Review: Worcester Formal

I’ll admit, we may have a slight bias towards our college, Worcester, but there is no one who can give a better review than two people who have a combined total of over 100 formals at Worcester. Dinner begins with an odd call and response of knocks and bangs between high table and hall staff at the door, followed by the second longest grace in the university. Bread is pre-laid on the table and a fair amount of surreptitious swapping goes on to get one’s favourite type.

The starter was the suspiciously-spelled gratinated fish – as dubious as the name sounded on the menu, it was surprisingly delicious. It was a delightful muddle of sea food, including salmon, cod and scallops, in a creamy cheese sauce, topped by crispy breadcrumbs. As a boneless dish, the fish knife was slightly unnecessary but a pleasant detail.

The braised steak for mains proved thick and juicy yet tender, and the accompanying gravy with mushrooms was rich and flavoursome, with a satisfyingly savouriness. Unfortunately, the sides were rather dull by comparison; the new potatoes were disappointingly bland, boiled and buttered, nice but average. The spring greens were equally fine but boring, and regrettably lacking in the bacon bits promised on the menu.

The dessert was Mango Delice, one of the many types of fruit mousse slices over a thin layer of cake which the Worcester kitchens like to serve up. The delice proved to be smooth and tart, served daintily with a swirl of cream and strawberry slice. It too however was fairly unexciting and missing the intense mango flavour I would have liked. Still, in the warm summer weather, it was refreshingly light and airy.

I have to add the disclaimer that we may be biased in another way; so many Worcester formals have made us expect impossibly high standards. Ultimately, however, this Worcester formal was tasty but boring; the starter was delicious, the steak was succulent but with uninteresting sides, and an uninspiring but “nice” dessert.

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4 stars