England Pubs / Bars National
The Gretna Green (Newton Aycliffe, Durham)
Located on the Great North Road (A167) at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, The Gretna Green Hotel is a large family pub restaurant which I have visited a few times over the years. It is located just a couple of minutes drive from the junction with the A1(M) and therefore offers a good alternative to the MacDonalds and Burger King ... restaurants you will find at service stations in the area, if you are travelling and want to stop off for refreshments.
It shares its large car park with the adjacent Newton Aycliffe Premier Inn and therefore is usually a busy place with local and passing trade as well as the guests staying at the hotel. Part of its appeal for families is the fact it includes a Wacky Warehouse play area for the kids, ensuring they don't get bored.
When I first visited the Gretna Green a few years back it was part of the Two for One chain which meant you got two meals for the price of one all day everyday. It is now a Fayre & Square restaurant and whilst it is no longer two meals for the price of one here, they instead offer many 'square deals' which includes two meals for £10 or buy one meal at £7 for example and get another for £5. All deals are clearly explained on the menu and it still represents great value for money and is a place where families can afford to eat reasonably cheaply in my opinion without compromising on quality and portion size.
Inside the pub restaurant it is large but cosy with dark wood furniture and tables and chairs, wood beamed ceilings and low lighting, although at one end the large windows allows a lot of natural light. At this end there is a raised seating area as well as floor level and over to one side is also a pool table and gaming machines. This is very much what I would call the adult area of the pub restaurant. The large bar sits in the middle, dividing this area slightly from the rest of the restaurant which is the larger part and where you will find the Wacky Warehouse. When you visit, this is the area where families tend to sit and so if you are a couple or with adult company then you are better off sitting in the quieter area.
I have visited many times and never been bothered by noise or children running around at all. There is also a large outdoor patio area with tables and umbrellas which is popular on warmer days.
I used to enjoy the meals served here when it was a Two for One pub restaurant, but my last couple of visits around 2007 I found were a little disappointing. The quality of the meals seemed to have gone downhill and therefore I didn't return again until last year when I noticed it was now Fayre & Square and decided to give it another go. Our meals were lovely and when earlier this year I needed a hotel in that area, I didn't hesitate to book the adjacent Premier Inn and we ate in the restaurant again.
My last visit was just a few weeks back. It was a Sunday and the restaurant was very busy during the day. It was a warm sunny day, unusually warm for the time of year and many people were sitting outside as well as in. As well as the Wacky Warehouse, there is an outdoor play area for kids too.
We were meeting up with friends on the evening and there was a pub quiz taking place later on. We decided to eat first and I ordered a 10oz Gammon Steak which came served with eggs or pineapple, peas and grilled tomato. This was part of a 2 for £10 deal which I thought was great value for money. The gammon steak was large and grilled just how I wanted it, juicy and full of flavour.
The overall portion size was large too and whilst I am not particularly looking for large portions, I would rather be served them than the skimpy portions I have experienced at my local Wetherspoons when I counted six chips on the plate and the meal was more expensive than here and the quality quite poor. Therefore it is good to know that there are still decent meals being served at many pub restuarants at low prices like this which don't compromise portions and quality.
Others in my party ordered a Square Burger which came in a toasted square bun with cheese and onion rings. It looked very tasty and my friend confirmed it was. This was part of a number of square burger deals on the menu. Other meals ordered were Steak and Bombardier Ale Pie and Rump Steak. Everything was perfectly cooked and tasty and all plates were cleared. The price of meals for the four of us was just £22. As well as the meals we chose there are a variety of chicken and fish dishes as well as other favourites such as Toad In The Hole. There are also vegetarian options available such as cheese, leek and potato pie and vegetable burritos for example.
Drinks are also reasonably priced with the draft ales and lagers as well as a selction of wine and spirits. We took advantage of an offer whereby you bought two glasses of White Zinfandel and got the rest of the bottle free.
We didn't bother with starters or desserts as the meal was enough for us, but there are a wide variety available on the menu and whilst we did consider ordering a cookie dough pizza to share as it looked lovely on the menu, we simply didn't have room. It was basically a large chocolate cookie designed to look like a pizza with upturned edges and the filling was made up of chocolate brownie chunks, marshmallows, white and milk chocolate and popping candy with sauce swizzled over the top. It looked delicious and we made mental note to try it at some point maybe with one of the Costa coffees they serve. Being a lover of Costa Coffee Lattes this is another reason I enjoy a visit to the Gretna Green.
The pub quiz was ran by the bar manager and was a fun experience including music rounds where clips are played and there was a really good atmosphere. Some people appeared around 9pm just for the quiz and a couple of drinks and probably do this on a regular basis, but everyone was made to feel equally welcome.
