One of the pains of being “on the road” is the never ending string of Yet Another Chain Restaurant with the same old same old. Only made tolerable by the fact that trying something “new” can be an utter disaster. Especially some no-name hole in the wall of the local shopping mall.
But, from time to time, one of them is just a stellar experience.
So as a ‘risk taking personality’, I find myself sometimes just picking something that looks unpromising from the outside and “giving it a go”. Most of the time it’s just “OK”. Sometimes it’s a bit dreadful and I’ll bail out back to Taco Bell. Then, from time to time, you find these very surprising places. Things just “click” for me and it becomes a treasured find.
Well, I found one of them yesterday. It’s a little “Fish & Chips” (and more, much more…) place. I grew up with fish and chips, and there are times I just get to wanting some and simply must have fish and chips. Even if it is those dreadful frozen “fries” and industrially packaged frozen fish patties with that choking tartar sauce on the side. (How folks can eat tartar sauce when there is Malt Vinegar and Salt in the world is beyond me ;-) but I digress…
At any rate, I’d got the hankering for Fish and Chips and the sign SAID “Fish & Chips” so, well, in I went.
I think you will agree that at first glance it doesn’t look like a whole lot:
Upon walking up to the window, it becomes more promising. A variety of foods on the menu, posted in the window. A selection of lunches in the $5.99 range. Several sizes of fish and chips. Then, off to the right, was a photo of a meal that was very familiar to me. “Sunday Roast”. Meat, mashed potatoes, roast vegetables and peas & carrots, Yorkshire Pudding. Gravy. But the note said something like “$11.99 – Sunday from Noon to 4 pm only”. Yesterday I went in and had the fish and chips. Today I went back for the “Sunday Roast”. It is offered in chicken, beef, and lamb. I love lamb… It’s a bit hard to find in America in general and in this part of Florida in particular. I had the lamb.
So back at yesterday…
When I first entered, I was a bit reticent. It was sparsely furnished (8 or 9 tables of utilitarian character, a ‘take out’ counter with a few chairs for waiting, a display case for more goods, a small shelf of specialty UK foods.) I was one of just a couple of folks in the place. But almost immediately I was greeted with a hearty “Welcome!” and in an accent from England. Up near the Scottish border on the Eastern side, I think. A bit broader and richer than Mom’s accent, but familiar all the same…
I said “Fish & Chips, please” and was immediately impressed by a selection of choices of fish… None of this “frozen fish patties” of mystery ‘white fish’ here. Haddock (which I chose), Cod, or Tilapia (widely farmed here). To make a long story short, after a brief wait I got a very generous chunk of fish with homemade batter, fried to perfection, on a generous bed of “chunky chips” like we used to make at home. Whole potatoes, peeled, and cut into finger sided (or thumb width, if you have small hands ;-) chunks. Neatly cooked through, but without dry or burned surfaces. Slow fried. Served with a great, authentic, Malt Vinegar. You can get fish and chips from about $5.99 to $9.99 (for the multi fish platter, though I only ordered the one chunk of one kind). I had an endless glass of Ice Tea with it. Just a perfect platter of Fish & Chips. They are now my “go to place” for fish and chips here.
So, not being content to be stuffed to near rotund, I ordered what I expected to be a small wafer of ‘short bread’ with a square of Cadbury chocolate on top, and add a request for ‘a bit of vanilla ice cream’ to top it. Figured about 2 ounces like most mini-scoups of desert topper. No such luck… I got a bowl about 8 inches across with a chunk of ‘short bread’ in it (the real English kind that is sort of like a very rich cookie) that had a layer of chocolate fused to the surface. About the size of the palm of my hand, and I have large hands… Topped with a very large scoop of vanilla ice cream. I spent the next 15 or 20 minutes working on it as I read the paper (also from England…) that was on offer. All up, it was a bit shy of $20 (mostly from what I think was ordering two desserts, the shortbread and the icecream…) That also includes the local sales tax at, IIRC, about 7% or so.
