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Review: Darlings is relaxed and uncomplicated
I WAS pleased to see that the latest Bourne End eatery on the Parade is finally getting busy after a couple of unsuccessful restaurants at the same address.
On my first visit, a Thursday afternoon at around 1.15pm, my mother and I stopped at Darlings to browse the menu displayed in their window.
We looked inside through their blinds and saw there was no sign of staff or clients, which made we wonder if it was really open.
After a while, Jenny Hunter, the manager, came forward and pointed at the ‘open’ sign but did not invite us in. Eventually, we decided to take a chance though. Mrs Hunter let us chose our table and became much more approachable and friendly. The menu was short but offered a good range of options including meat, fish, chicken and vegetarian dishes. The two-course set lunch menu at £12 sounded good although we only had about 40 minutes.
We asked if we could choose only a main course from the set menu. Mrs Hunter was flexible, but had to check with the chef for pricing.
We both picked the poached haddock with a beurre blanc and mustard sauce, sautéed potatoes and pea puree. The portion size was perfect and the food was exquisite and nicely presented. I was amazed to pay only £8 for it.
About a week later I returned for dinner with a friend. Mrs Hunter was again alone on the floor but was very attentive throughout dinner.
To start I had the chicken liver parfait with a generous portion of fig and apple chutney and grilled bread. What it lacked in presentation it delivered in flavour.
My friend could not fault her starter of crispy goat’s cheese, beetroot, apple and walnut salad with balsamic dressing. We both followed with the 8oz ribeye served with chips. The steak was cooked perfectly and the chef was ok with holding on the pepper sauce for me. A side salad or third ingredient could have made the dish just right.
The dinner ended on a high with a delicious and not overly sweet cheese cake of orange, stem ginger and white chocolate. Overall, the front of the house service lacked a bit of an upselling skill, which was good for us but not so good for the business.
Whilst I had three courses, my friend Lucy had only two but was satisfied. We had one drink each and at the end we paid £35 a head.
I would recommend the place as a relaxing and uncomplicated restaurant to go to.
The head chef and co-owner Liam Lonergan confessed that simplicity is what they are aiming for. He said: "To make Darlings a fun place to come to, that serves good food and wine in a relaxed atmosphere."
Darlings is open from Tuesday to Saturday at 8, The Parade in Bourne End. It seats 26 people and serves a modern British cuisine.
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