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Service isn't great but the food fills a gap!
Harvester Pub & Grill
Member Name: Holland1
Harvester Pub & Grill
Advantages: Nice atmosphere, good prices, extensive menu
Disadvantages: Food mass manufactured, not many vegetarian options, tiny toilet cubicles, service could be better
We went to our local Harvester Grill (Wallasey) for my fiance's birthday over the Christmas period. It's not the best time to have a birthday, with everyone being tired of feeling bloated from over-indulging over Christmas, so we decided we'd just go for a pub tea, nothing too heavy, and we invited his parents and brother.
The main appeal of this pub is the location, as it's only down the road meaning it doesn't cost much to get a taxi, or it's only five minutes in the car if someone's driving. The location is a little off the beaten track, so you probably wouldn't stumble across it unless you knew it was there. Having said that, it's always busy when we go and sometimes you have to wait for a table.
The restaurant area is very traditional and cosy, featuring log fireplaces, wooden floors, leather seats in the waiting area and some of the tables are private booths offering a bit of privacy. The establishment has a lovely warm welcoming feel to it, especially over the Christmas period when it has tastefully decorated fireplaces and trees. We had to wait in the waiting area for what they said would be 40 minutes but didn't feel anywhere near that long, and we enjoyed a pleasant drink in the bar area whilst we were waiting.
Although there are some vegetarian options on the menu, I would definitely say that Harvester Grills are more suitable for carnivores. They offer starters such as chicken wings, breaded mushrooms, nachos and loaded potato skins. The mains menu follows a pattern whereby you pick your main, choose a sauce, and then choose a side. You also get unlimited access to the salad bar which offers things like potato salad, coleslaw, beetroot, sweetcorn, and so on. There are usually bread rolls on the salad bar but on this occasion they'd run out and didn't restock them during the evening.
The mains on offer range from fillet steaks (the main attraction), salmon and sea bass, burgers, a mixed grill, rib eye steak and chicken. The sauces were things like Diane sauce, herb butter, BBQ sauce, Jack Daniels dipping sauce, amongst others. There are suggestions on the menu as to what sauce will go well with chicken, fish or steak. The sides were mainly potato based from what I can remember. They offered jacket potatoes, seasoned fries, new potatoes or mash.
For our starters, I ordered the potato skins and the rest of the group had BBQ chicken wings or breaded mushrooms. The overall verdict was that the starters were "ok", nothing special but they filled a gap. The potato skins I had contained a reasonable amount of filling, but looked a bit dried out like they'd been being kept warm in the kitchen for a while, and there were only two of them. Everyone else's starters came in a nicely presented basket, the mushrooms were ok apparently, and the chicken wings very nice.
I'm not a huge fan of steak to be honest so I opted for the salmon for my main. I had the herb butter sauce and a jacket potato with it, and it came with green beans so I thought it was slightly healthier after stuffing my face with Christmas food for days on end! The rest of the group had the steak with various sauces (the Jack Daniels dipping sauce being my favourite and was the one my fiance ordered), and everyone had fries.
My salmon was lovely, it had a nice chargrilled crispy top and just flaked away. The jacket potato was well cooked, and I only used a bit of the herb butter sauce as I felt it would have drowned the meal otherwise. Everyone else seemed quite happy apart from my fiance's mum whose steak came out burnt to a crisp. When they took the order they asked how everyone would like their steak cooked, and she said well done. There's a difference between well done and burnt, however! The response of the waitress when she said it looked a little burnt was "Well have you cut into it, it might be all right inside" which was a TERRIBLE attitude for a waitress and immediately got everyone's backs up. We sent the steak back, and waited whilst they brought another one out. As they were carrying it back to the kitchen I was at the salad bar and heard the waitress say to her colleague "That's another steak going back", which makes me think the chef was having an off day rather than we were being fussy. Eventually a replacement arrived and luckily we'd all been eating slowly so she didn't feel like she was being watched eating her meal. Everyone seemed happy in the end and the plates were cleared.
They offered us dessert, but apart from being stuffed at this point, we wanted to get out of there and away from the rude waitress so we declined. I saw some desserts being brought out though and most of them were either ice-cream sundaes or fudge cake type things.
One thing I did notice is that there wasn't a great deal of choice for vegetarians, although the menu choice is very extensive so there are a few things dotted here and there such as the sweet potato and chickpea burger which is the only thing I can remember being suitable for vegetarians.
The other thing I noticed about the menu which has changed since I was last here, was the fact they tell you how many calories are in each meal on the menu. I'm not sure if this is a good thing, or if it just spoils your enjoyment of the meal, but I guess it's useful for dieters who are trying to stick to certain calories or maybe if you're having three courses you could pick a healthier main or something. Personally, if I'm out I'm out and I've no time for worrying about this kind of thing when I'm enjoying myself.
At the end of the meal my fiance's parents very generously insisted on picking up the bill in that way parents do, and for five of us to have two courses it was around £70. That's not bad considering you get free access to the salad bar, although that doesn't include drinks because we'd ordered them separately at the bar. Most mains were between £8 - £10, and the starters around £5 each.
As mentioned before, the waitress was rather rude to my mother-in-law, and the staff generally seemed quite stressed and frantic on this busy night. We also waited quite a while for our food, which we didn't really mind because it made the night last longer, but if you were hungry or in a hurry I wouldn't recommend coming here.
One thing I found very strange about this restaurant was the ladies toilets. The cubicles inside were so tight to fit into it was ridiculous! I'm a size 12 which is probably around average in this country, and I actually had to straddle the toilet seat to fit in the cubicle in order to shut the door. Sitting on the toilet meant your knees were almost touching the door, it was THAT tight a fit. Anyone overweight or not wishing to spend their evening straddling toilet seats might not be comfortable in these toilets. Other than that they were clean and tidy, and had those toilet roll holders where the toilet roll comes out both sides so they're constantly being replaced before running out. I did notice there was a disabled toilet, but didn't look inside. I can only presume this had ample room compared to the ladies toilet. On this note, the entrance has ramps which makes it easier for wheelchairs to gain access, and there was a decent amount of room inside the restaurant to get about for anyone with mobility issues.
Despite the niggly issues we experienced, we still had a good night and a good meal for a very reasonable price. I enjoy the atmosphere in this restaurant, and the location is ideal for us if we just want a pub tea and don't fancy going too far. For this reason, I'm sure we'll be back again, and if anyone is in the area I'd recommend it for a pub meal, but I wouldn't recommend anyone going out of their way to seek it out.
Summary: A fairly average pub food experience, mainly intended for carnivores