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Stone Revisited

August 8, 2012

I first wrote about Stone pizzeria in Kingston, Surrey, last September (click here for original post). It was one of my early posts and one of my very first restaurant reviews. I’d chanced upon it while shopping in Kingston and said its lunch deal was a good bargain compared to paying the same amount or more at a sandwich/coffeehouse chain for a sandwich and drink. I was a bit surprised after all this time to receive a very long comment on the post yesterday from someone who had ordered a takeaway from Stone and not been happy at all. Of course feedback is important and as I hadn’t been back to Stone since writing about it, it seemed right to approve the post. I thanked the reader for the update but then was surprised that the ‘conversation’ continued with more long comments. In the end, I only left the original comment and my first reply: I thought that was enough for my readers and talking about a cheap lunch in Kingston didn’t justify a long discussion on the blog. Nor was the strong and persistent recommendation of Jamie’s Italian by the commenter something I wanted to sanction. I don’t think much of Jamie’s. When I first went to the one in Guildford – one of the first to open I think – you had to queue to get in as they had a no-booking policy then and that was part of the fun. I thought the food good compared to similarly priced Italian chains like Pizza Express, Strada or Carluccio’s, and a bit different. However, in my opinion it’s lost its way. I had a terrible meal at Jamie’s Italian in Kingston a year or so ago; my son’s pasta dish was so awful it was almost inedible. I still occasionally go to the Guildford one as it’s a convenient halfway meeting point with a friend, but I think it’s overpriced and not that great. I’d rather go to Strada or Carluccio’s.

What I’m writing here is less a review (though I did go back to Stone today in the interests of my blog to check it out), but what a blog is about. I’m not a Michelin person; I’m not Jay Rayner or some other well-respected restaurant critic. Writing the blog is my hobby – I don’t get paid (other than the occasional free meal, dessert or glass of wine after writing a review by a grateful and friendly restaurateur or cafe owner – I never let people know in advance that I’m coming and plan to write about them). I may not get paid but I most definitely take what I write seriously. I am, after all, very serious about food, wine and travel, which is why I write the blog. I’m serious about good service whether it be in a small cafe or a posh restaurant. If I recommend a place I really, really want anyone who follows it up to let me know if they like it too and if not, why, because often a review is based on one visit. The blog is about sharing. Sharing my passion for good food and travel. It’s great fun to share and in the sharing I’ve gained a lot of knowledge, friendship and fun. However, there’s only so much seriousness that’s appropriate. It is, after all, just a meal, just a cup of coffee, just a pizza … just a blog.

A review can only ever be an opinion; even the professionals – who supposedly know it all – will often differ considerably in their view of a place. Who hasn’t followed up a good review in a guide or newspaper and thought, Why on earth did they think it was good? However, one wants an informed opinion and I claim no expert knowledge, so I only write about things I feel I can claim a reasonably informed opinion about, like whether the Tiramisu is good or not. And if I’m jumping into an experience as a complete novice – then I’ll share that with you; I won’t pretend to know all about it.

Well, I don’t want to put anyone off letting me know whether or not you like a place I’ve reviewed because I see exchanging views and experiences as a vital part of the food blogging experience. In fact, I wish more people would come back and let me know how that restaurant was; that coffee; whether my recipe worked out OK. But sitting here, I’m wondering why on earth Stone came in for such strong criticism. I only ever said it was a good cheap lunch. I do try to make the context clear in a review. I checked back … I never said Stone was worth a journey; I just said I’d rather have pizza there than a sandwich from somewhere like, say, Pret a Manger … and the pizza is probably cheaper!

However, to show you how serious I am about what I write, and how I value the opinion of followers, I headed back to Kingston today and sat down in Stone for another of their lunch deals: £6.95 for a pizza (choice of 3) or pasta (choice of 3) and a soft drink. Well, really, unless the pizza is terrible, that has to be a bargain. I suppose a more diligent food blogger would have chosen pasta (since pasta was the thing criticised), and I promise you I thought about it, but I didn’t fancy pasta this lunchtime so I had pizza again.

The french windows were all open and there was a nice holiday feel to sitting almost in the open looking down one of the pedestrian streets. The service was exceptionally friendly and efficient; they seemed to know that if you were ordering the express menu you weren’t there for a long, leisurely lunch. The sparkling water – part of the deal – came quickly; I could see my pizza being put in the wood-burning oven and soon it was on a plate in front of me. And it was good. We’re not talking Naples here and the wonderful Matteo pizzeria, but it was a good pizza.

Looking at the takeaway menu on the website (as the unhappy commenter had had a takeaway), it does seem more expensive and I’d agree that £5.75 is a lot for a side salad. Side salads were £4.50 in-house and though that’s not cheap either compared to other places, they looked pretty big as they passed. I’m not going to make a special journey into Kingston to eat at Stone but I’ll certainly be going back whenever I happen to be in Kingston at lunchtime and want a quick, cheap meal.

3 Comments
  1. Linda permalink

    Will certainly have a look at Stones, thank you

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  1. Lunch on the Run: Stone – Kingston upon Thames « thesinglegourmetandtraveller

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