Only later would we find that back in 2005, The Telegraph was less complementary about The Lighthouse when Jan Moir suggested, after raising the 'did they have a bad day?' question, that:
I am minded not to be charitable, because the quality of the meal and the basic ineptness of the cooking and the service are unforgivable
We didn't have service issues, and the manager dealt with our complaint appropriately, but the cooking here was of a quality you wouldn't in fact expect from an average university student during his first term away from home; maybe we hit an off day too. Clearly The Lighthouse has its fans, it is rated '87% recommended' on Tripadvisor, but we struggle to see how based on today's performance.
Despite expecting a local seafood bias, the menu is not just all over the shop, it's all over the world. On the mains, Burmese chicken curry sits next to Moroccan lamb tagine which is a step away from Ale infused ratatouille gnocchi with melted mozzarella.
It's like the chef has picked a dish from every holiday (s)he has ever taken and created a giant fusion menu with it. Starters offer chicken liver & blue cheese salad with strawberry dressing, a local crab salad with Marie Rose sauce, or perhaps a crispy duck salad with bamboo shoots & hoi sin dressing. We're at a bit of a loss. We ask the waitress about local fish on the menu, she doesn't know but she does check: the cod and haddock are local, but they are both deep fried for fish and chips offered on the main (we later wish we had in fact picked this instead).
The oysters are the only thing that don't scare us (perhaps they should, for the month does not have an R in it, but that we understand applies to native not rock oysters). Even so, The Lighthouse are unable to supply oyster forks so they're served with a spoon, while the 'shallot vinaigrette' comes not with a fine dice of shallot but big chunks. Whoever did this has no knife skills whatsoever; it's worrying when a kitchen can't dice a shallot.
The mains however were mostly too bad to eat. The Burmese chicken curry had seen the sauce split, either that or they had added additional oil to the plate, so your first taste is oil, then uncooked off spices. The other dish, sea bass on an asparagus risotto delivered the worse risotto tasted since we created the blog. My guess is they prepared it for the start of service, after which it had been sitting on heat to maintain temperature, effectively cooking it for 2 hours, resulting in a soft sludge.
On leaving the restaurant, we both had the same idea: head to the newsagent to buy a bar of chocolate to take away the taste of our barely sampled mains. The Lighthouse has been going for many a year, it's listed in the guides even. For us however, seldom have we experienced so little skill on a plate and on the way home, we considered that this might be the worst meal we have recorded for the blog.