“ Address: The Cathedral Hotel / 7-9 Milford Street / Salisbury / Wiltshire / SP1 2AJ / Tel: 01722 343700 „
I met Hotel Cathedral in February of This Year 2011, I had lunch Homemade Beef Lasagne and I had Felt good,days later I Realized That I Could get cathedral card to Take Advantage of Discounts and started going all nights to drink beer and eat. THUS I found things negative, is a hotel at the Same Time Makes fisting the lobby, so guests do not Their lobby one day enjoy Best T-shirt There left and I go in and Shortly After the pizza Vegetarian (my favorite) WAS still frozen.
~What Price Loyalty?~
My step-father is a man who loves a bargain and whose loyalty can be 'bought' with a nice little discount scheme and an OAP 'deal'. And why not? The money's better in his pocket than the restaurateur's. On a recent visit to Salisbury my mother proclaimed the cupboard to be bare and said she wasn't in the mood to cook so we happily went along with the suggestion to go out for lunch at the Cathedral. Before you think "Aha, Salisbury Cathedral's cafe, home to well meaning scone-makers and venders of organic small-scale soft-drinks in recyclable packaging" let me stop you. In this case the Cathedral refers to a city centre pub-restaurant on Milford Street.
Perhaps it's a bit snobbish of me but I've never liked the look of this place. I only go to Salisbury a few times a year and the Cathedral seems to spend half of its time with the windows boarded up and the guts being ripped out of it. My impression was it was one of those 'failing' businesses that repeatedly gets taken over, relaunched and then fails and goes through the cycle again. I'd always assumed it was a bit of a rough 'spit and sawdust' dive so I had been surprised when Keith (the aforementioned step-father) raved about it. It hadn't struck me as the sort of place he'd really appreciated.
~Our Sunday Lunch~
We walked into town, glad that my mother's hip replacement means we don't need to hunt down parking places in the city centre; she's not fast, but she gets there eventually. I didn't expect much and I was quite pleasantly surprised when we stepped inside because the place was well decorated and well furnished. We grabbed a table for six by the window in the main dining area of the pub and it did look rather nice in an 'over-the-top wallpaper' sort of way. Certainly it was a lot better than I'd expected. The waitress brought menus and took drinks orders although I was a bit miffed that my request for 'A glass of white wine' prompted an assumptive "Large one?" from her. Why do restaurants do this? If I wanted a large one I'd ask for it. If I didn't specify she could ask, "What size would you like, small, medium or large?" I find this type of 'upselling' really annoying especially when it's so unhealthy to encourage people to drink too much. The small glass I asked for turned out to be 175ml which I would call a medium glass - I can only assume a large is one third of a bottle.
We'd probably been left for about 20 minutes by the time they eventually came to take our food orders. We weren't in a rush so we didn't mind too much. I'd not been overly excited by the menu but everyone found something they fancied. My parents took choices from the OAP menu which I think includes a hot drink along with the meal. Keith went for a gammon steak with egg and pineapple which surprised me as I thought the idea was normally egg OR pineapple. Mum chose the lasagne. My sister and my husband both went for ham, egg and chips and Aileen's girlfriend Joyce chose duck, prompting my predictable response that ducks are for feeding, not eating. She didn't care, she was far enough away from me at the other end of the table. I'd been deliberating between mussels (not really in season), a grilled goat cheese salad and poached haddock before choosing the haddock. When I ordered it the waitress just wrote it down. I asked if she wanted to know my choice of potatoes and she told me that it came with mash. I hate mash and I pointed out that the menu said all the mains came with a choice of "mashed or chipped potatoes or garlic and herb new potatoes and seasonal vegetables" (yes, I'm quoting). Reluctantly she accepted that I did indeed have the right to choose.