Toilets are large and spotlessly clean with good disabled access and smokers are catered for with outdoor areas with heat lamps.
Meals are served from 12 noon until 10pm every day (9.30pm on Sundays)
Overall I can recommend The Gretna Green if you are in the area or as a stop off on a journey on the A1(M), the adjacent Premier Inn is also a place I can recommednd if you need a place to stay in the Newton Aycliffe, County Durham area.
The Gretna Green Hotel
Great North Road,
Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, DL5 6JG
Tel: 01325 776 871
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The Albany (London)
We were staying at a hotel in Regents Park and so after arriving on the Friday afternoon, we went out searching for somewhere to eat. We looked at a few places in the area, however there wasn't anything that really appealed to us, and so when we came across The Albany we decided to give it a go. The Albany is a pub located on Great ... Portland Street which serves food.
I would describe the place as being very unusual. At first I thought that it looked a bit 'dull' and 'depressing' but it was the fact that the place was very busy with youngsters that made me think, this must be a great place.
The place is made from wood; wooden benches, tables, wooden floors, wooden banisters etc. It does look 'uncomfortable', but it was in fact very comfortable, if that makes sense. The place seems a little old fashioned yet crossed with a modern twist too which I thought was nice. I really didn't feel that I was in the middle of the city as it just seemed like a 'little place on its own'.
Having looked at the menu, I wasn't really that impressed. I was surprised to see that the pub actually serves quite classy food - the type of food you would expect to see in a three or four star hotel. Studying the menu, there wasn't really that much that took my fancy, and I think that had I seen the menu before going in, I wouldn't have stopped there, only that the rest of the party (there were 6 of us), liked the look of the menu. Being a vegetarian however, I am sometimes awkward as I am a fussy eater. In the end I decided to go for: Asparagus, mushroom, pea & creme fraiche tart with beetroot & new potato salad (£10.50) which the friendly waitress informed me was really delicious.
When my main course arrived, I was surprised at how beautifully presented it was; very classy and colourful. It was also a very large portion. I began to eat it and thought that it was lovely to begin with. However, as I got through the tart, I started to not enjoy it; it wasn't the fact that I didn't like it because it was 'badly cooked' or anything; it was perfectly cooked etc, just that it wasn't to my taste. Another member of the party also had this dish and thought that it was lovely. So it was probably just me being fussy.
Other party members had traditional meals such as 'chips and sausage' etc, and they all thoroughly enjoyed their meals and couldn't praise the food and place enough.
Pudding time came; I was pleased to see my favourite; sticky toffee pudding which I paid £5 for. This was delicious with plenty of gorgeous toffee sauce and ice cream. Again it was a lovely huge portion!!
The staff were lovely; really friendly and happy to help. They also made time to chat to us which was really nice. They also brought our drinks over to us, rather than us having to carry them, even though the place was really busy. They also helped us to make our decisions when looking at the menu. The service was also very quick and efficient.
~ * Other Information * ~
The pub is open Monday-Saturday noon to midnight, and on Sundays noon to 10:30pm.
The place was very popular with young people- to me it looked as though it is a meeting place for 'after work drinks' as there seemed to be a lot of people in suits etc.
I liked that the food seemed to be 'natural' and you could tell that it was fresh. I liked the fact that they used fresh ingredients. The food is also locally sourced which is an added bonus. We all thought that the food was excellent value for money.
There was a good atmosphere in the place and you could sense the 'weekend is here excitement' (we were there on a Friday night).
All in all, I would recommend this place!
Thanks for reading!
Xdonzx / xd-o-n-z-x
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The Old Maypole (Ilford, Essex)
ABOUT THE OLD MAYPOLE The Old Maypole is what I would call a 'local' pub situated in an area that has lost most of its public houses. I don't frequent pubs very often but I do sometimes like a pub lunch (and seem to be having more of these lately rather than cooking at home). I also miss the option of having a good choice of ... pubs that are within walking distance to my home. And, although The Old Maypole isn't the best pub I have been in, I think, because I've been going in here occasionally for about twenty-five years it must be one of the pubs that I've most visited. One thing I do like about this pub is that, although food is served all day and the eating area is more than adequate, it still is essentially a pub. It looks like a traditional pub and feels like one too. One can go in here for a drink without feeling as if you're taking up valuable dining space and shouldn't be here if you're not eating. I would say at any time in this pub there are a fair number of customers here to dine and not that many less who visit just to have a drink; many locals come in here to enjoy a quiet read of a newspaper while supping a pint or two.
