OK, so what's the first thing that springs into your mind when someone says 'Burton'?
Is it Marmite? The salty, yeasty exudate (Stop making your own jokes up at the back) beloved of those with anaemia and those vegetarian types who still hanker after a cup of reviving Bovril but can't be bothered with all the buggering about with flying saucers and Nazis.
Or perhaps do you think of Burton's most musical son, singer, songwriter and pro-smoking activist Mr Joe (Well, Dave) Jackson? - What do you mean 'Who?' He did that song in the late 70's "Is she really going out with him? Is she really gonna..." Erm... Yeah, well that's pretty much all I can remember myself, as it happens.
No, I guess that anyone who's heard of Burton would think of beer, which is understandable I suppose, they've been breweing beer there for at least 300 years you know. Wherever you go in Burton, you're never more than a deep inhalation away from a brewery, especially if it's a hot day.
But from now on, when anyone says Burton to me, I shall initially think of the very splendid evening that I had on Friday. (18th. July 2014)
I don't know about you guys, but I think Groupon is great. It can let you try things that you might not ordinarily, either because of cost or because you didn't know they actually existed in the first place. It's also handy for helping you think of original places to take your wife on your wedding anniversary.
I must admit to never having heard of 99 Station Street before, despite knowing Burton pretty well after a protracted period of 'Working' for the Council. It's but a mere hop, skip and a jump from the railway station (as you could probably have deduced from its name - I don't think you're going to need a huge amount of assistance with figuring out its exact address either, it's pretty much exactly what it says on the tin). Although saying that, the venue is only a single-width shopfront, so if you blink, you might miss it like we did the first time, and end up in the Devonshire Arms (Which is no great hardship as they do some great real ales, and I'm a bit of a bumpkin so I enjoy that kind of thing.)
Anywho, we eventually made our way to the restaurant and were greeted by a positively Falstaffian gentleman, whom I think was the owner, who may or may not be called George, who proceeded to show us to a selection of tables, once we had chosen our favourite (Force of habit made me choose the one nearest the door) he relieved me of my suit jacket and took our drinks order. If there's one thing I find uncomfortable about Groupon offers, it's actually telling the person who's serving you that you're only favouring their establishment because you're getting it cheap. I know that they chose to run the promotion themselves, and I know that having my bum, and that of my dear wife, on their higly polished seats was exactly the outcome they'd hoped for, but I still feel like a bit of a cheapskate, it's me, I'm a bit Victorian about things like that.
So, I plucked up the courage and said something like "I should probably infom you that we're here with the Groupon offer." He smiled and replied that he would definitely consider himself informed, with the kind, gentle, voice usually reserved for dealing with someone who had just claimed that he had a giraffe in shoebox, under the table.
The wine arrived in swift order and we selected our starters and mains from their Summer set menu (Not their Somerset menu as I had first thought) I had the Homemade Chicken Liver Pate, served on a curled-up tablespoon that Uri Gellar would have been proud of, whilst the Mehmsahib had the Flaked Salmon, bound with Homemade Mayonnaise and served with Chive Blinis. Both of these were excellent... So excellent that they might well blow the ears off a passing rabbit. After a respectful pause, the main courses arrived. This time, both of us had plumped for the Chargrilled Rump Steak with a Mushroom, Bacon and Red Wine sauce. I took mine rare, (bien sûr) and the current Mrs Dandy chose medium rare. Both were very good. In the interests of a balanced review, I would have to say that they weren't the best steaks I've ever had in my life (Remind me to tell you about the meal I had at The Bleeding Heart in Farringdon one day - There's a story...) But they were still very good, excellent at the price in fact. For dessert we both had the White Chocolate Panna Cotta, which was astoundingly good. In fact, after taking our first mouthfuls, we both stopped and looked at each other with raised eyebrows whilst the creamy effulgence disappeared from our mouths like the after-image of a particularly scrummy dream about ponies. Then we nodded, knowingly, and continued to demolish the rest.
The (I think, Husband and Wife) front of house staff were friendly to the point where I actually wished they were my friends, the food was excellent, the surroundings were understated but stylish and the general dining experience was one which I would repeat with such regularity as would stun a goat, as and whenever finances allowed.
Would I visit 99 Station Street again? Yes, I would.
Would I pay full price for the experience? Yes, I would, in a heartbeat.
"Was there anything you didn't like, you simpering buffoon?" I hear you ask. Well, yes there was... On the table directly opposite from us there were two couples, who were not, I think, on their first bottle of wine. Most of them were amiable enough, except the one gentleman, who carried himself in the manner of a Geography Teacher, or a travelling Radiator Salesman perhaps, he put his opinions forward using a tone of voice that was just on the obnoxious side of vociferousness. He struck me as something of a cross between a loudhailer and Charlie Brown's teacher from the 'Peanuts' cartoon.
So that was it, the only mar on an otherwise perfect evening was nothing to do with the restaurant itself.
If I assigned stars to my reviews, I would give 99 Station Street one more than my normal maximum number of star. So consider it a six... Or an eleven, depending on what you think my maximum number of stars normally is.
99 Station Street
Burton Upon Trent
Tel: 01283 516859
Actually, did you know that a 'Marmite' is a French, earthenware cooking pot?
No, me either.