“As much gravy as you like” says the Sunday lunch menu at The Cuckoo... which is just as well as it was pretty much the only way the roast beef on my plate was going to get eaten.
And the turkey on my wife’s plate too for that matter.
The menu talks the talk: “28-day aged roast sirloin of beef, served with Yorkshire pudding, ruffled roast potatoes, honey and thyme roast carrots, parsnips, seasonal vegetables.”
Sadly it doesn’t walk the walk.
“It might be medium rare” suggested the staff member, a little optimistically, when I asked how the beef was served. Try well done. Minimum.
That said, with the gravy, it tasted fine. So too did the roast potatoes, even though they were very soft and a little burnt. Maybe it was the fat they were cooked in?
The parsnips and cabbage were ok, the carrots were a rare treat, as was the horseradish, but as for the Yorkshire pudding, words fail me. As flat as a pancake, with a not disimilar taste.
The turkey roast lunch (£10.50 compared to the £11.50 roast beef) was a carbon copy, with the meat even drier - as if it had been left keeping warm and had curled up around the edges.
Disappointing, especially as the venue has so much going for it. It oozes olde worlde charm - there was even a real fire roaring - it is cozy and generates a great, if a little noisy, atmosphere.
And the service, starting with the warm greeting at the door, was friendly and helpful throughout.
The tip was fully deserved.
Back to the food, and I was more impressed with the children’s meals (£5) - a simple but reasonable margherita pizza which was served with vegetables rather than chips, at our request, was a winner.
That was bettered by a cod and chips which, in the circumstances, I would have been happy with; fluffy white fish and a crisp batter. The chips (frozen) were well cooked, golden with a little crunch, and even the peas had a nice taste about them.
The kids were the real winners, two scoops of vanilla ice cream (£1) in one corner, and a chocolate brownie with ice cream (£1) in the other greeted with glee.
To be fair, I did enjoy my carrot cake cheesecake (£5.50) - a nice moist base and great vanilla taste on top - while the coconut milk sorbet (£5.50) was moreish and begging to be finished. A shame about the fresh strawberries on top that just weren’t ripe - far too green. Why bother?
It is a popular, lively, busy place, the service is a credit to the staff and there is fair amount of care and attention paid to the presentation of the dishes, which makes the poor excuse for a roast dinner served up all the more baffling.
It is a Vintage Inn, but lunch for me was anything but a vintage.
Brad Barnes dines at The Cuckoo at Alwalton, Peterborough. Tel 01733 239638 or www.vintageinn.co.uk.