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Not Much of a Harvest From This Harvester!
Harvester Pub & Grill
Member Name: brittle1906
Harvester Pub & Grill
Advantages: Good parking, pleasant restaurant.
Disadvantages: Dreadful food, poor staff attitude
Review of the Harvester Pub and Grill, Bybrook Barn, Ashford, Kent.
Harvester Restaurants are a nationwide chain of family friendly restaurants. Many years ago, Harvester introduced their free, self-service salad bars which were a new idea at the time and this concept continues in their restaurants today. Harvesters are licensed restaurants and their bars can be used by non-diners too.
I was taken for lunch at the Ashford Kent branch recently by my niece Karen and her partner, Caroline. Both girls have been suffering from health problems lately and I have been acting as their driver, taking them to their various hospital appointments. The lunch was their way of giving me a treat as a thank you. An unnecessary, but much appreciated gesture.
The Ashford Bybrooke Barn Harvester is conveniently located on the outskirts of Ashford, Kent.
The Harvester is on the A28 Canterbury Road, next door to the popular Bybrooke Barn Garden Centre and Shopping village.
We arrived at the Harvester at around 12:30. The car park was moderately busy and we had no problem finding a space close to the entrance, which was important to us. I should mention that Caroline walks with the aid of crutches due to severe hypermobility and MS, whilst Karen who is suffering from a serious eye condition at the moment, wears dark glasses and uses a white cane due to her visual impairments.
We entered the restaurant, passing through the comfortable looking bar area and waited at the check in reception point. We were attended to promptly by a rather morose looking young lady, we requested a table for 3 and as the young woman spoke to us, it was obvious that she had a mouthful of food!
The receptionist led us towards the back of the restaurant which was fine, but she then led us up a flight of 5 steep steps. I tried to object, given my companions obvious mobility issues, but Caroline, who hates having attention drawn to her mobility issues, stopped me and said it was fine.
We were shown to our table, neatly laid for a party of 4. It was adequate but there was not enough room for Caroline to get in as the table was rather close to the wall. We managed by dint of shoving the table over a little!
The décor in this part of the restaurant was very attractive, pale muted coloured walls and dark oak furniture gave a pleasing ambiance to the dining room. There was a display of rustic styled prints on the walls, metal vintage advertising signs mixed with sepia photographs of this area of Kent. The styles blended well and gave an eclectic feel to the décor, which I felt worked very well. Lighting was good and our table was in a pleasant enough position.
I used the ladies loos during our visit and found them to be clean and well stocked with tissue, soaps and hand dryers. Obviously as there were no men in our party, I cannot pass comment on the male facilities!
**Menu, Ordering and the Food**
We had been given our menus at the point of checking in and as we sat studying these a waitress came to take our drinks orders. The girls ordered soft drinks and I had coffee. Our drinks came in record time and we continued studying the menu, we decided to skip starters and go for a main course each.
At first glance a Harvester menu looks pretty impressive, bright and colourful, well laid out with plenty of pictures of the dishes on offer. On further examination of the menu however; I was definitely less than impressed! I am vegetarian, which I appreciate limits my choices in a grill style restaurant, but on the last time I visited a Harvester, there was a reasonable selection for non-meat eaters. Not so on this occasion. The only 'mains' for vegetarians were veggie burgers, Grilled Halloumi, a Butternut Squash, Mushroom, Goats Cheese and Brie roast and two pasta dishes. I admit to being a rather fussy eater, I don't care for burgers or Halloumi and I don't eat mushrooms, so my choice was reduced drastically to the two pastas.
When she arrived to take our orders, I asked our waitress if it was possible to have the Four Cheese Pasta without the spinach in the sauce, but she said that it was not. So my choice was now down to one dish, 'Simply Pasta', a dish consisting of to quote the menu, 'tortigilioni in a lightly spiced chipotle cherry tomato sauce'. The menu advised that my dish came with a green vegetable and garlic bread.
The waitress did point out that if I didn't want any of the mains I could have a Jacket Potato, which was kind of her, but this isn't really a main meal in my opinion, so 'Simply Pasta', it had to be.
My niece ordered an Original Combo Grill consisting of a ¼ spit roasted chicken, a baby rack of ribs, corn on the cob and fries, whilst Caroline opted for a 7oz Gammon Steak Grill.
Meals ordered, we headed for the salad bar, at least, Caroline and I did as Karen didn't feel she could negotiate the steps. Being on crutches Caroline couldn't manage to hold her plate, so she pointed out what she wanted and I served her salad and then carried it back to our table for her before selecting my own and Karen's salads.
There was a plentiful array of choice, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, beetroot, potato salad, peppers, onions, sweet corn and pasta salads to name but a few. The dressings were varied and there were also items such as croutons on offer. Bread rolls and butter or low fat spread were available and these were all very nicely presented. There was nothing wrong with the salad bar, but it didn't really inspire me, it was nice and fresh, but frankly rather run of the mill.
To be honest, the Harvester salad bar has changed very little since my visits of 20 odd years ago!
We had almost finished our salads when the main courses arrived. My pasta was served in a large deep dish, rather like an old fashioned soup bowl. The small serving of pasta was floating in a sauce and there were strands of green leaves cast across the surface. A slice of bread sat on one side. To say it looked unappetizing is an understatement!
My meat eating companions fared much better, Caroline's meal was beautifully presented, the gammon looked nicely cooked and she had a good sized portion of fries. Karen's meal looked very good too although if her chicken was a ¼ of a bird, then it must have been a tiny chicken!
As I started my meal I realised that it was cold, the plate was warm but the actual food was stone cold! I apologised to my niece and said I was going to have to send it back. I tried to catch the waitresses' eye discretely but she ignored me. Eventually Caroline called her over and we explained that the pasta dish was cold. There was no apology; she just asked 'Is it?' before removing my plate! A few minutes later a fresh 'Simply Pasta' meal was delivered to our table. It looked no better than the previous one but at least it was hot. The meal was frankly appalling. The pasta was overcooked and soggy; the sauce was watery and bland. It tasted like watered down tinned chopped tomatoes. The green stuff was, I think, meant to be rocket, but to be honest I'm really not sure what it was and as for the garlic bread, I think the garlic may have been overlooked! In fact the garlic bread consisted of half a slice of bread from a cut loaf, the crust slice at that!
My meal was dreadful, my niece said her chicken was dry and overdone, but in all fairness, Caroline's meal was fine.
I felt rather sorry for the girls as the meal was intended to be a treat and they were disappointed, especially as they have dined there many times before and been very satisfied.
We decided to forego a dessert and asked for our bill which came to a few pence short of £30. I was less than impressed at both the food and the attitude of the staff although the restaurant itself was pleasant enough.
I fully accept that my vegetarian diet and the fact that there are certain things I do not eat limited my choice, but I feel that the overall standards of this Harvester branch were pretty poor.
We did not expect 5* dining from the restaurant, but we all felt our experience was far from satisfactory and in light of this, I cannot in all honesty recommend this particular branch of the Harvester chain.
Thank you for reading
©brittle1906 January 2013.
N.B. My reviews may be found on other sites under the same user name
Summary: Not one of Harvester's best restaurants.