~The Waiting Game~
Service was astonishingly slow. We waited and waited. We sipped our drinks, read the out of date papers in the kindling basket by the nice old fireplace and waited some more. We ordered more drinks because so much time had passed. A bleached blonde woman with an utterly impenetrable accent strolled over to say it would be a little bit longer - at least I think that's what she said. Although our part of the place was not so full, the bar area was pretty packed with people watching the football and that rather sums up the problem with The Cathedral - it doesn't seem to know what it wants to be and who it wants to serve. You can't really pull of 'family Sunday lunch venue' and 'football watching pub' under the same roof especially if you also want to present 22 room independently run hotel all at the same time.
My sister started to blame me. Clearly, she claimed it was my poached haddock causing the trouble and she may well have been right. Ham and eggs, lasagne, gammon steak - all probably the kind of stuff you can whistle up in a few minutes if your chip pan's already warm. We left Joyce and her duck alone - they were just as likely to be at fault. The waitress - the one who didn't sound like an extra from My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding - came back to tell us that the kitchen was REALLY busy but we couldn't help noticing that the table next to us who'd arrive considerably later than us were tucking into pizzas. Bargain hunter Keith pointed out that if we didn't pay until after 3pm it'd be on the 10% discount rate instead of the 5%. She told him that they no longer do the 10% discount and he queried how that could be since he gets regular emails from The Cathedral and they'd never said the deal had changed and indeed, just checking on their website, they're still advertising 10% off between 3 and 7 pm. The waitress told him that the owner had withdrawn the offer and no Keith couldn't speak to him because "he's away in Ireland". Maybe when he gets back he'd like to get his website updated because a month later it's still saying 10% off.
You may sense by this stage that we were getting a little less sunny-natured. We'd been waiting so long that the table was starting to get nibbled and we did feel we'd been ignored for a very long time. Eventually the food rolled up and was delivered in two visits - the hams and gammon first and then the other dishes at the end. The quantities were generous but I was very disappointed with the haddock. It wasn't hot enough, it was a bit of a mean looking piece and the sauce which was supposed to be a white wine sauce was just a white and salty mess. It was served with green beans when I would have thought spinach would be the better vegetable. The chips were good though - thank goodness I fought for them. The ham and gammon contingent declared their piggies to be delicious and Joyce and Mum were tucked so far away that I couldn't see how they were doing but there plates were well and truly cleaned by the end. Mum and Keith had their hot drinks that were included in the bill and hubby snuck off to pay the bill, taking Keith's loyalty card with him.
~Querying the Bill~
When he came back he was quizzed about the discount and had to admit that they hadn't given him one. Keith insisted he go back and query it. Apparently the 'rules' said that he couldn't combine the 10% (or in this case 5%) discount with the OAP meal. Fair enough that he couldn't have an additional discount off the OAPs - that I could understand. But they wouldn't let him have the discount on the other four meals either. He returned to the table and reassured Keith that they'd fixed it - which they hadn't of course but sometimes it's easier to tell a little fib. Let's be honest the 5% they didn't knock off was less than the tip they would have got if the service had been better and the food had come on time. I don't think he tipped at all (which is very unusual) so in the end, the Cathedral got less than they would have done. In total I think the bill came to just over £60 for the six of us, so it wasn't expensive but I cannot claim it was particularly good value.
Due to the extraordinary time I spent there I did, for once, go and check out the toilets which are hidden away upstairs. I didn't spot a lift but I must assume that since it's a hotel they ought to have some way of getting mobility impaired guests upstairs. Mum can't do stairs yet on her new hip so thank goodness she didn't need to go. The ladies loos were a very large room with a lot of cubicles, presumably set up to serve the Friday and Saturday night drinking clientele more than the OAP lunches.
~Would I go back? Not in a hurry~
Although the Cathedral's interior was better than I expected and it really doesn't look like the dive I assumed it to be, I will need to have my arm twisted to go back again. I didn't like the atmosphere, I didn't think the service was up to par and the food wasn't worth putting up with the wait. I'm sure we'll be asked to go again - I think I'll suggest to upgrade to the White Hart where for a very similar sum four of us ate a few weeks earlier in elegant surroundings with infinitely better food.
Sorry Cathedral but I won't be surprise if the current owners don't last any longer than the ones who've gone before.