I was on holiday last week and had two experiences of eateries that were so quirky that I feel the need to blog about them. Now the two places are so markedly different that you would never naturally compare the two, but because of the surprising success of one, and the disappointing downfall of the other, I feel it necessary to discuss them and take away a lesson.
First up was the Log Cabin Diner – an alternative to the standard motorway service station. A chance find on the M5, we stopped at the Log Cabin Diner to grab lunch on the way to Devon. It looked like something out of the past – a log cabin, large print menus, plastic signboard and a separate outdoor toilet block.
The diner offered jacket potatoes, full English breakfasts, pasties and a ploughman’s lunch, which is what I opted for. Not expecting much at all, I was utterly impressed with the standard of the food, and the friendliness and speed of the service. The bread was warm, the salad fresh, and the atmosphere was relaxed and had an air of rustic pleasantness about it. Even though I knew I was yards from a motorway I felt like I was in the countryside.
This is a contrast to my second eatery, 11 The Quay in Ilfracombe. Damien Hurst’s restaurant does indeed have his stamp all over it and, bizarre cushions sporting small dogs aside, I loved the décor. Everything about it felt high class and inviting. The wallpaper was beautiful and all together the aesthetic elements of the place worked perfectly. We popped in for an afternoon coffee stop and decided to treat ourselves to a bit of luxury.
Sadly the luxury did not spread to the food. The coffee was good, but was served simply in the coffee brand’s crockery and not a stylish set. Ok I can live with that. But the food was not good. The olives were not drained but served in a dish full of brine, so every mouthful was far too salty. The chocolate and walnut cake, which the waitress described as “amazing”, was dry and lacking in flavour. All in all it did not live up to expectations.
So here is the reason the blog topic sprang to mind. Here you have two eating establishments, both highly stylised in their own way; one with a budget at the bottom end of the scale and one at the top. And surprisingly it was the one at the bottom end of the scale that succeeded in serving good food and thus achieved its aim.
The contrast of the two was notable and the lesson I took away is that simplicity is key; getting the basics right should be the fundamental goal for all of us. It is the little details that matter and if you can’t get those right then it doesn’t matter how great the overall package, there will always be something missing.