This establishment is one of the few that smells like a pub should. It smells of beer; a distinctive hopsy, yeasty fragrance with undertones of wet carpet. You would not be at all surprised if the smoking area was indoors and you could breathe the familiar yellow-blue haze of old lingering on the ceiling. Access is fine but there are three steps to the main part and the tables and chairs are packed tightly. This is a place that attracts large groups so it is not easy to manoeuvre yourself through table loads of families and students. Plus, the ordering procedure is no good if your mobility is limited. Find a table, choose food, memorize table number, go to bar and order. Getting back and forth to your table can be a bloody obstacle course.
With the real ale options on the menu, this place attracts the serious, the dedicated beer drinker, the sort that sup, rather than drink; but the cheaper options also attract the cash-strapped, so you may find your meal accompanied by a cacophony of schlurrrps. Then again, this is not a high class establishment and does not pretend to be. I am not normally a safe person to be with in these environments. A menu that consists almost entirely of food that is griddled or fried is likely to make me pass out from a sheer overload of joy - burgers, bacon, onion rings, batter, honey glazes, melts, grills, sauces, add a topping, choose from three, for an extra pound you can have this. And then they have the gall to recommend dishes for sharing. Sharing?! Over my dead, cholesterol-pounded body. As I was in respectable company, I opted for the ham, egg and chips from the 'two meals for £8.29' menu. Adopting the cunning ruse of helping my companion seek out vegetarian options, I perused the menu fully, marvelling that they add calorie values to all the choices. Oooh, what to go for? A portion of chips at 796 calories or a superfood wholewheat pasta dish, nut-free with soya at 770 calories? Ooooh, what to do?
The food itself is absolutely fine. The chips were thick-cut, golden and lightly crispy, with a fluffy hot centre. I had two slices of thick cut, slightly fatty Wiltshire ham, chosen presumably because it has a generic flavour, mild and slightly moist. The eggs were clean, bright firm whites, runny with orangey yolks, a good advert for the free range credentials. A decent-sized portion too. My friend went for the jacket potato with the five bean chilli, the only vegetarian option on the special menu. The chilli was filling, but not that spicy, chunky in texture with plenty of chew. The potato was a good size, slightly larger than the palm of your hand and the accompanying salad consisted of at least three cherry tomatoes, chunks rather than slices of cucumber and bright, fresh-looking leaves. The lattes were excellent. The brand is Lavazza so quality is pretty much guaranteed. Served in a mug with an optional chocolate topping, strong flavour with a thick creamy foam.
This place also does a decent fish and chips. The portion is a decent size - a large fresh-battered piece of cod. Slightly too soft batter over the fish, but the end pieces have a good, gravelly crunch. Thick cut chips, clean, lightish-yellow colour. Very fluffy in texture, but not crispy. I opted for the mushy peas, rather than garden ones, being in the mood for a glut of calories. They were very runny, and forming a slight puddle on the plate, but the taste was the distinctive salty and sweet associated with the classic mushy pea.
Like all meals here, anyone looking for a healthy meal should check the menu or website for the food credentials. This meal has whopping amounts of calories, salt, sat fat and carbs. Which, of course, is why I wanted it.