Note: This review was published April 29, 2005 in the Rocky Mountain News
By John Lehndorff, Rocky Mountain News
First, let me describe all the things we liked about our dining experiences at Brittany Hill.
The view is incomparable from the dining rooms at this Thornton landmark that crowns a rise just east of Interstate 25. We enjoyed watching the sun set over the foothills, casting a glow on the downtown buildings until the lights of Denver began twinkling.
In the food department, the basket of warm crusty French and other breads was quite nice, as was the fresh pico de gallo that came with the fried potato skins. We also enjoyed the big prawns in the shrimp cocktail ($7.95). The cream of mushroom soup and clam chowder were decent, as was the puffy Yorkshire pudding that sided the prime rib. The filet mignon ($20.95) was tender, well- cooked beef and teamed with properly steamed asparagus.
Next, let me tell you what we didn’t like about our two recent dinners at Brittany Hill.
First impressions are everything. We opened the front door of the restaurant and were hit by a wall of nose-wrinkling antiseptic smell. As we were led to our table, we were told that the eatery had opened in 1978. Judging by the worn exposed wood, faux-Tiffany lamps and chipped bathroom fixtures, the interior hasn’t been updated since then. Fingerprint- smeared windows muted the view.
We started with the Brittany Hill Hot Sampler ($15.95). The hot sauce-soaked “Buffalo-style chicken wings” came with foul, limp celery covered in brown spots and dry, limp carrot strips that didn’t taste like carrots.
The OK spinach and artichoke dip was so severely microwaved that it crusted the outside of the cup. Bland “crab-stuffed” mushrooms were doused with hollandaise that evinced no hint of either butter or lemon. The rock shrimp and calamari were overfried.
For $2.95, diners can order soup or salad. I expected my beer cheese soup to taste like beer and cheese. It didn’t. The seasonal greens salad included nice sliced Granny Smith apple and candied walnuts, but it was doused with obnoxiously sweet raspberry vinaigrette dressing.
Nobody came to our table for a while after that. When our server finally did show up, she greeted us with a “Hi, guys” and didn’t know the soup of the day and couldn’t tell us how the scampi was prepared. She eventually delivered our food without clearing the table first. We felt bad for her. We were one of the first tables she’d waited on in her life after three days of training.
For the main event, the plates were cool to the touch, as was much of the food. The seafood collage ($22.95) presented a creamy, flour-thickened sauce full of a fishy-smelling “melange” of rubbery lobster tail, small shrimp, overcooked salmon and scallops, and mussels we were afraid to eat.
Aside from the fact that the chicken was dry and chewy and the gloppy, brown, salty, packaged-tasting “pan gravy” betrayed nary a hint of lemon or herbs, I liked my roasted lemon herb chicken ($15.95). The garlic mashers were made with gross amounts of harsh powdered garlic.
The relatively tasteless prime rib ($19.95) arrived done medium, not medium-rare, and accompanied by au jus made with bottled bouillon. The best we could say about the overcooked New York strip steak and bay scallop scampi ($26.95) was that although the scallops were rubbery, the steak “wasn’t horrible.”
We watched in horror as our waitress did terrible things to a baked potato. She ripped it apart with several forks before cramming it with lumps of hard butter. It didn’t matter, because the spud’s steam-wrinkled skin enclosed a lukewarm, overcooked interior. It did not taste good.
We tried to drown that memory with glasses of wine selected from the small, overpriced list packed with unimaginative selections. After the waitress showed us a tray of unattractive desserts, we sipped cups of thin, lukewarm coffee, nibbled a recently frozen Key lime pie ($5.95) and scraped the sweet frosting off the mile high chocolate cake ($5.95).
When I returned with brave family and friends, I was hoping the earlier meal had been an anomaly. It hadn’t.
This night we got a waitress with four years of experience at Brittany Hill, but mostly serving at the meetings, seminars and weddings that are the facility’s main business. She ignored us for long stretches of time and brought me white zinfandel instead of red zinfandel. She failed to clear the table and brutalized a baked potato in the same fashion as her predecessor had.
Our starters included fried potato skins ($5.95), made with those dead bakers that were so cold the cheese wouldn’t melt. They were crowned with a flag of desiccated bacon. The curdled white stuff on the plate turned out to be sour cream gone bad.
The Caesar salad was glopped with a mystery dressing and “lemon garlic croutons” coated with cayenne pepper. Some of the seasonal greens were brown. Instead of medium-rare, the domestic lamb chops ($22.95) arrived nearly raw and cold inside. We sent them back, and two perfectly prepared double chops returned on a hot plate.
The acceptable seafood jambalaya symphony ($22.95) contained a wealth of goodies, including sweet lobster, but cayenne pepper overwhelmed the cream sauce. The jumbo Gulf prawns ($18.95) were an oxymoron, with a small number of little shrimp done scampi-style sans garlic.
To conclude, our waitress slapped frozen desserts on the table with a pile of semi-clean silverware and the check. “The boss wants to have a meeting right now and I’ve been here for 12 hours,” she said. She didn’t offer us coffee. The dining room emptied of all employees.
Food, ambience and service as consistently bad as Brittany Hill’s takes practice. A room with a view this good deserves much, much better.
* Grade: D-
* Address: 9350 Grant St., Thornton
* Hours: 11 a.m to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; until 11 p.m. Friday; 4:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. brunch and 4:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday
* Food: American
* How much: $3-$16 appetizers; $16-$45 entrees
* How loud: moderate * Reservations: yes
* Information: 303-451-5151