The Swindonian was fortunate enough to grab a chance to sample the dining experience of the brand new Miller and Carter, Steak house that opened in Swindon last night.
Miller and Who? I know, I was the same when I was offered the chance to eat there. Never heard of them, other than ‘steak house’ there was no other clue in the name. Digging a little deeper this new experience is situated along Drove Road, opposite Upham Road (or to the locals, the old Harvester pub).
Opening a new restaurant is a daunting thing, new staff, new menus and new paint (still drying) and they did the right thing to have an invite only evening on Wednesday 21st June. My invite was for 8pm and the bonus was that all diners were going to be given 50% off all food so they can put the place to its first test.
Arriving at the place was easy, pulling into the car park it was already showing signs of being busy. There did not appear to be much room for many more cars, but I was not parking so did not get to see if there were many more spaces. Hopping out the car, I was able to see the extent of the refurbishment. The building has not changed shape but the fresh lick of paint and the snazzy new sign certainly looked the part.
Going in, I could see that this was a high brow place, there was not going to be a free salad bar that I could help myself and a smart shirt with trousers seemed to be the right dining wear. Amongst the plush new interior I actually thought that this was going to give places like The Weighbridge a run for its status.
Joining a queue, waiting to be seated I was able to look around. There was Wi-Fi, lots of seats and the bar looked nice. A quick flick through the menu and £8.00 for a G&T set the stance for this place and I suddenly fancied a pint. Be warned there are loads of lagers on tap but only 1 ale, first little niggle.
Being seated the dining area is actually well laid out. There were tables and booths for larger crowds, the decoration and the smart looking table settings added to the feel of the place. The server was polite and left me with the menu.
It all looked very impressive, I could already taste the rich food and I could see the prices matched. I settled for scallops for starters and a fillet steak for mains with half a lobster to make a surf and turf combo, good job it was all half price.
3 scallops came and the presentation was amazing, tucking in however was a disappointment. The scallops were over cooked and rubbery. Still I ate them as I hate wasting food, as I was willing to give this new place a break I tried not to let it tarnish my view. The plate was cleared away once it had settled and next came the steak. I requested it to be medium cooked with a bearnaise sauce, it came out followed by the lobster.
It looked all so impressive and I am surprised I held off long enough to take a photo. Digging in, the first bite of steak was perfect, juicy, tasty and tender. Then it all went down hill. The lobster was stringy and chewy, the chips overcooked and then the worst thing happened my steak started to bleed. It turned from a medium cooked steak to a rare the further I went through it.
The waitress came over and after pointing this out to her, she offered to recook the steak but with only a third left there was no point. She said she would tell the chef about the lobster but had no other comment.
After the poor starter, followed by a badly cooked steak, things were not looking good. These guys say they cook on expertise and passion, not on this occasion they didn’t.
After complaining about the badly cooked steak, the lobster and scallops I was visited by the manager. He was very polite but seemed a little out of his depth. He tried to explain the situation, which I fully understood, with the trail dining night but to get cooking a steak so wrong, in a steak specialist restaurant was a little too much.
His apology was a free desert and being offered the menu again, the only option was the banoffee at £6. When it came, it was on a huge plate and in the centre, this beautiful looking desert. I was hoping that this would make up for all the things that had gone wrong.
Grabbing the spoon and sinking into the banana top, I pulled out a great looking spoonful. Eating it was the final disappointment. There was very little caramel. No actual sticky, sweet, brown, gooey mess that sticks everything together that is in a normal banoffee pie.
Again as an offer of free food was not to be missed, I did finish most of it off but the shine had well and truly been lost.
Then the bill came and the 50% discount had been made to the bill. I would have felt very aggrieved to pay full price for the meal and the experience I had. There is potential to improve, but I was left wondering if I would be willing to pay full price for that steak at £25 plus the extra £8 for the lobster if they got it right the next time. For the full dining experience my total would have been just under £50.00 (including a drink).
So Miller and Carter looked great, had a great menu and the food looked good, but eating there is a different story. I genuinely hope that these are only teething problems with the kitchen getting their timings and preparation right when they open for real.
The staff were great, polite and clearly struggling on their first night on the job, again over time I hope this gets sorted. However coming away from there, I think something seriously will have to change there before I go back and pay full price.