“ Address: Pingle Drive / Bicester / Oxfordshire / OX26 6WB „
Tel. 01869 246562
Mon - Sat: 11:00-23:00
Food available from 11:00 - 21:00 daily
'The Acorn' has the appearance of an old school; all that is missing is a school bell.
You can guarantee you'll end up at 'The Acorn' at some point during your visit to the Bicester Shopping Outlet called Bicester Village. Everyone has heard of it yet most bypass the shopping outlet guessing it is in Bicester Town. Observe the public House 'The Acorn' on the round-about, take the road adjacent to the pub - by doing so, your within touching distance of the 'Village' or if all else fails, ask a village idiot at The Acorn, it is worth it just to see their eyes roll and huff with exasperation. One of the occupation hazards of working at the pub within several hundred yards from Bicester's retail fun-park, where the world seems to descend on as if it is one of those places you have to visit before your inevitable demise.
The Acorn is part of the retail park experience, the public house establishment works as a kind of charity box for the good of the local 'Village people' who work, rest and play in the pub. There simple-mindedness have got to be admired - from bar work to taking food orders, cooking the food orders and then serving the food orders with a... weak smile, not forgetting handing out the condiments and cutlery and napkins. Getting it right, in that order can be confusing for the 'Village people' but when all else fails, a meek smile, will do. I don't require US style Beauty Queen/King pageant smiles - till the dimpled cheeks ache. I find mediocrity acceptable, unlike the Hyacinth Bouquets' of this world who conveniently forget the staff are on zero hour contracts and on a pitiful pittance and demand more customer service for their money and conveniently forget to tip on the premise they received two more ice-cubes in their beverage more than they would've liked. The clientele are indeed of a certain type; who take their culinary connoisseur-ness to the cheap Hungry Horse establishment, they expect more for less. You can see why the 'village people' become the 'village idiots.' Over-time their customer service enthusiasm wane due to being incessantly galloped on. They scuff their hooves on the floor, flick their tousles and grunt; this is acceptable behaviour for me. I didn't come in to 'The Acorn' for intellectual discourse or for bogus Beauty Pageant smiles. Our customer service industry reeks it - all I crave for is quietness, non fussiness, and no-one asking me if my fries are to the correct chip-dimensions, or worse still systematically telling me; 'I'd like another pint, or if I'm happy with my varying beige shades of food.' Instead; gauge my happiness level by what is left on the plate.
My Fish and Chips were competently heated up, I had a choice of garden peas or salad with my meal, I gambled on the garden peas being not as pathetic looking as the salad I'd spied on the next table. Two Fish and Chips inclusive of two pints was just shy of sixteen pounds. Comprehensively less than the norm where you would get one meal for the same price - my petits pois were dry and shriveled - probably modelled on an old rocker's scrotum. My Cod must've been a John Travolta of the fish world it was so greasy and crusty. It was a case of 'finding nemo' when it came to seeking white fish, I wished I had the beef lasagne. The chips were made of potato - got the mandatory eighteen seconds in the deep fat fryer before being served up on the 17" plates. Barely chips, just tanned potato sticks - Size matters in the Hungry Horse, perhaps a consideration for those who're never off a diet. Vegetarians are second-class citizens passed off with beans, garlic cloves and cardboard pizzas. The saviour of the meal was the pint of Carlsberg, it tasted of Carlsberg and was sufficiently cold, as it was from the 'Extra Cold' pump; I took a gamble, I wasn't going to get a room temperature offering - A gamble which paid off.
In 2003, 'The Acorn' proudly states it had a make-over 'Gok Wan,' or is it 'Gone Wrong' style - it is hard to decipher - the irksome reality is; it needs 'Ground Force' to flatten it. For an establishment which is spacious, it isn't spatially aware. Three TV monitors are precariously arranged, the children's activity area adjacent to busy roads, the only attraction are the deals. Everyday a deal! 'The Acorn' business acumen is, 'attract the village idiots in; get em fed, n watered, and ship em out.' The opposite to what most of their clientele actually wants, which is a dining experience to match their shopping experience. The powder-rooms are walk-in-depository-units. Obviously not depositing 'little acorns' but stench of manure, depositories of horse - staff check-times are evident, however I assume checking that the 'stable for depositories' are still erect, rather than fit for the 'village people' to use.
