A hotel wouldn’t be my first choice when deciding where to go for an evening meal.
My travelling experience has all too often been of hotels cashing in on their captive audience by providing average food at inflated prices.
So I have to admit, my heart didn’t exactly jump for joy when I was asked to review the new Grill (54) at the Cedar Court Hotel, Ainley Top.
By the way, the brackets are not the name of a motorway junction, but part of the restaurant’s official name.
I perked up when I went online and read its claim to fame: “The best rotisserie chicken you’ve ever had, juicy, tasty and cooked to perfection – and what’s more it’s served with fries and coleslaw from only £6!”
I am partial to rotisserie chicken and still rue the day when we balked at the expense of the rotisserie attachment for our new oven many years ago.
The beauty of the rotisserie, of course, is that the chicken revolves and continuously bastes itself in its own juices resulting, at best, in succulent meat with a very full flavour.
So two of us went to Grill (54) early one recent Friday evening. The large restaurant was relatively quiet, but several couples and small groups arrived as we dined. It’s a big place to fill, and if not buzzing, it was relatively busy by the time we left.
Grill (54) may have a captive audience – although many of Friday night’s diners came from outside the hotel – but it can hardly be accused of inflated prices if you can eat from £6.
A McDonald’s Chicken Select Large Extra Value Meal (which isn’t that large, believe me) currently costs £5.79 and the surroundings aren’t that nice; the interior of my muddy nine-year-old Volvo can in no way be described as ‘fine dining.’
In keeping with the hotel, the large interior sports a clean, modern look with faux leather chairs, plush banquettes and a zigzag carpet in neutral colours.
Wines ranged from £16.95 for a bottle of Pinot Grigio to £29.50 for a Sancerre, but we decided to wash our meal down with beers, mixing bottled with draft. The no-nonsense menu has images of various farmyard animals on it – a taste of things to come. The chickens are Red Tractor farm assured.
Diners who like traditional offerings will find plenty of options; starters include soup, chicken wings, mushrooms in a garlic and stilton sauce and chicken liver parfait.
We chose the half rack of caramelised ribs in a BBQ sauce (£8) and the cod and salmon fishcake (£7.50).
The ribs were juicy and full bodied and the portion was ample, although smaller than at Firth Street’s Ox and Bone – which was probably just as well, as it took three days to finish those!
I enjoyed the fishcake, which was nicely complemented with Hollandaise sauce, but didn’t think the small portion was worth the money. In contrast, we thought the main courses were good value, so would skip the starter next time.
Between us we ordered the Grill (54) Combo, which was chicken wings, caramelised ribs, rotisserie chicken and a small corn on the cob, as well as a half rotisserie chicken.
Both dishes were accompanied by sauté potatoes (which we swapped for skinny fries) and a small portion of coleslaw.
The wings’ coating was a little on the heavy side, but they were still tasty – as was the rotisserie chicken. It was indeed full of flavour, although it could have been cooked a fraction less for a bit more juiciness.
The burger stamped with the restaurant logo (£10-£12 with sides) looked very good as it arrived at the next table – definitely one to try.
It would be remiss not to mention our excellent waitress who was friendly and smiling throughout; nothing was too much trouble.
Verdict: Worth a visit. With its spacious interior, Grill (54) is a good choice for groups of friends or family as well as couples, and handy for the motorway if they’re coming from out of town.