When I first went in here about, twenty-six years ago, it was very different; there have certainly been some changes over the years. At this time there were more public houses in the area. The Old Maypole was pretty ordinary but had the benefit of a very large room where children were allowed in with their parents. In this room there was a huge blackboard and chalks, large plastic construction blocks and bar football. The room was very basic but young children had a great time in here, especially on rainy afternoons in the school holidays.
Then the management changed along with the brewery and then so did the pub. Décor and ambience now changed completely. Young children were delighted with the new children's area of the 'Jumblie's Village.' This was a soft and brightly decorated play area and the room could be hired for children's parties. My children enjoyed many parties here as both hosts and guests. The garden too was updated and wooden adventure play toys were installed.
Then the pub layout changed again and, sadly for local children, the 'Jumblie's Village' disappeared. I don't know why this was. I did think at the time that some parents abused the facility and, in fact, I knew of several who would leave their children playing in here while they would nip off to the shops. I don't know if this was the reason but the play area had seemed to bring in a good crowd, but perhaps it was just realised that extending the pub's dining area would make more financial sense than an area for young children and mainly their mums. This was probably correct as this pub has kept going when most of the other pubs in the surrounding area have gone and in their place has been built houses or flats.
The pub seems to have changed brewery several times over the years and been decorated when this has happened but the same family have now run the pub for many years; I would think it must be over twenty years.
But before going any further I must say that I don't think this pub is going to suit those that are choosy over their food. I consider it to be a 'local' serving cheap food and reasonably priced drinks. It is a place to have an average meal, either for lunch or dinner, in a comfortable but not remarkable setting. I'm not running it down as I feel it serves the area well, being a place for young singles to meet before they go on elsewhere and a place where it is possible for all ages providing somewhere for couples and families to the lone pensioner, to go and to know that there isn't likely to be any trouble in this pub.
The pub offers quite a large bar area with many tables of varying sizes around, some with comfortable sofa type chairs and others with upright chairs, and several high tables and high stools.
This bar too has fruit machines and television screens.
The actual bar is large and easy to access.
I find in this pub whether I'm with family or a female friend it's always easy to get served in here. I think some of you females will know how annoying it is when the men are served first by bar maids. Food can be eaten in this area although I always choose to eat in the actual dining area.
This bar seems to be more often frequented by younger clientele and these seem to be mainly male. In this area can be found: a quiz machine, fruit machine, two pool tables, darts, a juke box and television screens showing sky sports.
There's a good selection of tables of differing sizes are available, ranging from tables for two to tables for six to eight. The trouble is that some tables are too near to the gents and when the door keeps opening it can be a little off-putting if sitting in this area, fresh air wise; I wouldn't sit here. A few other tables are near to the door and as smokers tend to keep going out into the garden area the door is often being opened making it cold at times. This doesn't bother me but for the sake of information for would be diners may be worth including.
If you find a decent table which isn't usually difficult, even on a Sunday lunchtime, then you can be fairly comfortable in this area of the pub.
The Old Maypole seems to do a good trade. There are so few pubs in the area yet it still doesn't get too crowded in the daytime and weekday evenings.
This area has a quiz machine.
A WELL STOCKED BAR
I think as well as food prices being cheap in this pub, so are the drinks.
The Old Maypole stocks lager, cask ale, bottled beer, cider, a good choice of wines by the glass or bottle as well as all the usual spirits and cocktails as well as soft drinks and tea and coffee.
A glass of white wine starts from £2.15 or £7.29 for a bottle (Morano Airen Chardonnay) or,
Echo Falls Colombard Chardonnay £2.75 per glass or £9.29 per bottle.
More to my taste is Rossillini Pinot Grigio which is priced at £2.89 per glass or £9.49 for the whole bottle.
Red wine (preferred by myself) starts from £2.15 for a glass or £7.29 per bottle (Morano Tempranillo Cabernet) whilst Gallo Family Cabernet Sauvignon will cost you £3.05 for a glass or, if with friends (I hope!) you'll be asked to pay £10.29 for the bottle.
Rose starts at (Tempranillo Grenache Rosé) £2.15 per glass or £7.29 per bottle and goes up to a nicer choice (uin my opinion) of
Blossom Hill Zinfandel Rosé costing £3.05 for a glass or £10.29 for a bottle.
Sparkling wine and champagne is also stocked her as well as some cocktails, soft drinks and tea and coffee.
Magic Mondays is when on a (reasonably!) Monday a selection of beer, lager, cider, wine and spirits at The Old Maypole are priced extra cheaply and pints of several beers and lagers will cost just £1.85 and a selected soft drink option will cost only 99 pence.
