Lunch at Ego at The Hollybush

A slightly above average lunch from this small chain of restaurants

Rating (?)

At the end of April, we went for lunch at the Mediterranean restaurant, Ego. We'd been meaning to try it for a while, and heard lots of good things about it. We were excited to learn that they had a vegan menu, as we always try to eat vegan meals when we're out where they are available. As it was going to be a Saturday visit, we'd booked a table because we expected it would be quite busy.

When we arrived, we were glad we'd booked. Although it wasn't full, it was very busy and I suspect we'd have otherwise had to wait for a free table. We were greeted swiftly and shown to our table. The woman who was serving us looked understandably confused when we got to our table - there were two coats on the chairs. It turned out that the women on the next table had decided to make themselves at home, and dumped their belongs on another table, rather than keep them with them... When our server politely asked them to move their things, they both scowled at her and us - as if we were in the wrong!

Our server then disappeared to get the menus and shortly returned. We were already aware there was a vegan menu, but it wasn't brought to our table. If you have a vegan menu, why not provide it alongside the other menus? We asked for this and it was brought to us.

One thing we immediately noticed is that, although this is supposed to be a Mediterranean restaurant, there seems to be a heavy focus on Italy - as you can see above.

As we picked up the drinks list, we were asked what we'd like to drink! Give us chance! A little awareness here would have helped her see that we'd not had the chance to open the list yet, let alone pick something. We explained that we had actually just that second picked it up, so we'd need a little longer. The length of time she was gone enabled us to pick what we'd like to drink, as well as what we'd like to eat.

I ordered the garlic mushrooms to start, followed by the vegan paella. For dessert, I ordered the salted caramel and chocolate tart - not vegan I know, but the vegan options were really poor. Anneka ordered the soup of the day, along with a goat's cheese wrap. For dessert she ordered crème brûlée. Our server didn't write down our dessert order, and instead said she'd come back for that. She then took the menus, including the drinks one - what if we decided we wanted another drink? It seemed an odd thing to take, especially given that the other tables still had drinks menus.

Our margaritas arrived fairly quickly, with not only a plastic straw but a two black ones at that. With the countrywide movement to reduce plastic use, this was extremely disappointing. Black plastic is not even recycled by the local council in this area. Additionally, a margarita is not a drink to use a straw with. The salt around the rim is part of the experience, and using a straw removes that.

A short while later, my starter arrived:

Although the description stated 'field and wild' mushrooms, there seemed to be rather more 'field' than 'wild' about this. There were only a few pieces of what we all think of as wild mushrooms. The portion size was decent but, as well all chain restaurants (in my experience) the flavour was poor. You might expect that to be because of the garlic, but no - it was not. The earthiness you'd expect from mushroom was missing, as was the garlic oddly enough. It was a very weak tasting dish, with no balance to what little flavour there was.

Next came the vegan paella:

At first, I thought they'd make some sort of bizarre mistake and just given me turmeric infused fried rice. After all, that is mostly what you can see there, right? It turns out that the vegetables were buried under the rice for some reason, and not mixed through as you'd expect in a paella. (And yes, I've eaten proper Spanish paella in Spain before you ask!) As with the mushrooms, this was a decent-sized portion but lacking any real flavour. The rice had either been fried or over-microwaved, as it was crispy as the edges. The vegetables were a little mushy, and covered in grease. It wasn't vile, but it wasn't good. I pushed the rice and vegetables aside, in order to take a photo of the grease:

As an aside, (as I'm only reviewing the food I ate) when Anneka's main course arrived, it was wrong. Anneka has been a vegetarian for several months now, so you can imagine how she felt when they presented her with a chicken wrap! Given that our server had written down goat's cheese, the lack of attention was really appalling.

A reasonable amount of time passed before our table was cleared, and we were asked if we'd like dessert. We said we would and that we already knew what we wanted, as we'd already stated when ordering. She took or dessert order, and shortly after it arrived. As usual with average places, the dessert lifted their rating every so slightly.

Unlike the other courses, the dessert looked appetising. It was not bad overall - the chocolate was strong and rich, the base was firm, and the ice-cream was, well, creamy. The salted caramel seems to have wandered off however, as neither of us could really taste it. It was the nicest of the three courses we had though, and enough to raise the rating by half a star.

Once we'd finished, our plates were cleared quickly. After that we never saw our server again! There seems to be an emerging trend in the places we visit, whereby once we've finished and are ready to pay, all the staff disappear. We ended up having to wait until someone came to the table behind us before we could pay.

Overall, we found this to be an average place, only lifted slightly by the desserts.

For more restaurant reviews, head over to this section of The Wax Picture!

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