MICHAEL Winner described the restaurant at The Chester Crabwall Manor Hotel as 'dreadful', the service as 'sloppy' and a particular dessert as tasting 'as if it had come from a newsagent's fridge'.
All of which doesn't alter the fact that the AA has awarded the Conservatory Restaurant two rosettes for its cuisine. So, does it say more about the reviewer - pampered film director of Death Wish fame, spoilt bachelor, too much money?
But I love the fact that Michael Winner is not intimidated by plush establishments the world over. I also love the fact he refuses to wear a tie.
But my husband, P, isn't quite so brave. He wore a blue silk tie with dark blue spots. I thought he looked rather attractive. I hope he thought I did. I changed my earrings three times and eventually decided to wear a cream suit from Coast. These are important considerations when visiting an establishment that the AA has named one of the top 200 hotels in Britain.
But we needn't have worried. As soon as I heard the word 'Weatherseal' spoken at the bar, I knew we were safe sartorially.
'Is it a double glazing conference?' I asked Darren, our waiter.
'Yes,' he said, after some hesitation. He might even have blushed.
But I'm no snob. What is important, though, is the ambience in a restaurant. Sitting in the lounge area, sipping a glass of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc (£18.50 a bottle) and eating complimentary canapés from a silver salver is wonderful stuff, I even felt my eyelashes fluttering in a romantic manner.
But then 'double glazing' Pete and Dave strolled past with their pints, dressed in rugby shirts and jeans.
Oh all right, I am a snob - sometimes. If price alone was the sign of a good restaurant, then Crabwall would take some beating.
Three courses plus coffee and petit fours was a hefty £35 per person - and that was the set menu. The à la carte is around £30 for a main course alone.
The Menu du Marché consisted of four choices for starter, four for main and a separate vegetarian menu if required.
P chose pressed duck and orange rillette with Melba toast and fennel relish to start.
Not much tastier than a classy paté, I'm afraid, but the relish was very good.
My char-grilled vegetable tian with goat's cheese and basil was art on a plate, but I couldn't taste any of the flavours associated with char-grilling. The veg were fresh, but flaccid.
I would have liked the fish for main course, but P got there first.
Two pieces of roasted monkfish loin sat on a bed of pea and lemon risotto, looking and smelling as if they had just leapt from the sea, complete with the port wine glaze. In the interests of a well rounded review, I had more than a couple of mouthfuls. The monkfish was lovely, but the risotto was too cloying for the delicate flavour of the fish.
My breast of chicken was perfectly acceptable and the leek and spinach fricasee accompanying it a good combination but as I ate mine and my husband's food, I found myself trying to justify the prices.
By the time we'd added the cost of the wine and a modest tip, the bill came to £100. What does the average diner expect for that?
I'd say they expect as much as Mr Winner, and for those of us not used to paying London prices, perhaps more.
There was no flourishing of napkins on laps and no topping up of wine by solicitous waiters.
But the service was friendly and a party of four next to us seemed to be having a lovely time, although the only other guests in the restaurant, didn't say a word to one another all evening. And I don't think it was because they were intimidated by their surroundings.
In my opinion, disappointment comes when achievement doesn't match expectation. That applies the world over - whether you're taking your GCSEs or going out for a meal.
Crabwall Manor is a discreet establishment; the Windsmoor of restaurants; a venue where you end up whispering throughout the meal.
But who eats at these places nowadays, apart from the corporate diners of the double glazing world?
Frankly, if Crabwall wants to compete with other restaurants in Chester, charging half these prices, the food should be stunning. Michael Winner was harsh, but dilute his words and they have a ring of truth to them.
And finally the puddings. The berry and brandy snap basket was indeed straight from the fridge, the edges of the chocolate shavings had long ago blurred into the fruit; the strawberries, redcurrants and blueberries drenched in a ridiculous amount of sugar.
I was disappointed. Perhaps I expected too much?
Address: Chester Crabwall Manor Hotel and Restaurant, Parkgate Road, Mollington.
Telephone: 01244 851666
The Conservatory Restaurant is open 7-9.30 every evening, although most Fridays and Saturdays tables are available for residents only.
Price: Dinner for 2, £100.
Best thing: Canapés in the lounge area
Worst thing: The desserts
Would suit: Sales executives on generous expense accounts.