The Old Maypole's brewery currently is:
This pub offers a weekly quiz with prizes (Wednesday)
Live Sky Sports
Every so often , I've seen a psychic night advertised (or it may have just entered my head!) but I haven't, as yet, been to one.
Other entertainment is offered such as a live music but this doesn't seem to occur on a regular basis.
Mon to Wed: 12.00 - 23.00
Thu to Sat: 12.00 - 00.00
Sun: 12.00 - 23.00
As I eat here quite often I'm not going to speak about my last meal but discuss my opinions on the menu in general and give some details of what is available and pricing. I find that quality of food varies a lot depending on when you visit. I've been most disappointed when dining here on a Sunday when the pub is most busy. It seems to definitely be preferable to eat earlier rather than wait until late afternoon when the food seems to be more likely to be dried up, vegetables appear to be in short supply and indeed many choices have sold out.
The pub offers several very reasonably priced starters as well as desserts.
The 'classic mains' consist of items such as a 'Tipsy Steak Pie' priced £4.79. This pie is served with peas, seasoned chips and extra gravy, or mashed potatoes as an alternative to chips. I don't eat meat and therefore haven't sampled this but my husband has and said that the pie was quite nice but the chips are oven chips and nothing special.
Vegetable Korma Curry' priced at £5.19. This is something I've sampled many times and I find it one of the better choices on the menu. It consists of chickpeas, cauliflower and spinach in a mild korma sauce and comes with pilau rice and naan bread.
'Freshly Battered Fish and Chips' comes in a choice of sizes, either a small for £3.69 or regular for the price of £4.69. This choice is served with garden or mushy peas. The fish isn't cod. I like the batter but haven't been impressed with this meal on the last couple of times I've eaten it. I always feel that the fish should be cooked a little more and the chips not cooked for so long. The garden peas are usually dried up. But I would say it's as good as in most pubs where you may pay a little more.
'New Quorn and three Bean Chilli' at £4.69 is a good choice in my opinion. The minced Quorn, along with kidney, borlotti, and black eyed beans makes this a nice veggie chilli meal. It is served with served with spicy Mexican rice, tortilla chips and sour cream.
'New all Day Breakfast' is priced at £5.99. This consists of two Cumberland sausages, two rashers of bacon, fried eggs, button mushrooms, seasoned chips, baked beans and half of a grilled tomato. I haven't sampled this (it being meat) but have seen it's a popular choice and have been told it's a tasty and good value option.
The pub also serves mixed grills, steaks, chicken, fish, salads, pasta, baguettes and jacket potatoes with various fillings.
I don't think anything on the menu is expensive.
Beer & Burger Night
Kids eat for £1
There is a 'SOMETHING SPECIAL' section on the menu which offers several items which are a little different and slightly more expensive such as 'New Orleans Jambalaya' at £7.49, 'Timothy Taylor Steak Pie' at £6.19 and 'New fish & Parsley Sauce' at £6.69.
The fish and parsley sauce is a baked fish fillet with parsley sauce and also served with mashed potato, peas and carrots. I've eaten this, I think, three times. The first time it was very nice, the second time okay but on the third occasions the temperature wasn't hot enough and the carrots were hard and the peas dry.
I have found when dining here it is usual for an item ordered to be missing, especially if a side was ordered. When this happens and is mentioned the serving staff will remedy this quickly. I feel that the food offered here is in no way at all gourmet or even very good but I do feel complaining won't do much. It really is simply a local pub serving cheap food to those who dine here more for its convenience than culinary delights. That said certain things are usually quite good and, once you've sampled a few things there is a fair chance that you'll know which items are the best options. As a family we find a burger meal (both veggie and meat), curry, fajitas or chilli seem to be the best cooked and the most consistently nice choices on the menu.
There are a few choices such as the veggie chili and the curry already mentioned, as well as Quorn fillets, a pasta choice and a Quorn fajita wrap option and this is a popular choice with my future daughter-in-law.
There are salads, baguettes and jacket potato options too. BUT if you are strict vegetarian or pescetarian then beware as my meal of fish in parsley sauce had pieces of my daughter's meal on it-not the actual meat but gravy and onion and I think her burger meal and my meal must have been placed upon the same skillet for a while.
Children are allowed in the dining area if dining with their family.
Highchairs are available.
I find that children usually behave in this pub and the difference in parental control in here is markedly different from its closest neighbouring pub which is the Fairlop Oak, belonging to The Wetherspoon's chain.
A children's menu is available with meals costing only £2.99. Main meals include a potato and vegetable choice and there are also meals which don't contain added salt, artificial colours or flavours.
Activity/colouring sets and crayons are available.
A child's meal deal costs £4.50 and this price is for a main meal, dessert and drink.
