I went to LMDS last week for a recce, and it’s definitely on my shortlist.
The food was OK - not quite as good at steak as I’d hoped, strangely enough (I think they may be economising on the meat to keep prices down, which makes sense). However, it was definitely “good enough” .
Glasses were awful - and warm! So definitely a case for BYO glasses.
The service left a bit to be desired (charming but slow), but I think that can be addressed.
The biggest issue is they like to to do a quick turnaround (i.e. 2 hours). Coupled with the slow service, this makes things a bit tricky. The answer, I believe, is to liaise with Franck (the boss) to make a special arrangement - which may involve additional expense for us to be able to be there from 7 to 10 - perhaps to order food in advance, and maybe (this is a tricky one) to request things like jugs of water and ice. We may also need a bit more table space, which if we’re up-front about it, should be fine.
I don’t really like making restaurants work in ways they’re not familiar with in order to suit our unusual requirements, so that’s why they’re not a shoo-in. When we were there, the bill was miscalculated (in our favour!) but after we corrected it, it was a very reasonable £46/head. I think we’d be looking at £50-£60 if everyone had dessert and a posh steak (rather than bavette). so it’s very good value (as well as being a great location).
However, the website for Oak Bistro worries me a little. There’s a slight sense of “no riff-raff” that makes me think the whole place might be a bit of a 70’s throw-back. That is almost certainly entirely unfair, as I’ve not actually tried it yet. Has anyone been?
One of the safest bets, but probably most expensive, would be Gonville Hotel. I think they’re quite progressive in their thinking (Tesla Destination Charger, anyone?!) and they could even do a private room. Again, I’ve not tried it, and I suspect we’d be paying closer to £100/head all-in.
Another option might be Al Pomodoro, an Italian near the junction. I’ve not been there yet either, but the menu looks promising. Whether they’d be on for corkage or not, I don’t know, but they do seem very friendly and accomodating. My experience with some of the mediterranean type restauarants (especially Greek, for some reason) is that it can be hard to convince them that us BYOing is not a complaint about their wine list!
Another option is Millworks. A bit of a schlep from the station (but far superior to Smokeworks, which is far closer). I like them and thei’re very up for BYO - a bit more per bottle than LMDS, but they do have better glasses!
So there’s my current view. I’m happy to give LMDS a go if that’s a popular option and maybe try the other venues at other times.