Today I went back for “Sunday Roast”. The lamb was just delicious. Tender and rich. With peas, carrots, a spot of stewed cabbage, some roast vegetable (either a very sweet mealy turnip or a rich potato, hard to tell mixed with the gravy, but good!). Oh, and about 1/2 litre of mashed potatoes. Well, maybe it just seemed like a half litre, but with the extra gravy served in a gravy boat on the side, it was quite a lot of food. In talking with the owner, who also waits tables, she talked about how they peeled all the potatoes by hand as it gave better results “Not even a machine!”… No instant potatoes here, Luv… Oh, and a nice Yorkshire Pudding. (I was offered a second when I’d finished the first one only 1/2 way through the meal…) I was, and am, “in heaven”. I’d not had “Sunday Roast Dinner” like that since I left home.
As a child, Mum would put a roast in the oven and we would go to Church. Made sitting in the pews past noon all that much the harder… as I’d get hungrier and the minister would ‘run over’ I’d get squirmy-er… On return home, the aroma would fill the house, and we’d have giant portions until we were stuffed. As most days of the week were a bit more “meager”, it was a treat. When I think of ‘life at home’, I often remember “Sunday roast”.
But there is even more to this restaurant story…
There were two kids, about 8 or 10 years old, ‘hanging around’. Seated fairly quietly, finding ways to busy themselves. This is a very family, Family Restaurant. That is almost exactly what I did in the folks restaurant when I was a kid. That the ambiance made it even more “homey” to me is an understatement. I WAS at home. Instantly.
There are only 8 or 9 tables, with wide spaces between them. At an average of about 3 seats each, I make that about 27 customers at a time. There were 3 folks working that I could count. Service was very prompt, and very very pleasant.
OK, I finished “Sunday Roast” and (barely) managed to clean the plate. Feeling a bit “rotund”, but happy. Then the ‘dessert’ question comes again… Being a slow learner, I said something brilliant like “Wasn’t there something with ‘custard’ in the name?” and I’m told “Oh, yes dear, the Apple pie and Custard”. Great, I think. Small slice of pie and bit of custard on it… SOLD!
What comes is another 8 or 9 inch bowl with about 1/6 of a pie in it smothered in about 300 ml of custard sauce ( like a warm unset pudding in American term). Now I expect to be greeted with the typical Sugar Shock on shoveling this into my mouth… But no, it’s very lightly sugared. Once again I’m transported back to old memories. Home made pies where you can actually taste the apples in them, not just a load of sugar. Creamy warm custards, not the cold ‘near jello experience’ of an American custard.
OK, I ask for the newspaper. It’s gonna be a while…
Over the next 20 minutes or so I work my way through the pie… and the paper.
All up, including tax and tip, about $22. Yeah, I could have been out the door for closer to $15 if I had skipped the dessert… With one of the sandwiches I could likely get it under $10 all up. But where is the Saturnalian Excess in that? 8-0
It’s now 3 hours after I started, and I’m still quite happy and full. I can only hope I’m hungry before 6 pm or so, as that about when Galloping Camel and I are due to head out for a local restaurant…
There are also Cornish Pasties on the menu, along with a list of other deserts. Folks at the other table today said “I’ve tried everything on the menu and it’s all good!”. I believe them. From Scones to “mushy peas”, it’s all real and as authentic as you can get. I’ll be working my way through the whole menu, one dish at a time, too. I’m now going to be a ‘regular’. But I think I’m going to schedule desert for an hour or two after the main meal ;-)
Talking with the owner they shared that they came over in 2008, so we’re looking at about “2 years off the boat”. That’s pretty authentic. No, it’s not some fru-fru high end Chefy kind of cooking. It’s way more touching than that… that taste of home. A real home. With Mum and Dad working the kitchen together and kids about. Just the thing for a Road Warrior who has been away from home for too long…
So where is it?
Take I-4 south (west) from central Orlando, exit on Hwy 535 and continue in a general southward direction toward highway 192 (that goes to Kissimmee Florida. Just as you reach highway 192 (just a couple of miles) on the left will be a shopping center. In easy view is a Smokey Bones BBQ and behind and to the right is a Publix supermarket. Hidden from view is “Grandma’s Kitchen”. If you see the Taco Bell on your right at the 192 intersection, it is just a bit behind you on the left… so make a U turn and go into the shopping center…
2925 Vineland Rd. , Poinciana, Kissimmee, FL, 34746
This link is supposed to pull up a map and street view:
But it mostly shows a direct shot of the Smokey Bones BBQ… so go past it for the Fish & Chips, OK?