“ Address: Hollybush Lane / Priors Marston / Warwickshire / CV47 7RW / Tel: 01327 260 934 „
When I visited The Hollybush at Priors Marston in Warwickshire last week, I went with high expectations. The pub had a good and modern looking website; and appetising menu; and another website listed it as a 'canalside' pub.
The first thing to say is that this is not in any shape or form a canalside pub; in fact, the canal is several miles away. I was disappointed by this, though in fairness, this information was given on another website (albeit one I consider a reputable one) and not on their own.
The pub is located in the small village of Priors Marston in Warwickshire. It's not far from Banbury and Daventry, and not that great a distance from the M40. Mind you, it takes some finding down many narrow country lanes...it is definitely well-hidden. We went by SatNav...this was a mistake because when the machine announced that we had arrived at our destination, there was no pub in sight...in fact, it turned out to be quite some distance down a different road! There is a reasonable sized car park and a small outdoor seating area.
In general, this is a traditional-looking pub both from the outside and inside. The toilets are particularly impressive...probably some of the best I've ever been in! The floor inside is very uneven, and you do have to be very careful. My eyesight is not good and there wasn't much to hold onto...I can manage it, but it just takes a while!
In all honesty, there wasn't really any welcome at all. It wasn't clear whether one ordered at the bar or at the table, and there appeared to be only one member of staff visible. We hung about a bit, and no one did or said anything, so in the end, we just went and sat down. We waited a while, and still no response, so we ended up going back to the bar where we were able to locate some menus. I felt this was really a very poor show on the part of the staff. I gather that the new management has been in place for a year, so I don't think the excuse of 'finding their feet' is particularly relevant here.
The pub offers quite an extensive menu of starters, sharing plates, country pub classics, main courses and desserts. The food on offer is a curious mix of traditional pub fare, and what one might term to be 'gastropub' food; this is reflected in the prices. At the more traditional end can be found Sausages and Mash (£9.50), Ham, Egg and Chips (£8.50), Sirloin Steak (£16.00); while a little more unusual was Leek and Gruyere Stuffed Chicken with Mushroom Risotto and Veal Jus (£11.50), Parsnip, Pine Nut and Parmesan Roulade with Sweet Potato and Coriander Rosti and Leek Veloute (£10.00), and Pork Belly with Apricot Stuffing, Creamy Mash and Thyme Jus (£11.50).
I could help but feel that some of this menu is little more than showing off. I'd love to know how you make a 'thyme jus' and the idea of a 'veal jus' with chicken seems a bit whacky. I stuck to Ham, Egg and Chips and it was delicious, though as is the case so often these days, it wasn't that hot, and the plate was cold. The ham was first rate though and I'd go again just for that!
We didn't opt for dessert, but these included Apple, Honey and Walnut Crumble (£4.00), Sticky Toffee Pudding (£4.50) and Ice Cream served in a Meringue Nest (£4.00).
I gather that they also offer Sunday Lunch, Curry and a Pint (Mondays, £6.50), Steak and Dessert (Tuesdays, £12.00) and Take-away Fish and Chips (Fridays, £5.00)
On the day we visited, they also seemed to prove a hot buffet which included a choice of pork casserole, lamb casserole or beef casserole with the usual bowls of mixed vegetables. There weren't many people in the pub anyway, and I only saw one other person go up for the hot buffet. They also provide a selection of sandwiches, I assume at lunchtimes only.
I felt that in general, the service was poor. Maybe it was because it was only a Friday lunchtime, it was raining, and there weren't many customers, but the quality of customer service was sorely lacking. As previously mentioned, there was no welcome, and we sat for some time before anyone appeared to take orders for drinks and then for food. It was all done in a rather disinterested way. One member of staff kept wandering off the answer the phone which kept ringing, and another was dispatched to set up the aforementioned hot buffet. It was all very lacklustre, and I didn't feel in any way that I was a valued customer.
Firstly, it was freezing cold. There didn't appear to be any heating on at all, and this wasn't really very pleasant (as I said, the food wasn't that hot either). In all fairness, the atmosphere could be described as frosty (in more ways than one). The staff didn't really show any interest, and there weren't that many other customers. It needed the blazing log fire to warm it up!
The quality of food was good, though not that hot. There's an enormous choice available, and I couldn't help but feel they'd have done better to stick to doing a few dishes well rather than add more and more peculiar combinations. The atmosphere was rather dull and dreary and the staff disinterested. I'm sure that in summer and probably at the weekends, it's very popular; however, this wasn't the case when we visited.
Would I visit again? Probably not because I didn't feel that my custom had been valued on that visit. I've given it two stars because I did think that the cleanliness of the toilets and the delicious ham were exceptional!