There are two dining options when visiting Basingstoke Hospital; Costa Coffee, where the paninis take so long you’ll be dead and buried by the time you’re served them, or the flagship restaurant ‘Restaurant’. During a two-day stint visiting my dear old Mum I opt to experience the latter in all its glory.
The dining room is large with plenty of natural light and it’s also meticulously clean, which is reassuring. Tables are, however, tightly packed together, meaning private conversations are unlikely. The clientele is a mixed bag; with equal amounts of NHS staff and patients/visitors. On one occasion I unknowingly sit in an area reserved just for staff which feels much classier – there’s even a garden – just walk in with confidence.
For my first visit, at lunch, I go for sausages, chips, and onion gravy. My server for the sausages (you help yourself to chips, wahey) is a sweet little thing who calls me ‘babe’. There’s confusion on the tills when the lady has to be shown by a nurse which way round to scan my can of Coke, which is a touch worrying.
The chips are those wide ones, where you get equal measures of crisp and soggy. After a sprinkle of blue sachet salt (one is more than enough) they’re passable. The sausages have a dark interior, like that of venison, although I’m not entirely sure the NHS budget would stretch to such luxuries. They are also devoid of flavour.
Back again, I go for the veggie option of mushroom stroganoff with roast potatoes. This isn’t bad y’know. I mean, you can hardly go wrong with mushrooms, of the button variety FYI, in a creamy sauce. The roast potatoes need salt, this time two sachets, but they’re comforting in a beige and bland kind of way.
A top tip when dining in ‘Restaurant’ – don’t visit between lunch and dinner, as choices are somewhat limiting. My gentleman companion and I go for the full tasting menu and get the sausage roll, with its internal temperature of 800 degrees, chips with a ketchup sachet at 10p a pop, and two slices of pizza. This time, only paper plates are available, which bizarrely have more flavour than the food placed upon them.
My last meal, for dinner, which sees a much quieter dining room, is chicken in a sauce – not sure what sauce, as the flavours don’t let on. It’s the least successful of my meals. The presentation is a bit slap dash and the sauce itself has a strange, pappy consistency. The chicken is at least moist but I do encounter some unwelcome gristle. This time the accompanying chips are a touch undercooked.
All in all the food wasn’t outstanding but I’ve had worse – Norwegian Cruise Lines I’m looking at you – and the dining room is great for people watching. If you happen to find yourself in Basingstoke Hospital, having your life saved for free by the NHS, then you could do a lot worse than a £5 dinner in ‘Restaurant’.
Would we go back? Yes.