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The Tesco of the pub world
J.D. Wetherspoon in general
Member Name: cerys82
J.D. Wetherspoon in general
Date: 03/05/10, updated on 03/05/10 (2105 review reads)
Advantages: Good prices, selection of drink food improving
Disadvantages: Unfair competition to independent pubs in smaller towns/cities
Wetherspoons is a brand which almost needs no introduction. It refers to the ubiquitous chain of pubs which specialise in low prices and have a foothold in pretty much every city and middle-to-large size town int he county. The Tesco of the pub world if you will!
Whilst many of the pubs retain some individuality due to the type of buildings they inhabit (which include not only former pubs, but also former banks, hotels, railway buildings - even churches!) Inside, however, the decor is essentially the same. There is lots of dark wood furniture, the occasional sofa - giving off a classic, inoffensive feel.
*It is worth saying at this point that any prices I quote are only speculative because prices of items tend to vary around the country*
Wetherspoons does deserve credit for the range of drinks it serves from mixers and spirits to lagers and wines, these go beyond the standard that you would expect in a pub. It is certainly well stocked and the range is frequently updated, for example recently they have started stocking Welsh whisky, a new Asian lager - 'Lucky Beer', and Crabbies non-alcoholic ginger beer ( a personal favourite); this is as well as such things as retro soft drinks - cloudy lemonade and root beer. The bar also sells hot drinks, and I have to say that their coffee is very, very good in my opinion and it appears to be freshly brewed, the price varies from 99p to £1.29.
The food menu has certainly improved over time and like the drinks list is frequently updated, generally on a seasonal basis. Recent additions (as of Winter 2010) include a Mexican wrap, beer battered fish and chips, steak and kidney pudding and jam sponge pudding.
Also in its favour - there does seem to be an increased move on the company's part to be a bit more 'aware' of its impact on how it sources its ingredients. For example it is at pains to emphaisse on the menu that certain dishes contain components such as the following: dolphin friendly tuna, Wiltshire ham, 100% British beef, British ale, sustainably sourced cod etc.
There are various meal deals that are available, as follows; Essentially Tuesday (between 3 and 10pm) there is a 'Steak club' (including 2 steaks and a bottle of wine at a special price), Thursdays has a 'curry club', and 'Sunday Club' between midday and 9 whihc comprises of a roast. Essentially these generally comprise of a main meal and a drink (from a selected range of beers, lagers, wines and soft drinks for a set price.) There are also options to have extra trimmings eg onion rings for steak club, bhajis etc for curry club and extra Yorkshire puddings etc for Sunday club at the price of £1-2 depending on the items. Each of the above meal deals also have vegetarian options. Just a warning that in general these are extremely popular so you may have difficulty getting a table with these as Wetherspoons does not have a reservation service. (Please note that at Christmas time a Christmas dinner meal deal of a similar ilk as what is above is available.)
As regards the actual menu the variety of food that is available is good, but not spectacular and I will give some examples.
Starters include vegetable soup, breaded mushrooms, nachos and a 'Wetherspoon sharer' which incorporates mushrooms, chicken wings, chips, onion rings and dips - prices varying form £2.69 to £8.99 for sharer.
There are light bites including jacket potatoes at £3.59, sandwiches and deli products (£2.79 - £3.79) - eg cheese and pickle, BBQ chicken and bacon. These come with a side salad and the option of upgrading with a portion of chips for an extra 70p.
Sides such as chips, garlic bread, salad and vegetables varying from 99p to £1.99.
With main meals there is a value meal for £2.99/£3.99 incorporating typical pubgrub such as sausages, chips and beans, spicy tomato pasta, chilli con carne, lasagne. There is also an option of adding a portion of bread and butter for 60p. There is also a Monday afternoon deal where fish and chips is available for £3.20 with bread, butter and a cup of tea.
The standard main meal contains items such as sausages and mash for £4.99, giant beer battered fish and chips - £5.99, sweet potato, chickpea and spinach curry - £6.19, British beef and Abbot Ale pie - £6.89 and Braised shoulder of lamb - £6.99.
There are a variety of steaks available from £8.09 for 10oz rump steak, £7.69 for a mixed grill of gammon, lamb, pork and sausage with all the trimmings.
The dessert menu is small but has things to suit most tastes from Belgian waffle to fruit desserts and sticky toffee pudding - varying in price from £1.99 to £2.99.
It is also worth mentioning that certain items on the menu are subject to change on a seasonal basis and that they are increasingly getting more 'sophisticated' options available.
Depending on the individual pub, the chain also holds various events during the year. Probably the most widespread ones they do are ale and wine festivals, where they get in a wider range of these outdoor drinks , along with some tasting notes - all for a reasonable price. Some of them with their own grounds also provide entertainment such as an outdoor cinema during the cinema and music events.
Eating at a Wetherspoons is largely far from salubrious. The food is generally tasty, with reasonable portion sizes but you are hardly likely to rave about them. That said, the curries and burgers are quite tasty. These are also places where cutomer service takes somewhat of a back seat. You have to order at the bar with your table number and pick up your own condiments and cutlery. Also the table turnover is so swift that you often find that you have to sit at a sticky table that has nto yeat been cleared. This is not a complaint about the staff themselves though - whenever you tend to see them they are always rushed of f their feet serving meals and at the bar
Wetherspoons has been criticised in the past for encouraging binge and irresponsible drinking by virtue of the fact that its drinks are so cheap. That said, I have to say at the ones I have been to - they do seem to have instigated some pretty solid family-friendly policies and as such I have very rarely seen any trouble - in fact no-more than you are likely to see in your average city-centre pub or bar on a busy night. My concern is more when they place themselves in mid to small towns, where their sheer economies of scale threaten the existence of local independent pubs. In cities they normally can sit quite well against a variety of other types of pubs and bars due to the sheer population.
What is also quite refreshing is the Wetherspoons have opted for a non-music policy, meaning that you can quite easily have conversations in a large group without having to shout at each other. Some do show sports matches on large screens during major events, but for the most part they just show a rolling news channel on mute with subtitles. There are usually fruit and quiz machines scattered around the place also. Traditional Wetherspoons pubs have a sister chain called Lloyds No1 bars which provide music and a dancefloor and often have an entrance fee at weekends.
In conclusion, despite their flaws, I will continue to go to Wetherspoons pubs. Their prices and variety of drinks are a strong plus, and in general they are pleasant enough places to visit.
Summary: A good place to start a night out
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