Let me first explain that my low two-star rating is as a pub and not a restaurant, which is what they clearly aspire to be. Here’s the reason why.
I used to visit this pub fairly regularly with friends when it was a proper pub. After it changed hands we would all too often find that although many of the tables were unoccupied when we arrived (about 5pm), most had ‘reserved’ written on them leaving nowhere, or limited places, to sit. The last straw was a year ago when there was nowhere to sit at 5pm, as despite most tables being empty they all had reserved written on them. It was unanimously decided that this was not the way to run a pub and we decided to go elsewhere in future (presumably we are custom they would not want to lose as we would invariably have 5 or 6 pints each between 5 and 9pm, invariably with a bite to eat during that time).
After a year we thought it worth another try. Sadly it was exactly the same. We arrived just before 5pm to find plenty of unoccupied tables, but upon investigation every one had ‘reserved’ written on it. I complained to the barman and asked (rather tongue in cheek) if a booking was required simply to sit and have a beer. “Might be as well” was his reply! Surely that is not the way a pub should operate, particularly as I understand that there are designated dining areas in the basement and on the first floor where reservations would be expected. To add to the irritation, their website states “We are a pub”. No, they aren’t. It also advertises “If you just want a pint and a packet of crisps, we can do that”. Maybe they can, but it’s unlikely you can sit down for it! Fortunately we managed to grab a table that had just been vacated, so were able to sit and watch others come to the bar, buy a pint and then wander disconsolately round the empty tables reading the ‘reserved’ sign before standing at the bar. In my view it’s not a pub that serves food but a restaurant with a bar, and they should be honest and call it such rather than advertise it as a pub.
Having got that rant out of the way, lets move on to the food and service. The service at the bar was poor (not that the bar staff weren’t busy, but there was only one or two serving bar customers while the others were busy ferrying food about or preparing large drinks orders for diners). As for the food, we decided against because of the following incident, which is worthy of note. While I was in the toilet a waiter delivered some whitebait to out table. He was told that we hadn’t ordered it, so he touted them around the bar without success before returning to say that we had definitely ordered them. He left them on the table. As they had clearly been paid for we each tried one. However, deciding that honesty might be best (a decision helped by the fact that they were only lukewarm by this time and we didn’t like them very much anyway) we took them back to the bar and assured staff that we hadn’t ordered them despite their insistence that we had. We then watched in amazement as the barman carried them round the bar again looking for takers before trying outside, where he found the person who had ordered them. We watched through the window as she ate the much-diminished portion whitebait. As far as we could see she didn’t complain about the tiny portion left (there wasn’t many to begin with) or the fact it must have been almost cold by that time, but it didn’t give us much confidence about the food!
I am afraid that after this experience we will again take our custom to a proper pub where we can sit down for a few pints without having to reserve a table to do so, which is a bit of a shame as it is convenient and does have a good selection of well-kept ales. Maybe I’ll try again in another year in the hope they decide to run as a pub, but somehow I doubt it.
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