I found 'The Acorn' self promotion wholly referring to size, it reads. "The Acorn is best for people who enjoy an *all round* experience. Food is very popular here as you can choose from a main menu and carvery, where everything on offer is fresh, or a delicious *huge* meal from the legendary Hungry Horse menu. All our meals are served on *17" plates* giving *plenty* of room for *masses* of food." There are 205 Hungry Horse establishments on this small island all in a bid to bulge out our waste-lines as cheaply as possible. Doing their utmost to multiply our nations' obesity level - What hope has the village idiot got to sustain a healthy lifestyle after a pounding of the credit card? Being an idiot myself, I know too well how easy it is to enter the Hungry Horse and like a deal gannet get seduced by the enticing Photoshop images, sadly the reality doesn't match the glossy gourmet splendours. 'The Acorn' promotional blurb ends off; "Welcoming everyone, including families and the disabled with good facilities, this is really a pub to be tried and tried again!" 'Tried and tried again? Not for this village idiot, my idiocy is sporadic - once bitten, twice shy.
Plate left half empty.©1st2thebar 2013
I've been to Hungry Horse Bicester 3 or 4 times in the last few years. When we visit Bicester Village for a bit of shopping we usually tire ourselves out with walking around the shops and build up quite an appetite so this is one of the places that we've been frequenting on our shopping trips.
The Hungry Horse restaurant is within The Acorn Pub and is on your left hand side as you enter the Bicester Village Shopping complex and on your right as you leave (full contact details at end of review).
The menu at Hungry Horse is pretty much the same across all branches of this chain of restaurants in that it's typical pub grub but in pretty decent portion sizes. I would grudgingly say that the prices are fairly competitive and the food is as tasty as you would expect for this type of fare. I've had different meal options on my various visits and have never been dissatisfied with the food. I've had the scampi here a few times and most recently I had the gammon. Hubby generally goes for the steak option.Typical example of starters, sharers and main menu items and prices include:
* Tomato & Basil Soup £1.99
* Cheesy Garlic Ciabatta £2.49
* Breaded Torpedo Prawns £3.59
* Topped Nachos £3.99
* Mexican Quesadilla £5.29
* Ultimate BIG Combo for Two £7.99
* 10oz Hawaii Five-0 Gammon £5.99
* All Day Breakfast £6.19
* Fabulous Jumbo Fish & Chip Supper £6.59
* Chicken New Yorker £7.19
* Grande Mexican Burrito £8.99
* 9oz Steak & Rib Combo £10.99
* Cajun Chicken Burger £3.99
* Smoky Bean Chilli Burger £6.59
The above is just a sample from the menu; these mostly come with chips and peas or salad. There is also the "Light Bites" menu which has a range of fillings available to have with white or brown bread, a wrap or baguette costing from £2.99 to £4.99 each. There are also a range of curries available from £5.99 as well as pizzas from £6.49 each.Amazingly there's a very cheap dessert available for just 89p or other desserts from £2.49 for a Syrup Sponge Pudding to £4.39 for a BIG Chocolate Waffle Stack. Or you could always go for the fabulous looking Chocolate Fudge Sunday for £3.59! I would recommend checking out the menu in full detail if you're eating here as they have various special deals available on different days of the week.
As the main meals are quite filling, we've tended to avoid starters or desserts as we don't really fancy falling asleep on the 60-90 minute drive home (depending on the traffic).
