Just thought I would reproduce this extra-ordinary photo – Ed.
Today, a respite from the wind and rain. Its actually quite a sunny and warm day around 13 degrees which is not bad at all for January. We decided to go for lunch to the Mendip Pantry.
Francoise asked me if we were going out to lunch, or just to lunch. The former can have awkward connotations without the right context implying you are slightly crazy or not thinking clearly for example ‘ you must have thought I was completely out to lunch when I forgot about meeting you’ . The first recorded use of this phrase was in 1955 and is in the sense of not being there or fully present. Be careful how you use the phrase ‘out to lunch’ when talking about a third party.
The word ‘out’ is used in many creative contexts. You can be out on a limb which means you are very much stuck on your own or out on your ear, or backside when you are kicked out of somewhere peremptorily, you can be out in the middle of nowhere. You can tell someone to come out with it when they are keeping something to themselves, or you can out someone, or even come out, a phrase that is commonly used with revealing one’s sexual orientation.
We have the famous ‘Out, dammed spot’ which was a line spoken by Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. Lady Macbeth was trying to get rid of a spot of blood on her hand after having colluded in a murder and the consequent shedding of blood.
In context however I think it is correct to say that we were out to lunch in other words it was a little bit of a special occasion, something we don’t do every day. Going to lunch is a little bit more commonplace like taking a lunch break or saying that so and so is at lunch. As I warmed, saying ‘he is out to lunch’ can have two meanings.
What is the ideal eaterie?
This causes me to reflect on what constitutes the ideal eaterie. I suppose it depends on whether you want a fuel stop or whether you want an experience when you can relax from the troubles of the day. I am talking about the latter. The Mendip Pantry is a place where we go to once a fortnight and it comes close to what I regard as an ideal place to be so I will try to delineate and identify the reasons.
# The History For some years this was a bakery lovingly tended to by a woman who now lives in Wells. Then it was briefly taken over by a young chat who wanted to turn it into a pizza house and then it was taken over by the current occupiers who have turned it into a very delightful light lunch and tea room with a bakery on the premises. The atmosphere is printed into the walls
# The clientelle. Of the 15 or so people who came in after us for service they were all locals. They knew the servers and the proprietor very well and exchanged news. There was mutual respect. One lady came in with a huge great dane. It was tied up outside and the lady said, it has ‘stopped growing’ now. I don’t know whether this was wishful thinking or what
# The food itself. I love buffet style food when you can see what is available and point to it. We had a vegetable lasagna and a beef lasagna. It was a good thing we ordered it in advance otherwise the days supplies would have gone as indeed we found was the case. We had it with garlic bread and salad. I like to sit facing the road so I can see who comes in and who drives along. May be I am inherently nosy well so be it. Most of the food is prepared on the premises and to me this is a big plus
# The prices. I am reconciled to the fact that you can’t get a decent latte for under three pounds and it’s going towards four pounds now. Although I can theoretically afford it I will not pay over a certain amount for a piece of cake for example I will not pay over £3.50 for a slice of cake whatever type it is. So with the price there is an automatic alarm bell that rings when it’s above a certain level up below that I am quite content as I was in this case. A decent portion of lasagna can be taken away for about five pounds and you can of course heated at home
# The staff there is a world of difference between being served by someone who works by the hour and is a hired helper who may or may not have a connection with the place . Here, the two mainstays, the two ladies, are wedded to the place and dedicated to giving good service so they always go the extra mile and as I told them frequently. This is appreciated.
# The environment. Chewton Mendip appears to be little more than a number of houses adjacent to the main road, which is the A39. Yes, a lot of vehicles go through it but there is no need for them to change gears so it is not that noisy. I park right outside. When parking is difficult I would find that a major turn off.
# The acoustics. There is a tea place near us where the walls are painted with gloss and as a result just being there is like being in an echo chamber. Everything that anyone else says can be clearly heard. I went there once but could not take it. I do want a shred of privacy and in this pantry there is so much noise absorbent material that you can speak quietly without being overheard
# The size of the establishment. Sometimes owners try to cram in too many tables and it does become uncomfortable and cramped. Here, the tables are spread out and are interspersed with a settee or two where you can sit down and make yourself comfortable.
The largest establishment in Europe is a place called Za Za in Bristol which is by the harbor and a formidably big self-service buffet with five nationalities represented. It’s a glorified fuel stop place. During the week you pay little short of 12 pounds for an ‘all you can eat’ lunch. It is more expensive at weekends and during the evening but then they have a greater amount of choice.
# The community mindedness. There are many leaflets about local services and this shows me that this pantry is there not just for itself but to be part of a community. There are also bread and butter items for sale such as bread itself of good quality, milk, cheese, good quality wine and a certain selection of staples.
# Details – This establishment is open from seven am during the week and somewhat later at weekends. If you want to visit it, here are the details of their website. https://themendippantry.com/
Saw them on the roadside (A37). This must be a sunny warm spot. Early for daffodils? maybe not.
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