January isn’t normally a month I look forward to in any way, but so far it’s not been half bad this year. I’ve rediscovered evening and weekends to do stuff – something of a rarity back in December, and tackled the spring cleaning by de-cluttering the wardrobes and cupboards of stuff – swiftly followed by a trip to Ikea to fill the house with more stuff.
I had always intended to take a whirl around the Royal Pavilion ice rink in Brighton during the run up to Christmas but never got round to it in my lurgi-ridden state. So as a treat to cheer us up from the post-Christmas blues, my husband and I visited one evening after work.
I’ve visited the ice rink each year since it began and love the whole experience – running through the maze of potted plants behind the Pavilion, getting cold damp feet queueing at the boot room counter, those first few moments feeling like Bambi on ice but probably looking more like Todd Carty. Then getting into the swing of things and whizzing round the rink to the music, under the pretty neon lights. Leaving our visit til January this year meant the rink had seen a lot of action already, there were lots of grooves carved into the ice which made it a pretty bumpy ride. Nonetheless we came, we skated, we managed to not fall over – result! There was one brilliant guy who turned falling over into an art form, spinning, tumbling, then limbs flailing with enough energy to somehow propel himself back on to his feet – all in one move. He did this no less than ten times at least, what a legend. Check him tumbling in this clip, spot the windmill behind me in the black tshirt at 00:15.
Once our ankles gave out, we headed back to the boot room to get our land legs back and headed into the onsite restaurant for dinner. The restaurant has been operated by some great names in the past including local legends Due South – the former fancy-pants restaurant under the arches of Brighton beach (RIP), then an external caterer last year – Mint I think, who ran a charming apres-ski style experience restaurant. This year the reins were handed over to Jamie Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts. I’m a big JO fan and turn to a couple of his books time after time, and have had nothing but great meals from the Brighton branch of Jamie’s Italian – so what’s not to get excited about? Sadly the restaurant did not live up to the standard I’ve come to expect from the Jamie Oliver brand and it was disappointing to see this opportunity to do something special be completely misjudged.
Our “Fabulous Feast” was a counter-served cardboard box over-stuffed with roast pork, rocket leaves and allegedly some bubble and squeak – not that I could vouch for that as the box was such a squashed up mess I couldn’t identify everything that was in there. Two boxes, a beer and a lemonade came to £23. A cheeky tips jar on the counter made me balk. Shall I tip myself for queueing for my food, collecting my own plastic cutlery and clearing my own table? Cheek. The food itself was ok, but just ok. The roast pork was lovely when I managed to make some room in the box to separate out the fat from the meat. I know some folks like slurping up the strings of flabby fat off roast pork belly but I am not one of those people. Dessert sounded nice on the menu with chocolate and chestnut brownie on offer, but based on our disappointing dinner we decided to skip it.
I’d like to give the team from Jamie Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts the benefit of the doubt and assume they had no experience of the previous wonderful couple of years of this pop-up restaurant, as there was a high standard to meet let alone try and excel. However taking an outdoor festival catering concept and sticking it in this unique space was a bad move and judging by the lack of customers whilst we were in there (around 10% of the tables were occupied) it looks like it really didn’t pay off. The experience was cheap, whilst unfortunately the bill was not.
Back to the ice rink, and for all you budding Torvil & Deans and Todd Cartys alike who didn’t get round to a Christmas skate, the rink remains open til 24th February 2013 so get on down there in the next few weeks! Skip dinner though.