Can I start this review by saying that I don’t have a vendetta against Marstons Inns. I didn’t go in to the pub preparing to pick at the service or criticise the meal and the fact that they own The Waterloo Cross (where we had a disastrous meal last year) does not sway me in one direction or another.
But I went in, willing to give a Marston Inn another go…
The outside of the building is clad in that doctor’s surgery chic, a bland and apathetic attempt to make it less of an eyesore than it could be. But there isn’t even a hint that its trying to really look anything but aesthetically acceptable. Its not overtly offensive, in some lights it might actually be quite nice.
Despite the modern ‘housing estate’ feel of the outside of the pub, the inside is decorated with wood cladding. It’s tasteful, with a strong theme of deer and antlers throughout the pub. Had the pub been included in A Game Of Thrones, it would be the pub that Stannis Baratheon would nip out to for a quick pint in between burning pagans and marching on Winterfell. And if you hadn’t noticed that the name of the pub was The Red Deer, there is a massive deer on the wall as you enter the pub.
As we seated ourselves, almost instantaneously a sour
faced waiter came over to see if we wanted any drinks. I’m not a fan of being asked even before we have sat down, as I have no idea what they have and I generally want to look at the menu first so we asked the waiter to come back as we didn’t know what we wanted to drink, to which he turned on his heels and stomped off impatiently.
This is, I have to say, was the general theme of the service.
Like a troupe of bad actors, moving around a large stage they stomped around quickly, delivering the food, running off, taking an order, replaying the same automatic phrases to diners. With little passion and no soul. It wasn’t that they were in panic mode, it just seemed so…flat.
The waiter returned, he took our drinks order, made no eye contact, came back with our drinks, took our food order with no eye contact and that was it.
No pleasanteries, no passion, just the feeling that the relentless march of people who wanted their BOGOF meals was wearing him down. One positive I had picked up was that Brakespear Oxford Gold was on draught, which was my tipple of choice for the meal.
The Red Deer proudly states on the outside that all main courses are buy-one-get-one-free. This includes everything that comes to you as a main course. If you want to go and eat on your own, you’re stuffed, because the prices don’t match the portions and definitely don’t match the quality.
We went for a 10oz Gammon Steak and a Chilli Beef Burger both of which were passable. In fact the chips were really nice, freshly cooked and really crisp. But it stated that it came with coleslaw. A small (I estimate it to be about 4cm in diameter) plastic ramiken of catering discount coleslaw, I would hazard to say that it was a ‘sneeze’ worth and a measly portion of chips, all topped off with the most apathetic, ‘gourmet burger’ that I have had the pleasure (because it tasted quite nice despite the crap presentation and accouterments) of eating.
I realised that actually, had we paid £4.99 for the burger meal, it would have been an alright meal. A small portion of chips, a large but sparsely decorated burger and a sneeze of coleslaw would have been passable. But had we paid £10.60 for this I wouldn’t be so forgiving.
I find this method of marketing deceitful, and if you are going to promote a BOGOF offer, then at least give the diner the meal that you would have paid for. And the meal I received was not even worth £4.99. So on this level, it is hideously overpriced for what you get.
Would I go back, I expect so. But not if I was hungry. Am I being mean? Only as mean as the portions served.
The flatness of the service, the food, the children running around semi-clothed (yes I know this is a family pub…) the limited range of Ales available from such a large brewery pub and the deceptive offer make me wonder what we are really going to get from The Pinhoe Hoard (the new planned Mega-Pub on Pinhoe Road) I want The PH to be so much better than this, and I really hope it is.