Disclaimer: I'm American. I am rating relative to my general UK food experiences, not against American restaurants.
I come to Basingstoke on business regularly and am perpetually amused by the places we find. It seems we drive through the middle of nowhere to find these amazing pubs that serve far better cuisine than any bar food I'm used to back home. In general, my travels have found that the really good places require effort to find in the UK. Coal Grill & Bar was a surprising change from these sometimes scary ventures in which I've gotten lost more than once...
This place is either in or near the mall (can't quite recall anymore), so my expectations were low. For any American readers - I was expecting a British version of TGI Fridays or Applebee's so I was just hoping to find something worth eating after a long flight in. To my surprise... it was pretty darn delectable!
We ordered the firesticks - I think we tried all flavors except the tiger prawns and were super happy with our choice. You can mix & match to try different flavors, which makes it fun if you're a bit of a foodie. The blue cheese sauce was AWESOME.
This was in December so there were plenty of holiday parties going on, the place was busy but maintained quality service and all parties were well taken care of. It seemed to be a great meeting place for many.
Thanks to Coal for keeping the fire going for this American traveler!
Coal is a little....meh. It's not necessarily a bad place, but there's not much there that makes it really stand out as a must-visit either.
I eat at Festival place quite a lot, but had somehow always missed Coal. This time though, the BBQ-esque smells and a £10 voucher drew us in.
The decor is nice, very wine bar, and the subtle lighting and seating makes it a nice location for a date.
Sadly, the food wasn't quite as good. My medium rare steak was definitely more well done, my jacket potato was distinctly dry, and the onion rings were a little soggy. Bizarrely too,all the sections of the meal were served up on separate plates. That's a lot of washing up, and a lot of room on the table used up for presentation.
In fairness, the quality of the food was similar to the kind you'd get in a busy Weatherspoons, but at a higher price.
I'd go back if the other options were limited, but I don't think I'd make a point of revisiting.
Coal replaced our kids favourite place to eat (Spur) in February 2008. Providing food of a similar style (grill, seafood, burgers, Pasta & Pizza) we reckon it's better.
The food was hot, reasonably priced and tasted appropriately good for a family restaurant. It's not gourmet, but then I wasn't in my suit and tie.
The decor certainly is. Its moody and cosy, there's plenty of wood (for burning!) and yes, there's coal as well.
The staff were the usual student set you get in the Festival Place restaurants which is no bad thing as they're enthusiastic, great with kids and respectful of Mum and Dad.
Yep, we left a good tip to help them on their way to 1/100000000 if a deposit on a flat!
Thanks Coal, we'll be back
Fantastic place to eat, the food was great, had Prawntini and crab cakes to start oh and garlic bread and then another prawn dish as main which was all delicious and well cooked.
For dessert we had chocolate fondue with cut up pieces of fruit and sweet waffles which was great.
There are lots of places to eat in Festival Place and to be honest we only went in here because the others were so busy and this was half empty, but it did fill up whilst we were there.
The staff are young and the one who served us kept getting waylaid doing other things but the manager was buzzing around doing everything and asked us 3 times if we were ok which was great.
Thoroughly enjoyed out visit and will def go back.
We've eaten twice at Coal now (March and June 2011), having always passed it by previously, thinking it to be a drab and dull dive from it's exterior. We found out how wrong we'd been when we finally gave it a go.
Lovely greeting, and enormous help in settling us at a table which suited us with our little boy and his pram. The place was indeed clean and nicely, if unimaginatively decorated. I would say there are just a few too many tables crammed in there though.
Waitresses have been attentive and efficient. They've been friendly with our little boy too. But I would say they've been missing the sparkle and joy of better waiting staff elsewhere. One was chewing gum. Only four out of five for waiting staff.
The menu is good. We were thrilled to find thick Nutella milk shakes offered. I have twice had their fantastic calzone, though I'd have preferred it served with a varied little salad, instead of a pile of rocket lettuce. My wife has enjoyed their burger and their fish'n'chips. On our second visit, we found an online voucher from a local coupon promotion.
One irritation was their serving of our plate of garlic bread on a raised metal frame. This seems to be a space-saving exercise due to their mass of squashed-up small tables. The frame was rather annoying.
But remove the frames, and a table or two and encourage the waitresses to that top level of sparkle and this place would be perfect for its price level.
Even so, if marked out if five, it does deserve a five. Now our choice of place when eating in Basingstoke.
Good value, just a bit slow
The margarita pizza was very delicious, with the house salad and iced latte(made in request) and some sunshine, made it a brilliant weekend meal.
Lured in by the 20% discount on provision of cinema tickets. Attentive service if the hard sell on the drinks wasn't so obvious. Chose mixed starter for three, on dish coming with only two pieces of bread?! Pet hate was over cooked squid in greasy batter. Wifes chicken was ok my Coal Burger at £8.55 was average in the extreme. Dry Ciabatta, limp lettuce too much onion, Swiss cheese slice! No taste, you get a better burger outside of a footy match for £1.50! Distinctly below average, only slightly mitigated by my discount. Assumed 12.5% tip is cheeky in the extreme. If you want a drink go to a pub, if you want a burger go to Gourmet Burger next door (sadly closed on my visit). I give this place however long it has left on it's lease before it closes, if I owned this I would get some consultants in pronto!
Poor and slow service even when only half a dozen tables of two or three people.
My partner's Pepsi was flat, when a new one arrived after the first one was sent back, it was barely any better than the first; even though the waitress tried assuring us the gas had been changed and was fine.
The Chicken Schnitzel was bland and even came with a hair, which the manager tried to assure us was just a Mushroom hair the mushrooms are apparently washed thoroughly, but this Mushroom hair must have got though the washing process to my partners plate.
Been twice in the last month after the places we usually go to were fully booked. Really great service, nice menu and reasonable pricing. Fries portions could be bigger though :-)
An excellent restaurant. Food was good and service efficient and friendly. We found Coal to be very child friendly. We would visit again.
good service , clean and would recommend. good good at good prices.
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