SWB on Disappointing Dinners

I’m just back from a family holiday in Dubrovnik and the post-trip glow is fading as fast as my tan, especially when I check my bank-balance and have to take deep yogic breaths. Croatia, I’ve since been told, is renowned for being expensive, but I missed the memo and only realized half-way through, after blithely charging drinks to the room at the pool-side bar.

But, if you aren’t heading abroad and think you’ll miss this feeling of being royally ripped off, never fear- take a spin to the Old Inn in Crawfordsburn and enjoy being robbed closer to home.

When I met my friend for a catch-up in back in June, I’d felt feelings of warm nostalgia bubbling up at the prospect of our meal there. In our twenties we used to visit The Old Inn often, popping in for coffee after a coastal walk, or long chats by the foreside at Christmas, our hands cupped around glasses of red wine. Sometimes we’d spot Gary Lightbody, and that would make our night because not only has he a cracker set of lungs on him but he’s a decent sort, is our Gary.

He wasn’t there on this occasion though, and I can only surmise that he won’t be there with the same regularity because he’d fairly fritter his fortune away.

Readers- the prices are EYE-WATERING; enough to make you cough up your cappuccino, should you be foolish enough to fork out £5.50 for a cup. You can try ordering tap-water, but it took me three goes to get a glass delivered to my table.

Menu choices were limited and well, strange. The bar menu was standard fare, but it was all on the heavy side. I know the jet-stream has wandered off-course but I at least wanted to pretend it’s summer, so I wasn’t after a lamb casserole or fish pie.

The A La Carte menu didn’t excite either. I didn’t want veal or duck or smoked mackerel with eel mayonnaise- (would anyone?)

And so I settled for the aubergine curry, after having to ask for the vegetarian menu, which was another disappointment. Tell me this, since when does white asparagus and olive oil potatoes constitute an actual meal? As a menopausal woman, I didn’t feel I should have to ask for eggs on the side to ensure I met my protein target for dinner.

Back to my order. ‘Have you tried it?’ I asked our server, because the whole menu indicated that it would promise much but under-deliver. ‘Oh yes,’ she replied, ‘it’s good, very fragrant.’ Now, she had me at fragrant, because notional creature that I am, I thought of velvety massaman curry with coconut and galangal. Alas, whoever concocted this curry wouldn’t have known fragrant if a stick of lemongrass had speared them in the eye. A bowl of brown gelatinous gloop appeared, the base of which, I can only imagine came from a generic plastic tub one finds in the Asian supermarket. Swimming in the sludge were a few beans and a token amount of aubergine. The key ingredient appeared to be sliced potato. It came with rice, but no little extras. A small portion of poppadums would have livened up proceedings, likewise nan bread, maybe even chutney or raita. The one garnish, plonked atop the rice, was a clump of sodden watercress; that one ingredient a curry should never be without. But I get it, who wants to go off in search of  fresh coriander on a summer’s evening? Bit of a faff, that.

My friend lives in New Zealand now, so when she converted the prices she baulked at the thought of paying over forty dollars for a burger. Instead, she ordered arancini from the list of starters and a portion of fries. It was underwhelming.

We weren’t convinced that a dessert would be worth it’s £10 price tag, but that did mean we were denied sitting on and listening to a fellow patron chortle at loud videos on his phone for another half hour. Maybe this is what Trip Advisor meant when it said the Inn was ‘a playful blend of the old and new.’ At least my visiting friend was treated to some cultural highlights of NI in the summer time, as the bar area afforded direct views of local Orangemen vaping outside the Lodge.

A homely, convivial ambiance has always been the charm of the Old Inn, and is why, I suppose, people keep coming back. But since the change in ownership, and the hike in prices for such mediocre offerings, I can’t see me returning. ‘Trust us, you’ll love it,’ says their website. That’s just one of the many things they got wrong.

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