Yes, we know that JD Wetherspoon’s is at the budget end of pub dining, but last year the team at Newport’s Man in the Moon totally underperformed for our works Christmas dinner. Undeniably a characterful venue, the service and food were pretty woeful. The annual knees-up with our colleagues was fractured by interminable waits for food, and people missing in action as they queued for an age at the under-staffed bar. So we thought we go back and have another go. And, you know what, this time there was a significant improvement.
Our meals were pre-ordered and, with such a lot of people in the venue, it must have taken a feat of logistics to deliver it all. We were instructed to take our seats at 7pm and five minutes later our starters arrived. Matt had chicken liver and Ayrshire bacon pâté with a warmed roll and a ramekin of red onion marmalade plus some perky lettuce.
After last year’s booze drought, the bosses pre-emptively bought loads of wine for the table. This improved matters enormously as our colleagues stayed put instead of leaving big gaps around the table as they went on a quest for drinks. Matt enjoyed his Angry Orchard cider very much. His dinner could just about be described as roast turkey with all the trimmings; there were two sorts of spuds and three additional vegetables. It’s probably fair to say that the discs of turkey meat had not been carved straight from a hot succulent bird. But hey, it is ‘Spoons we’re talking about here.
The nut roast offered to the vegetarians in 2014 was truly terrible. A coagulated mass of solid rubbery matter, mostly left uneaten. This year’s vegetarian Wellington, filled with mushroom, spinach, Brie, hazelnut and cranberry, was a surprising hit.
Cat’s salmon fillet was a much moister affair too. The dish arrived with a flurry of staff, many of whom had already visited the table (and then revisited it with newly-washed wine glasses). The vegetables were on the wrong side of al dente, but the fish was hot and tasty with a fair amount of Hollandaise and some agreeable roasties. Cat’s salted caramel cheesecake was identical to last year’s. That’s no bad thing; it was sweet and slightly crumbly, with a thickish coating of caramel.
We understand that running a vast joint like Man in the Moon must be a tricky business. We realise that it can’t be easy feeding a load of hungry and ‘lubricated’ party people. This year the pub did us proud. We had reasonable food, delivered quickly and with good grace by a team of busy servers. This time we could definitely say that it was worth what we paid for it.