Thursday, 6 September 2012

Smartbox: Table For Two...

A while back now I was given the opportunity to review a 'Smartbox: Table for Two' voucher. Me and Si have been trying to find the perfect time to redeem it, what with the distance of the locations, work and everything else. The voucher could be used in 100 restaurants across the UK and was valid until the 31st December 2013. We live in the West Midlands, where there are five restaurants we could have chosen from (Coventry, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Brierley Hill, Shrewsbury and Hereford), so we chose the nearest one to us in Brierley Hill, as it was quite easy to get to and wouldn't cost us a fortune (we don't drive). We decided to have a night away, which was lovely to be honest and we were really looking forward to having a nice meal. The restaurant in Brierley Hill was Faradays Restaurant, which was part of the Copthorne Hotel (lovely chain of hotels). So we decided to stay at the hotel for the night, where the restaurant already was...perfect!

With any Smartbox voucher, you receive a box with the voucher in and a glossy booklet, which states all the experiences you can choose to redeem, based upon whether you have a culinary, well being, activity or escape Smartbox. These vouchers are available to buy for many countries around the world, so it's not just the UK, which is fab! So, in terms of the glossy booklet I received with the table for two Smartbox, it gives a brief description about each restaurant available, gives you practical info, for example whether the restaurant has wi-fi, car parking facilities etc. It also tells you what is on-site at each restaurant, for example a bar/lounge. It tells you the opening times of each restaurant and gives you brief instructions as to how to get there. It also tells you what the voucher entitles you to at each restaurant. This is different for each restaurant, the one we chose allowed us to have a three course meal each, some also offer a glass of wine, a cup of tea/coffee etc. Lastly, it gives you booking details, so you have contact info that will allow you to book your reservation and redeem your voucher. You have to fill in a few details on the voucher enclosed within the box, for example name, address, the restaurant you have chosen etc. Some restaurants will require the codes on the voucher to be relayed over the phone, others will just ask you to bring the voucher along with you...that's what we had to do. It does say within the box that it is best to book in advance, but we decided to go at the last minute (as Si had a few days off work), so we decided last Sunday (2nd Sept 2012) to ring up and try and book for the Monday (3rd Sept 2012). Our reservation was accepted and so we went on our merry way on Monday. I think it is probably to do with the day you want to go in terms of booking in advance.

There isn't a price on the voucher, all it said for the restaurant we chose was that we were entitled to a three course meal each. Simon obviously said we had this voucher on the phone when we rang and booked, so when we arrived the lady who greeted us mentioned our voucher and we chose our seat. She provided us with the general a la carte menu and then the set menu, along with the bar menu in-case we wanted bar food like burgers etc. We gathered we were aloud to mix and match with our three course meal, so we spent a few minutes deciding what we fancied. The food consists of British and international cuisine and the ambiance is warm and inviting. We sat on the bottom part of the restaurant where you can overlook the canal and see the bars that sit on the opposite side of the canal, it really was a nice, relaxing setting.

After a while we had decided what we wanted but thought we would just double check because although we knew we had to pay for our own drinks we didn't want to over order what we were allowed to eat (we weren't that sure whether we could mix or match from the menu's and the prices were different) and end up paying quite a lot more than what the voucher actually allowed us to have. We probably wouldn't have been thinking this if I hadn't overheard another couple who were taken to their table by the same waitress as us. The waitress told them that their voucher entitled them to three courses, where they could choose from the set menu or if they wanted food from the a la carte menu, they were allowed up to the value of £20 each. So then this got me thinking of what we were entitled to with our voucher. Hence me asking her just before we ordered (as she didn't say anything like that to us when we sat down). She said she thought the voucher was up to the value of £60 between us, but she wanted to check to make sure. When she returned, she said it was up to the value of £59.95 between us. We thought this was a strange amount and why not just round it up but upon looking at the Smartbox website, we saw that to purchase the voucher it is £59.95, so that's where the limit of what you are allowed to order comes from. So it's not as simple as just ordering any three course meal that you like, if you don't want to pay extra, keep your eye on the price of what you are ordering :-).

We managed to have three courses each. We don't usually have desserts when we have a restaurant meal, but we had money still to spend and you could only spend it on food, so we thought why not and ordered desserts aswell. They were pretty nice to be honest!

I had a tomato and basil home-made soup with warm bread for my starter and Simon had a cold meat platter. I always love having soup for a starter and you could tell it was home-made and very hot, it took me a while to eat it. It was really thick and wholesome and the bread it came with was lovely and warm. Si's cold meat platter consisted of a leafy salad, some brown bread triangles, turkey, parma ham, salami, chorizo and beef. He enjoyed the range of different meats, but enjoyed the turkey the best. We waited about ten mins from when we ordered for our starters.

