Wednesday, 14 October 2015

They've been and gone and done it again!! The bloody Trendies have wormed their way into yet another eatery and spoiled it. This time they've removed the soul of the place so expertly they may as well set themselves up as exorcists. Who you gonna call? Pub-busters. Bah. And, indeed, humbug.

The scene of this new travesty used to be a lovely, traditional type family pub. Mock Tudor-ish on the outside, inviting on the inside. It was always warm, snug and cosy. You know the type of place - carpet a bit threadbare, but that showed it was popular, nice comfy chairs in conversational arrangements, small fire burning merrily in the cold winter months. A nice pub. The sort that made you rub your hands and say 'Oooh, lovely' when you walked in. They did food - none of your Heston Bloomingheck or Marco Pierre poncety, nothing on boards or slates or in buckets. Just nice, hot, tasty honest pub food in decent sized portions at reasonable prices. They did offers, as well. Twofers (two fer a tenner), curry night, meal deals. The fish always sold out by 6pm on a Friday. SBOTH had a special affinity for the ribs, of which he would order an adult-sized portion and happily munch through the lot (I secretly think he's a distant relative of Fred Flintstone - probably on HOTH's side). I, of course, got on famously with the wine list. It was our 'go to' cheap treat place where we could all eat out for less than £25, even if HOTH had a steak. Alright, there were times when our presence brought the average customer age down to about.....ooooh, eighty - but we liked it.

Then it closed 'for refurbishment'. We thought maybe a lick of paint and some new carpet, perhaps a new kitchen. When we returned on its reopening we were in for a very rude surprise.

Gone were the comfy chairs, replaced by - you guessed it - a mish-mash mix and match with no two seats the same at any table. A couple even have armchairs pulled up to them, which is fine if you're a strapping six-footer but when you're tiny small like I am it means the table top is somewhere around my eyebrows. They're all upholstered in nasty, itchy fabric. Definitely no encouragement to sit and chill out. There's even a banquette thing with really high, sloped leatherette seats. Even if you did manage to get up there (think trying to climb on a shire horse) you'd spend all your time desperately clenching your bum cheeks to stop yourself sliding off the damn thing. Relaxing it ain't.

Lots of the tables have been removed altogether and replaced with bookshelves filled with obvious charity shop purchases like the third book in a series of six, but none of the others, and manuals on how to repair a combine harvester. It may be meant to represent someone's living room but it just doesn't work and fewer people can get in. The shelves are filled with nick nacks and objet d'crap as well that look like they've been bought in the world's worst episode of Bargain Hunt where Tim Wannacott has spent all the money on gin and gambling so the teams have had five minutes to scavenge in a skip behind B&Q. And it's full of those utterly inane 'inspiring' and 'quirky' quotes that make me want to staple my eyelids shut and forget how to read. Yeah, those bloody 'Love You To The Moon And Back' ones. Again. Grrr.

The tables themselves are tiny - barely enough room for two to eat around them, let alone a family (unless you like having someone's elbow in your earhole). They're cluttered with menus, condiments, jam jars with flowers in, candles that aren't meant to be lit and pebbles with your table number on them. This pebble is tiny and hidden behind other stuff so you won't have noticed it before going to the bar to place your order. This then necessitates you either traipsing all the way back to the table to find it or conducting a frantic and elaborate game of charades with your fellow diners, over the heads of other patrons, trying to get them to tell you the number. This is not as much fun as it sounds.

The carpets have been ripped up, replaced with olde worlde type reclaimed wooden flooring. I suppose it's easier to clean, but it makes the place colder, more echoey and removes all the character. I'm sure the refitters told the staff that the floor had been put down wonky 'for authenticity' rather than admit they'd done a cack-arse job of it.
The wallpaper has been changed to one that resembles mock distressed wood panelling - horizontal wood panelling at that. A bit like a half-whitewashed garden fence, but with less chance of splinters.

The friendly bar area has been utterly destroyed. In its place is a great swathe of black and white tiles and a low, narrow bar. It looks for all the world like someone has set up a pub in the toilets of a 19th Century bath-house. Behind it sit large Mason jars of nuts and wasabi peas (all at an eye-watering £1.99 a handful), gleaming yet unused cocktail shakers and wine bottles with labels round their necks describing them in flowery Jilly Goulden speak - 'hints of chihuahua pee on a nettle with a side of tramp puke',  'toasted Renault Megane with back notes of regret and disappointment'. You know the thing.

And the food? Don't get me started on the food. From pie, peas and battered fish it's gone all quinoa (even my spellchecker doesn't recognise bloody quinoa), artichoke risotto and buckwheat. All 'drizzled with', 'artistically arranged on a bed of' and 'with a twist'. The prices have gone up accordingly, of course - no more meal deals, no 'specials' days. A fiver for a baked spud?! Is it a magic spud? Will it convey me to the dizzying heights of culinary ecstasy previously unknown to mankind? Is it an ethically sourced, grown on the slopes of The Andes cruelty-free eco-spud? Is it buggery - it's a bog-standard King Edward out of a 50 kilo bag delivered every Wednesday by Trevor or Dave or someone. Along with all the other pre-prepared-heat-it-up-pretend-it's-home-made fare. This is still a chain, I'm not as green as I'm cabbage looking. A small rump steak with a jacket potato (HOTH had to send it back as they'd brought it out with chips by mistake) and a jacket spud with chicken, bacon and mayo came to nearly twenty quid with two soft drinks. This is the North!

The refurb has also alienated much of the previous clientele. It was almost empty when we went, where previously you had to smile menacingly with narrowed eyes at people lingering over their pudding before you could get a table. Or pinch SBOTH to make him cry, comforting him loudly saying 'It's alright SBOTH. I'm sure we'll be able to get something to eat soon. Look, that nice lady & gentleman have nearly finished' - accompanied by a steely glare (disclaimer - no SBOTHs were pinched or harmed in our quest for a table. Probably).

It's sad, but I don't think we'll be in a hurry to go back either. The Trendy Trend has gone one step too far this time. Nowhere seems to be safe. Mark my words, this time next year The Rover's Return will be a bean-bag seated, Wi-Fi hub filled with beardy hipsters sipping overpriced vinegary plonk out of baby bottle, probably renamed The Spork and Lederhosen or something; The Queen Vic will be an open mic free-jazz-cum-scat-performance-poetry joint refurbished to look like the inside of Kafka's underpants, in terracotta tile. The Trendies are coming. Don't say I didn't warn you!

THIS is a pub

I've had a plateful of platitudes

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