We were pretty excited about the latest addition to the neighborhood; the food sounded intriguing, as did their concept, which when I first read of it online, conjured up memories of the old neighborhood English pubs we frequented in other cities where we've lived. Unfortunately, upon entry you are greeted by an ugly, prison grey cinderblock wall with a few out of place looking tables. The interior, rather than being warm and inviting, (like you would expect from an English pub), instead sports the criminally overused 'warehouse vintage' look; exposed beams, minimalistic decor, dead metal railings/shelving, polished concrete floors, drably painted reclaimed wood and of course, the vintage light bulbs with the exposed filaments, etc. You know the look, you see it almost every time you go into a new bar or restaurant in Asheville. Seriously. Is it a requirement if you open a bar or restaurant on Haywood to use this blueprint? I mean WALK, U-Joint, Mothlight, Urban Orchard (the one place I actually think that it works) and now Barleycorn. Cant anyone come up with an original concept anymore? Anyhow, the vibe is cold, sterile and uninviting. The grey walls only add to the sense that your dining in a prison cafeteria. Oddly, the only bit of color in the joint is over by the outlet from the kitchen which is a light green room, paneled with wood along the bottom. They mightve considered paneling the cinderblock walls with that wood too. It wouldve helped the gloom tremendously.
Anyhow, they were on a limited menu due to the holiday (Christmas eve) but I had had my sights set on fish & chips so that was fine and the misses is always on the lookout for a good veggie burger so that was that. I had a thin, sorry excuse for a stout from Green Man and we discussed the aforementioned gloomy feel of the place. Our plates (or in my wifes case, box) came out after a bit. Things looked interesting. Their menu doesnt make much of a an attempt to explain what you will be getting. Case in point; my fish & chips. Theyre listed as coming with 'Vegetables'. OK, cool. Except that it turns out the Vegetables are all battered and deep fried, like the fish. Thats a lotta deep fried food to make your way through, and because they were out of calimari, they gave me extra vegiies. As for the fish, they use catfish. Doesnt say that on the menu, I was expecting cod, but I get it; southern twist, local, etc. Except that it doesnt work. Its too delicate of a fish for that type of thick and meaty batter, nor does it have enough flavor to mask the greasy taste of the batter, which, in no way, was 'spicy' as claimed in the description. The use of tumeric only worked to visually accentuate the layers of greasiness. I only finished one of my two pieces and about half of the veggies (with the assistance of my wife). The house cuts fries were excellent as were the house made ketchup and chutney, though they could lighten the load on the amount of sea salt they apply to the fries. There was so much that neither of us could finish them.
As for the wife, she thought the veggie burger was more bread crumbs than vegetable and that it missed those textures that might suggest she was eating something other than mushy grains. For reasons beyond our understanding this burger is actually more expensive ($9.95) than their beef burger ($8.95). In addition, the tomato that was on it was anemic and mealy and the bun was much too dense for the size of the pattie.
Yes, or I should say; No, this was not a good meal. We wouldve been better off throwing our $40 to the Salvation Army guy ringing the bell next door at Ingles. Still, they have some intriguing sounding things on the menu and in a neighborhood desperate for some dining variety Im sure we'll mount up once again for another try somewhere down the road, but probably not for awhile. At least not until after our current wounds have been licked and healed and I hear that things have improved. I hope that they do, but I guess it depends on the owners.
Grade: D (If you truly want this to be a place where people come to gather and hang out try putting some booths on that north wall for starters, do something about the suicide paint, dump the catfish, and get a dartboard for kris' sake)
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