Our main meals consisted of grilled chicken with a creamed leek, cheese, onion and chive sauce with steamed broccoli for me and haddock with Indian spices, hand-cut chips, masala dip and a side chopped salad for Si. I thoroughly enjoyed mine, the sauce was so cheesy and creamy which is right up my street and the chicken was juicy, mmm, it's making my mouth water thinking about it now ha, ha. I am also not usually a fan of broccoli, but the steamed broccoli I had was really nice, tasted fresh, and had a nice bite to it. I had a couple of stems of broccoli, but I probably could have eaten more it was that nice. Si also enjoyed his main, he said the fish melted in the mouth and the chips were really moreish. The spices on the fish weren't spicy hot, which he usually likes, but they were flavoursome spices, so I thought that was worth mentioning, for those that want to try the fish but are worried about it being too spicy. I also had some beer battered chips as a side dish to my meal. I love beer battered chips, chicken, onion rings etc, so was looking forward to these. However, they were a little too oily for me. They were ok to start with, but after a couple I could feel that I was started to feel a bit 'bleurgh' so to say, cause I could taste the oiliness. You could taste the beer, but the oiliness overpowered this. I was umming and ahhing over these, the butter mash or the garlic and rosemary new potatoes for a side dish, so I wish I would have gone for another option now, but oh well, at least I tried them, they just weren't to my taste. There was only probably about 6 or 7 chips within the bowl, but they were big, home-made, home-battered ones, so they were 'enough'. The amount of food you get is that what a more upmarket, posher restaurant might serve to you. So it's not like a pub meal where the chips and piled up and you can't see the edges of your plate, it is more like fine cuisine. We felt that it was enough food though, it filled us up :-). I'd say we waited about 20-25 mins for our mains after our starters, which wasn't too bad considering the food is hand-cooked/made and not just shoved in a microwave.

                           My Chicken.                                                        Si's Fish.

My Beer Battered Chips.

Lastly for dessert (excuse the no pictures, we were in deep conversation playing a game when they arrived, so it completely slipped my mind to take a pic at the time :-/ oopsy!) I had a Bailey's cheesecake with cinnamon cream and Si had baked Alaska with toffee sauce. I said to Si that there didn't seem to be anything 'light' on the menu's for dessert. I'm not a dessert person usually, so if I ever do have dessert it's usually something like sorbet. They didn't have any sorbet though, they had ice-cream but I didn't fancy that. So the Bailey's cheesecake was the only other thing I thought I'd like and not feel sick after eating. It was actually quite 'light', the cheesecake was lovely and creamy although I wouldn't be like 'oh yeah, this really tastes like Bailey's'. The cinnamon cream was lush and there was a mango and strawberry coulis sauce swiped on the side of the plate, which was nice aswell. There were also some little bits of fruit (strawberries, slices of kiwi and slices of orange) on the side which I enjoyed. Simon also enjoyed his dessert, he said it wasn't like a baked Alaska he had had before, but that doesn't mean the other baked Alaska was right...were his words! He said the top bit was more like meringue than cake, but the ice cream inside was lovely and the toffee sauce was even better. I'm a fan of toffee sauce to be honest, I like the toffee sundae's from McDonald's...just to change the subject ha! We ordered our desserts after our plates had been cleared from our mains, whereas we ordered our starters and mains at the start. We waited about 10 mins for our desserts after ordering.

The presentation of all of the food was lovely. Excuse some of the pictures, because these were taken after a couple of bites, so the presentation doesn't look as nice as it did when it first came to us. You won't be disappointed though and we didn't have any dirty mark or hair mishaps, so all was good!

We didn't add up what we had to the penny, as we didn't mind it going a little bit over and we knew the average amount of what we had. Our starters and mains came to about £24-£25 each, so that left us with about £9 between us for the desserts which was plenty. I have looked on the restaurants website to see if I could link the menu's we got to look at but they aren't the same. When we asked for the bill we only had to pay for our drinks, so we knew we hadn't gone over the voucher amount with the food. The staff were really nice and friendly, always on hand asking if you wanted more drinks, were ready to order, to ask for the bill etc. We didn't have to wait very long for anything so overall it was a lovely experience and the customer service and friendliness of the staff added to this.

If we hadn't of had the voucher, two three course meals, one half pint of coke, one pint of coke, one glass of cranberry and lime and a pint would have cost about £70. You get what you pay for though with the food, like I said above it's not microwave food it's home-made, wholesome, moreish food. The hotel is a 4 star and I think the restaurant and food served reflects this. If we stayed in this hotel again we would definitely choose to eat in this restaurant, but it would probably be for a special occasion as two mains would still be about £35-£40, without starters (which we usually like), desserts or drinks. So it's not really somewhere you would go for in-expensive, casual dining, although the bar menu is a little cheaper. The sandwiches are still approx £7-£8 though, with the mains ranging from approx £12-£20.

Check out the Smartbox website for more gift ideas that you may wish to buy your loved ones :-). They have a range of experiences to choose from, at different prices, for a range of locations. With Christmas coming up, this could be a possible gift idea :-).

Have any of you ever bought or received a Smartbox? 

If you've received one, what did you do and how was your experience?

Thanks so much for reading my review, if you choose to buy a Smartbox or choose to go to Faradays Restaurant, I hope my review has helped with your choice!

Gem XxOo

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