We decided to go to the Carlton Arms as it had a car park and sold real ale (perhaps not a good combination) but for different members of the team it made sense as it is on a main bus route and well serviced so there’s ready access from the train station.
Pre-booking was easy and a menu was available beforehand for all to choose from. The menu itself was varied with hearty fare available. Vegetarians are catered for and if special dietary needs are pre notified these can also be met in an unfussy way.
When we arrived on the Friday night at 7pm the table was reserved and all went very smoothly with a pleasant friendly greeting.
Food orders were taken prior to our arrival as we decided this might make it easier for the kitchen staff. During our short wait for starters we could review the ale list - Humpty Dumpty Swingbridge Stout 4.0%, Oakham JHB 4.2%, Hopback Summer Lightning 5.0%, PotBelly Beijing Black 4.4% and a Cottage beer along with Old Rosie cider - all beers sampled were in excellent condition. As our starter course came out the highlights were the goats cheese tart and the deep fried brie – these were light and perfect as starters and promised of more to come. The main courses were generous and well cooked and all enjoyed them thoroughly – not pretentious cooking but honest, flavoursome and filling. For those of us with any room left there were assorted deserts but most only found room to try the cheeseboard – this had a varied selection of cheeses but my favourite was a lovely Stilton, creamy but not too strong, and heaps of real butter to go with the biscuits.
As we all sat relaxing our full stomachs, mince pies, tea or coffees were offered and a plate of mints – perfect.
All service was pleasant and unhurried but efficient with never too long a wait.
After the meal the members of our party who were left went into the public bar to play pool on the two tables. Also on the night a small band of musicians was playing acoustic Irish folk music which couldn’t be heard from the other bar but was a nice accompaniment and finish to a pleasant evening, along with a few more ales of course.
Sometimes the proof of a good time is felt later on and maybe this is proven in this instance as members of the group I went with are still talking about the evening or telling others about it – good news can travel fast and if you have read this to the end then maybe it has travelled a little further still.