The full menu is available here as a pdf file: http://www.pub-explorer.com/gk/hungryhor​se.pdf
Personally I think £1.95 for a Diet Coke is extortionate but there you go especially when they have the cheek to give you a glass of ice with a splash of actual Coke! They have a range of draught drinks including Carling, Fosters, Stella, San Miguel, Guinness and Strongbow with ales such as Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen also available. If you buy certain spirits you can double up for between £1 and £1.50 and some bottles of wine are as cheap as £6.49.
With the food that we've tried getting pretty decent ratings, it's a real shame the service is so inconsistent. On previous occasions we've been there we've been so disappointed with the service that we've said we really would not set food in there again, with staff being openly rude to customers' face and to our face. The most recent time we went there was a queue of about 8 people waiting and when hubby went up to place the order he noted that the manager took note of how slowly the queue was moving and came over to open up another till to take orders. When he returned to the table I was seated at (you need to take note of your table number before you place your order) he put down the glass of Diet Coke I'd ordered and I was dismayed to see there were 8 or 9 huge cubes of ice taking up most of the glass and barely any actual liquid in the glass. I went over to the counter to ask politely for the ice to be removed and the glass to actually be filled with Diet Coke and the girl behind the counter very begrudgingly took my glass and then poured another one with just 2 cubes of ice this time. When she put the glass down on the counter she said quite impolitely "That's £1.95!" no hint of a smile, no "please!" When she saw the expression on my face she quickly realised the drink had already been paid for and said "Oh". No apology for trying to make me pay twice! A few minutes later another waitress came over to place a metal container with cutlery and condiments on our able, I smiled at her and my husband said "Thank you" she neither made eye contact with us nor acknowledged our thanks! The waiter who collected our finished meal plates was at least genuinely friendly when he asked if the food had been ok. Although the fact that we'd emptied our plates would have been a bit of a giveaway; it was nice to be asked!
This service was on the whole no real improvement on previous occasions such as when staff had not said "thank you" when taking payment for food or drinks or saying "please" when requesting payment, also slamming change down on the counter in a puddle of wet beer. Really, I can't even think why we went back there, although the service from the male staff was definitely better than received from the female staff and asking hubby he also recalls that we've generally had acceptable service from male staff members on previous visits too!
As most of the pub/restaurant is on one level there is easy access for wheelchair users, although the tables are so close together that it might be difficult to accommodate a wheelchair user.
The car park is fairly large although on our most recent visit, it was fairly busy when we arrived and people had started stupidly double parking as we were leaving. There is outside seating available which we've personally never taken advantage of.
The toilet facilities here are rather hit and miss. On the whole I don't recall ever being impressed with the toilets but on my most recent visit I found the ladies toilets even smellier than previously with water on the floor (I hope it was water) and had to wait for a toilet to become available as at least one was out of toilet paper. When I've asked hubby about the gent's toilets he said that the only reason he even steps foot in there is because of the fairly long drive home which if there's really bad traffic could take more than 2 hours.
The pub/restaurant also has a couple of TV screens as well as a pool table and dart board. I understand there's a weekly quiz on Wednesday evenings.
Because of where this pub/restaurant is situated I imagine they don't give a hoot about getting repeat business because they are guaranteed to get out of towners on their first. When coming out of a shopping complex such as Bicester Village where the service levels remind me of decades ago when people in retail were actually on the whole very polite and friendly and welcoming to customers, it's a bit of a shock to be treated like a non-entity when you go to the Hungry Horse!
So overall I can't really give this venue more than 3 out of 5 stars. Both my husband and I pride ourselves on treating people with respect when we go shopping or dine out or visit pubs which makes it all the more irksome to be treated so poorly when dining out!
NB: my review is based on the Hungry Horse restaurant. I have not frequented The Acorn pub in the evening and have no intention of ever doing so with the service levels experienced for diners I can't imagine it's much better in the evenings.
CONTACT DETAILS/OPENING HOURS
The Acorn/Hungry Horse
Tel. 01869 246562
Mon - Sat: 11:00-23:00
Food available from 11:00 - 21:00 daily