Saturday 13 January 1996
It does not require Mystic Meg to see that the squabble over Happy Eater and Little Chef is not concentrated on the quality of cooking, nor is one corporate giant likely to improve roadside catering any more than another. No, leave the huge chains to the "granary" breads, mini-pat butter, UHT milk and take-over wars. My advice to travellers on the A1, the great road north, is to schedule a break at the Ram Jam Inn, near the Oakham turnoff at Stretton (01780-410776). This is the couth face of the roadside restaurant. Children and dogs may stretch their legs in an adjoining orchard. There are fresh soups, say Stilton and celery, grills and salads. There is a bar for passengers, non-alcoholic beers and good strong coffee for drivers, and staff who care. Like Forte, the owner, Tim Hart, is a hotelier. He owns nearby Hambleton Hall. Unlike Sir Rocco, he runs his businesses personally and to a standard he himself would expect. Open 7am-10pm daily. Vegetarian dishes. Meals about pounds 7.50. Major credit cards
One answer to the impossible question "What is your favourite food?" is fish cakes. Light and crispy fish cakes as served at the George & Dragon, High Street, Rowde (01380-723053). Come to think of it, fried squid hits the spot. Fact is, any sort of seafood served here is likely to be good. Add to that the goat's cheese souffles should be very nice. Actually, it is a bit of a feat to go wrong. The owner, Tim Withers, is an able and inspired cook, who, unusually for a chef of his class, is content to run a pub with a plain sort of dining room attached rather than a fancy restaurant. Bar with big hearth, service cheery, wines very drinkable. Restaurant open Tues-Sat 12noon-2pm; 7.30-10pm. Vegetarian meals. About pounds 15-25. Access, Visa, Delta, Switch
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