Baby changing facilities are available in the toilets.
The Old Maypole is on one level and if accessing from the front of the pub there aren't any stairs to ascend. The ground outside and floor within is quite level. Wheelchair users often frequent this pub and a special needs centre enjoys lunch here one day per week.
One of the cubicles within the ladies toilets is large and would be more accessible to those with mobility difficulties. I'm pretty sure that there aren't separate disabled toilets.
The clientele of The Old Maypole appears to change throughout the day, somewhat. Daytime and early evening sees mainly couples, families and some local workers enjoying their lunch here. The evening draws in more youngsters but, for the pub area this is strictly over eighteen and ID will be requested. I would say this is still a pub for all ages but Friday and Saturday nights will find many eighteen to thirties. I will say that this pub is strict and from what I've seen doesn't allow underage drinkers. ID is often asked for and my thirty year old daughter has often been asked to supply ID. This doesn't mean that the bar staff are crazy as she does have to supply ID (much to her annoyance) on a regular basis.
The pub is a particularly popular place when an important football or international rugby match is being shown live. As I have mentioned this doesn't affect the entire pub (as much as it does lots of other pubs I've frequented) as the restaurant area remains a relatively peaceful family area.
There are two sets of both male and female lavatories in this pub serving the main bar and the public bar. I find that they are well kept. I will say though that the ladies toilets in the main bar have so many cubicles fitted in that some of these are incredibly small; I don't think so many cubicles are necessary for the amount of people who visit the pub. Fewer cubicles could mean a dedicated baby changing area as well as a specially designed disabled toilet.
There are plenty of basins and soaps and a hand drying machine.
There are a few wooden benches and tables out here and a raised grassy area. I think more could be made of this garden to ensure it is a pleasant area which can be enjoyed by more of the pub's customers.
In recent years the exterior and car park at the side of this pub has been improved and a seating area with shelter and heaters has been supplied.
Nothing spectacular here but staff are pleasant and polite. Most are young and are from the locality. One thing I will say is that the pub is not often rowdy although it can draw in a young crowd at times. This pub definitely comes up way ahead of probably its main competitor, 'The Fairlop Oak' in terms of being trouble free.
There was a serious incident involving this pub about a year or so ago which concerned an (inebriated I believe) individual being asked to leave. The police were called and the incident escalated with policemen being attacked. I don't think the pub could really be blamed for this happening as the man was asked to leave and I think he took exception to this. I feel that there aren't many incidents to blacken the name of the pub. Customers have to behave or are asked to leave the premises or be barred.
I feel that most people regularly using this pub will know others in here and it has become a local to many living close to the pub.
The car park is quite large although some parking spaces have been lost due to the smoking area. However, the spaces provided are usually adequate and it's unusual not to be able to find a spot. As this is a local pub many customers tend to walk here. There is also the possibility of on street parking in nearby roads, a minute or two walk away, although the pub itself is on a corner of a main road with no parking, and a residential road with little available parking.
A bus stop is directly outside the front of the Old Maypole and buses 150, 247, 167 and 462 stop here. This means that the pub can be accessed from quite a wide area. Two of these buses pass the local central line underground station or, alternatively the station is about a ten minute walk away.
105-107 Fencepiece Road,
Essex, IG6 2NG
Tel: 0871 951 1000 (ref 2674)
I would say the pub is kept fairly clean, and drink is sold at a reasonable price. It does a decent job as a public house serving food but doesn't have much personality. But then, with so many pubs closing in England we don't have too much choice and, I for one feel that we need places to go such as a local pub and, the demise of local pubs, I believe, is a loss to the area as a whole. Also, The Old Maypole provides employment; its staff are taken from the local area or thereabouts, mainly employing those in their late teens and twenties in the bar and kitchen. This must be a good thing.
I like family pubs which welcome all age groups and which serve food and so I would hope that The Old Maypole stays in business.
One big advantage of The Old Maypole, in my opinion, over many similar type of public houses is the fact that although Sky Sports are shown there aren't screens in the dining area, meaning that even when a big match is on one can eat in relative peace and quiet. I don't mind watching football but much prefer to dine without seeing it and would rather chat to my companions than cheer for scored goals or swear at the referee! It can be difficult to find somewhere to eat without being surrounded by large screens and lots of noise.
And so all in all I would say that The Old Maypole is a good facility to have in the area but it could be improved mainly in respect of the food being of a better quality and not so hit and miss depending on when you eat even down to which chef is on duty. Yes. In my opinion it's a decent pub for locals but I wouldn't recommend anyone travelling far to dine or drink here. I don't think it's worth singing and dancing around this maypole.
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