Address: 7 Scarcroft Road
Average Meal Price: £20-40
Rating: * * * *

Caught between a rather small Sainsbury’s and a ghostly churchyard, Melton’s is an unlikely find. Having been invited out to dinner by a group of London businessmen (they hoped lively female company would shake up their dull corporate lives), we were prepared for a stuffy atmosphere and self-important food.

On first glance, the menu appeared to confirm our pre-conceptions; a bizarre mixture of exotic countries and equally exotic punctuation (“Cannelloni of Whitby Crab – Thai Broth”). However, we warmed to it after being presented with a surprise canapé of thyme and shalott soup served in an espresso cup with exciting multi-coloured, pizza-like bread.

Once minds were made up, the food arrived just as our suited and booted company began to feel the effects of their rather expensive wine, saving us from some awkward conversation. The starters were very well presented and almost too pretty to eat. We ordered practically everything on the menu, making the most of their budget. The only problem was a variation in portion size, resulting in slight ‘order envy’ if you happened upon a small dish. We were particularly impressed with the “Smoked Haddock Carpaccio – Caponata”, proving that blind ordering can be particularly rewarding. However, we still have no idea what it was.

The mains were even better. Although they too were fancy, the portion sizes were very generous – almost pub lunch in size. The “Daube of Beef” (not a clue either) was cooked to perfection, and the roast halibut was exceptional. The restaurant even caters for what it describes as “exceptionally hungry” customers, offering a selection of extraaa vegetables for £2.50.

In the very necessary pause before dessert was ordered, and no longer absorbed in the delicacies before us, we had the chance to take in the restaurant. The walls were covered in attractive paintings of people dining beside the river in full sunshine, surrounded by flowers, contrasting with the otherwise dark interior. Mirrors cleverly gave the impression of space in the small restaurant, making it less claustrophobic and oppressive. Despite the proximity of other customers, the atmosphere was lacking any character and lulls in our conversation tended to result in restaurant-wide deathly silences, occasionally punctuated by sporadic bursts of easy-listening music.

Despite the atmosphere, we were still eager for dessert. Several of our company were sorely disappointed by the heart-breaking news that the restaurant had only one Crème Brulée on offer and absolutely no Bramley Apple Misu (whatever that is). Jo stole the Crème Brulée – quickly regretting the forced chivalry of our friendly Londoners – and everyone else had the “White Chocolate Parfait – Rhubarb Compote”. Luckily, both were exceptionally delicious, so fighting was narrowly avoided.

The dull Wednesday night atmosphere could be a turn off, but the food speaks quality. With starters averaging at £7, mains ranging from £13 to £20 and dessert from £5.50 to £7 (not to mention the wine), Melton’s is perfect for very special occasions… or for when you are not paying the bill

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