very nice woman said I probably wouldn’t get fined for failing to display a ticket. I like that: politeness in the face of municipal incompetence.
Then staff tried to put me off the scent at The Lazy Cow pub. As I walked in, I saw a table I wanted to plop down at by the bar. “You’ll have to go to the restaurant if you want to eat and they will help you,” said the barman, gesturing to his right. The restaurant is in a room behind the bar, you see…
So I went to the restaurant reception and a waitress smiled, led me through the groovy-county-set-WAG-decorated-but-entirely-empty dining room and swooped me back to the table I initially wanted to sit at by the bar.
“How’s this?” she asked.
“Lovely,” I said. It was all done very politely.
It was lunchtime and three jolly women were ordering flutes of Champagne at the bar. “When are you setting off for Heathrow, darling?” Mrs Perma-Tan I, of Warwick, asked Mrs Perma-Tan II, of Warwick. It’s that sort of place: fizz in the afternoon, flights in the evening.
The Lazy Cow is what the brand people call a small “boutique hotel group” with outlets in Salisbury and down the road in Stratford-upon-Avon, although I’m not sure if the Bard’s gaff has rooms. The website suggests not.
There is a set menu for lunch and early evening (£10.50 for two courses, £13.50 for three – mains such as: roasted belly pork with sweet potato mash, or calves’ liver with champ and French beans).
Steaks are the real draw and there are plenty to choose from. There is rare breed Longhorn, Argentinian beef and USDA Prime. I had a very good USDA sirloin at Beef in Kenilworth last year and had my heart set on another at The Lazy Cow.
In fact, it’s partly why I went there, to see if the Yankee variety was as doodle-dandy as I remembered.
In the end, I had something completely different, although geographically not too dissimilar. It was rather good. The starter wasn’t.
It was a duffer, an object lesson in how to massacre a once sweet, ear-sized piece of fishy flesh. The sesame coating merely served to dry out the scallops and the marmalade-spiced thing was toxically over-powering. Zilch point.
The Lazy Cow – and this I like – has a changing list of feature steaks. When I visited, the list included Dexter sirloin (a personal breed favourite – the cattle are so cute and taste as good as they look), Belted Galloway and a 12oz Longhorn flatiron.
I had the 10oz premium Canadian corn-fed sirloin (£26.50) on the basis that I’d never had it and had no imminent plans to fly to Toronto, where these things probably don’t live.
I am all for rustic eating but for £26.50 you might expect a little more flair, or care, with the presentation. There was an upturned piece of not particularly sweet corn on the cob, a handful of watercress and a roasted garlic bulb that brought little to the party.
The steak had a surprising light flavour and texture and was very well cooked, just right for rare, with a cherry hue.
It needed more salt though. Message to the sodium police: give over, you are killing food.
There is a video on the restaurant’s website showing a chef showering steaks with salt before cooking them. He needs to remind his colleagues of the need for seasoning the meat.
The chips were fat and dry, possibly due to a poor potato choice, and were pretty tasteless. Boy, I miss thin, crispy frites. Nothing beats them with a steak. The Dijon mustard was the real thing though, not that catering jar stuff that looks like cats’ whoopsies.
I skipped desserts (chocolate brownie with butter toffee ice cream, raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake, that sort of thing, which you’ve seen before a million times) and had a passable espresso.
The staff, I have to stay, were exceedingly friendly and warm. I would go back for a steak, particularly if Mrs Perma-Tan I is paying, but not a lot else.
The Lazy Cow, 10 Theatre Street, Warwick, CV34 4DP
T: 08451 200 666