Throughout England the allure of Wetherspoons is quite irresistible. And it’s easy to see why. The budget pub chain has a reputation for its sympathetic treatment of historic town centre buildings – as we discovered for ourselves in Harrogate. And, of course, it’s cheap as chips.
Regardless of its cut-price credentials, our experiences of the grub at ‘Spoons has been variable – erring on the side of unsatisfactory. This has led to accusations of food snobbery; sure, we know where to find great food and we don’t mind paying for it, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate bargain pub grub. For example, we’re regular customers at Merrie Garden – Lake’s competitively-priced chicken chain pub. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s only chain places that have a monopoly on purse-friendly nammet.
Despite going to three Christmas events in one evening we’ve still somehow not managed to eat a roast dinner this December – the only month in which it is mandatory to sit down to a big platter with all the trimmings. Thankfully a couple of pals invited us to have Sunday lunch at The Waverley Hotel and we accepted with enthusiasm.
Our previous experience of this village pub was overwhelmingly positive. Way back in 2007 we wrote about the Waverley’s credit-crunch lunch menu; budget meals for those on a fixed income, or who just liked a bargain. Nearly a decade on and the nation is still obliged to tighten its belt in the name of austerity – and the cause of this enforced parsimony is the same as it was back in ’07 – a right load of bankers.
But this isn’t the place for political tub-thumping. Let’s concentrate instead on the Waverley’s free car park, the steps of which led us into a sunny, homely pub with old school beer towels on the bar adding to the heritage ambiance. We’d had the foresight to book a table which turned out to be prudent; this pub is a popular joint particularly among multi-generational diners.
There was something charmingly familiar about the place. Perhaps it was the swags at the windows, the patterned carpets and tablecloths. Unlike those rattly hard-surfaced gentrified joints, the Waverley had a soft appearance and muted acoustics to match – important in a venue where older patrons share space with their grandchildren. It was nice not to have to yell over the bar too, as Cat made enquiries about the roast dinners. Considering the nut roast, she was easily persuaded to have the turkey instead. “It’s all white meat, not brown.” explained the landlord, “Any turkey can be a bit dry but we serve it with plenty of gravy.” Who doesn’t love a moist bird, eh?
Between the four of us we had beef, lamb and turkey roasts. Other dishes were available, including lamb hotpot and pork faggots, all adding to nostalgic flashbacks to Sunday lunch around your nan’s house (but with Sky Sports on the telly). The roasts were available in small and large sizes. The ladies were agog at how much food was on their ‘small’ plates and the chaps were delighted with their large portions.
Small roast £6.95
Large roast £8.95
Pudding @ £2.95 x 2 £5.90
Wight Christmas £3.80
The landlord hadn’t been wrong about the turkey; it was quite a pile and all white meat. It had a nice home-hewn quality to it; clearly carved by a generous hand, not machine-cut slivers. Alongside the meats were All The Trimmings. All of them? Undoubtedly! Seven types of veg, including the alas all too rarely-seen but most enjoyable creamed leeks. Not enough? You want MORE trimmings? Well how about cranberry sauce, a ball of stuffing, and a light Yorkshire pudding filled with gravy? Still not enough? Cat had a bonus trimming of a bacon-wrapped chipolata. All of these delights were covered with turkey gravy. Yes, turkey gravy. The roasts had separate-flavoured gravy boats, the fabulousness of which Matt was barely able to comprehend.
Matt’s roast beef of old England was obviously cut from a joint, with the requisite amount of pinkishness. He didn’t win a chipolata or stuffing but he did get five roasties, which was a pretty lavish portion of these perfect crunchy-cased spuds. He washed the lot down with a rich and seasonal pint of Island Brewery ‘Wight Christmas’.
The puddings had less of the home-made quality about them. Matt was a bit disappointed to discover that his lemon meringue pie was a tad frozen in the middle but Cat had no such complaints about her ginger cheesecake with pouring cream. The smooth cheesecake was studded with pieces of tangy ginger with some bonus moist gingery cakery to add even more variety as Cat’s spoon inched its way along the length.
The Wetherspoons model might have taken the best of pubs like the Waverley Hotel: carpeted flooring, no piped music and a good value menu. But what it can’t manufacture is the patina of age, and the intangible essence of a proper village local that has been serving the community for decades. Plus, of course, the roast at the Waverley was of a superior quality. Generous and tasty with attention to detail – two gravies fer chrissakes!
Wetherspoons will always have its place but not a mile or so from Newport’s ‘Spoons is this traditionally charming venue, with some really decent home-cooked food that won’t upset your purse’s equilibrium.
This is the full-length version of the review that first appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Charming homely pub
- Purse-friendly home-cooked food
- Soft furnishings help soften noise