“ Address: Newport Road / Tong / Shifnal / TF11 8PS / Tel: 01952 850210 „
Back at the end of May was my father in law's birthday and in family tradition we went out for a meal at a local pub. Last year he had chosen The Horns at Boningale and it had been rather less than successful so we were hoping for a better experience this year, he chose the Bell at Tong, a pub we used to visit quite frequently some years ago but had not been in since it was refurbished.
It was a Wednesday night and there are five of us, my father in law had telephoned on the Sunday night and booked a table, they had taken his details and we assumed that was that. My husband and brother in law and I arrived first.
It was a bit worrying to see that the extensive car park (which is to the front and the rear of the pub) was full to bursting and on walking in there were no free tables that I could see, but knowing we had booked I approached the bar and mentioned the booking in our family name. The rather brusque bar maid scowled, looked round the full restaurant area and then stated that they do not take bookings for less than 8. I repeated that I knew we had spoken to someone on the Sunday and had been assured of a table for 5. She sharply repeated that it is 'not their policy' to take bookings for less than 8. At this point to be honest I was ready to leave.
It so happened that as this discussion was going on a table came free right in the centre of the restaurant area and said bar maid suggested we jump on this quick to secure any table at all. Grudgingly we did just that. Not a great start. We started looking at the menu and shortly someone came over to take drinks orders, we ordered two pints and a glass of wine and carried on perusing menus. No drinks came.
Five minutes later my in laws arrived and were puzzled why we were sat at a less than ideal table which was right in the middle of two gangways and therefore neither quiet or conducive to a conversation. We explained the reservation muddle and they looked a bit miffed. At this point someone else arrived at the table to take drinks orders, I pointed out we were waiting on a previous drinks order and she dashed off to find out where it was before I could add two more drinks for my newly arrived parents. When she came back with the three original drinks my mother and father in law ordered another pint and another glass of wine....10 minutes later I had to chase this up again with a different member of bar staff! It was all becoming a little farcical.
So, to the food. They have a great range of main dishes around the £10 mark and many of them are on a 2 for 1 deal they do, we assumed it was down to the very reasonable prices and the special offer that the place was so rammed on a Wednesday night. They also have a very extensive specials board which had around another 15 dishes on it, there really is something for everyone.
All of us ordered starters and main courses, I went with the breaded mushrooms to start and a slow cooked pork shank with cider sauce and mash as my main. The mushrooms were fine but nothing exciting, very run of the mill. I have to say the slow cooked pork was very nice but it was the tiniest 'shank' I have ever seen and therefore there was not a lot of it.
Other dishes at our table were the salmon in tarrgon sauce, chicken tikka masala and cajun chicken. Everybody was happy enough with their food but nothing was outstanding, this is generic pub grub to be honest but then for the price you cannot really complain. The saving grace was that (given the hit and miss drinks orders) all the food orders came at the same time and nothing was forgotten.
I had ordered another glass of wine when our mains arrived, it did not turn up until as the plates were being cleared. I have no idea why ordering drinks seemed to be presenting such difficulties to the staff but to be honest I was really getting rather annoyed with it by this stage. I now had a full glass of wine and we had just realised (after overhearing a waitress at the table behind us explaining to another table) that there was pretty much nothing except ice cream left on the dessert menu.
Every single dessert we had discussed having was sold out. We therefore made the decision to call it a day and got the bill. I think it's safe to say we did not tip particularly well on this occasion. I also had to bolt the glass of wine which had arrived so late. Not ideal to say the least.
It is also worth pointing out that the noise levels when we arrived and during our starters and some of our mains was so very high, this place seems to be a magnet for families with kids (probably due to the large garden and play area outside) but by the time our mains had been cleared (probably about 9pm) it was much much quieter (although evidently they had also sold out of lots of things by then). If you want a quieter meal, visiting later might be better.
I have mixed feelings about this place, it has a lot of potential with a massive amount of tables and large outside space, the food is not bad (not excellent either) and it is very competitively priced. It would be ideal for the odd unexpected meal out when you cannot be bothered to cook. However, the service we experienced was muddled, unorganised and at times surly, we also never saw the same server twice. This was a real shame as on that basis I doubt we will visit again.