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More of a lame duck than a pheasant
Dog and Pheasant (East Mersea)
Member Name: historywitch
Dog and Pheasant (East Mersea)
Advantages: Mersea island is very beautiful, if you are a local you will have a lovely time.
Disadvantages: Unwelcoming, Disorganised, Management is unfriendly and rude, Not very family friendly.
Having moved to Essex in the last year we have had rather a lot of pub lunches, especially when relatives have come to visit us. There are some astonishingly good hidden gems around Colchester, especially the lovely Donkey and Buskins which is beautifully situated, has good quality pub food and a host who makes everybody feel welcome and special. Sadly this review is not about that pub (maybe for my next review), but is instead about a rather less brilliant pub we were unlucky enough to walk into last week - The Dog and Pheasant on the island of Mersea.
Mersea Island is a wonderful place just 6 miles or so south of Colchester. It has some lovely unspoilt beaches, a country park, glorious scenery and amazing wildlife living in the salt marshes that edge it. Twice a day it is cut off from the mainland by the sea and it is one of our favourite places to visit with our daughter. As my mother and her partner were visiting we thought we would combine a leisurely pub lunch (and I mean leisurely, we like to enjoy our food and drink!) with an afternoon on the beach getting grubby. We followed our usual strategy of driving until we see somewhere suitable and chose the East side of the island this time. The Dog and Pheasant on first view looks extremely picturesque and we could see a good-sized beer garden with what looked like some sort of play area for children at the front. A sign at the front said Roast Dinners served Sunday from 12-3pm and as we arrived at 1.30pm we thought this was ideal so pulled into the very small carpark at the front of the pub and headed inside.
The interior was quite dark and we had to be careful not to knock over the chairs on all the empty tables as we wound our way through to the beer garden at the back. My daughter and I got seated at a large table whilst everyone else went to order from the bar. After a bit of initial excitement about the play area we had seen from the road it became clear on closer inspection that it was just a nailed together wooden frame that older children were climbing on and hanging off, so we went back to the table to wait. After ten minutes I was getting a bit concerned, especially as three other groups had left the pub without having eaten (I am an eavesdropper, what can I say!) during this time, two of them having asked other groups whether they knew of anywhere else to eat on the island. However I am essentially a lazy person, it was a sunny day, no-one was particularly hungry so we were happy to wait. After 15 minutes however I took my daughter back inside to see what was happening about drinks.
Inside I saw that the small bar area was quite crowded, mostly with people trying to get drinks and food. There were four members of staff wandering around but only one was doing drinks and one lady was taking food orders/payment. Having sat down at one of the many empty tables I could see my husband trying to catch the attention of someone to get drinks but he was repeatedly ignored. It was another five minutes before we got our two beers and two bottles of appletiser (my water never turned up). My mother came over and told us that the lady who was serving, the man who was wafting around behind the bar and the woman who was supposed to be taking food orders were being very brusque and offhand and offering no explanation for the delay - at this point we were still waiting to even place an order and we had seen no food actually being eaten in the pub so far. Finally we were told to go round the corner to order but were confronted by a line of 6 people who were queuing to pay; the payment system apparently as disorganized and badly managed as the food ordering system. The food lady rudely told us that she couldn't take any more orders as she would have to see what was left (bear in mind this was only half way into a three hour service period) first and then continued to ignore us. We were a bit taken aback by this behaviour, we are reasonable people, we were not in a hurry, we just wanted to enjoy our drinks in the beer garden whilst waiting for our food (however long it took). In other pubs we have waited up to an hour for food, but this is one of the things about using small, local businesses; things happen and with a bit of explanation and good will it doesn't tarnish the experience; indeed one of our favourite pubs once kept us waiting an hour for food but were so apologetic and polite we regularly return.
By this point my eyes had adjusted to the darkness enough to be able to see that the decoration of the interior is very tired and quite dirty. The booth we were sat at had seats that smelt very strongly and a table that was sticky and wobbly. The glasses we got with our bottled drinks were extremely smeared and I didn't open the drinks, hoping instead to try and get some straws. I could see that my usually extremely easy-going and laidback husband was starting to get irritated with the poor service and suggested that we leave, but he was reluctant to give up so soon and pile us all back into the car to try and find another place. I encouraged him to try and pay for the drinks and he spent another few minutes asking to pay. At this point two more people entered the pub and were warmly greeted by the food lady who came out from behind the bar to take their order, loudly saying 'everyone else can wait' despite the fact there were three separate groups ahead of them in the queue. Then another regular was allowed to jump the drinks queue and it was at this point that my husband finally saw red and tapped the food lady on the shoulder telling her politely that she had lost some more custom and headed for the door.
Finally snapping out of her lethargy she remembered we hadn't paid for our (untouched) drinks and got aggressive, running after my husband screeching like a fishwife. I was left behind in the pub as I'm 35 weeks pregnant with a four year old in tow so I move very slowly; not that I could leave because the lady was running around and screeching between me and the door. I could see outside that two burly blokes were intimidating my 5'7 slim built academic husband, repeating 'if you want fast food you should go to Macdonalds'. He looked very frightened and I was afraid they were going to get physical with him. Inside the atmosphere was really unpleasant and hostile and the friend of the food lady leaned over to tell me nastily that the owner was an ex-policeman. At this point my mother's partner got fed up with the unpleasantness which was terrifying my little girl (she is still frightened that the 'bad men' are going to get her daddy whenever he leaves the house) and paid for the drinks. From the speed with which they dealt with the complaining customer I didn't think that this was an unusual event; having checked the internet I found some reviews that suggested even from 2007 the brusque and aggressive management have been heavy-handedly dealing with complaints, mentioning people who had been thrown out for complaining that the meal they had waited an hour for was cold. It seems they are unable to be pleasant for the sake of £50 of custom but are happy to be extremely unpleasant for the sake of £5 (including two unopened bottled drinks).
We left with a very bad taste in our mouth having spent just 40 minutes there, but were lucky enough to find a super pub in West Mersea (The White Hart) which offered friendly service, good food and a whole bowl of left over Yorkshire puddings from their carvery! It seems a shame that a pub situated in such a lucrative position on one of the main roads, close to several holiday parks and on the way to the island's country park is so unfriendly and unwelcoming. We estimated that given they only serve roast dinners on Sunday (at £8 a pop) they must have turned away £200 of business in the 40 minutes that we were there, through their disorganization and attitude. I got the impression that customer service was very low down on their priority list and I am afraid that we will be avoiding this one in the future.
Disabled Access: Very poor - possible access to the beer garden through a side gate but not through the pub itself
Family Friendly: No, nothing for young children. Unpleasant atmosphere.
Food: No idea, although the two empty plates we did see had quite a lot of leftovers
Beer: Very limited. Greene King IPA and London Pride on tap and a small range of lagers.
Dog friendly: Unsure but the booth we were in smelt strongly of wet dog
Atmosphere: Unfriendly, rude, brusque, offhand, aggressive. A local place.
I don't like writing negative reviews so my next few reviews will have to be of things I really loved to compensate for this one!
Summary: Try one of Mersea's other places to eat instead!