Yesterday was a sunny but chilly day and we decided on the spur of the moment to go out for Sunday lunch. Hubbie suggested the café across the common but I wondered if we should try one of the local pubs as there are quite a few. I remember a friend recommending one in Penn Street Village that was child friendly so I phoned to see if we needed to book. They were busy but could fit us in on a high coffee table by the fire, I thought this sounded perfect so we booked, all bundled in the car after packing a few things to keep the boys occupied.
The building is beautiful in fact it looked really like a pub that I used to work in with the front door being in the centre and symmetrical windows either side. We noticed it was busy by the car park so parked on the street just before it.
Walking in, there was a lovely atmosphere; lots of walkers -boots abandoned on the foyer- and dogs and people milling about. We could see our table by the fire and it looked great and we were really looking forward to our lunch. We ordered drinks and then sat down to set up the snakes and ladders board that I had brought with me. Hubbie set about logging onto the free Wi-Fi so we could use the iPhone as a dice and the boys argued about which random Playmobil/Lego man they were going to use as a counter.
We were given menus after a while and after another while our order was taken. Clearly the 2 bar staff were rushed off their feet but we were still hopeful.
After finishing our game of snakes and ladders Tobes tucked into his ‘Boys Doodle book…’
…which being the artist of the family kept him amused for ages so the passing of the time (and there was much passing of time) didn’t seem so bad. Henry played angry birds on the iPad and Ollie played mine craft on his iPod touch. Hubbie was getting restless as he’d had a morning’s worth of rugby caching and was beginning to wonder where our food was.
45 minutes later our meals arrived but this was after much ‘When is it going to come???’ and ‘Can we go somewhere else?’ from the boys. We’d also noticed other people questioning where their meals were too. There was an apology for the wait and the barmaid asked if she could get us some more drinks which, by that time we needed as we’d long since drunk our first ones.
The food was quite good. Ollie’s burger was massive, the 2 little ones loved their peas/beans being in a little pot and I liked the way we could choose either 1 or 2 sausages for them to have. My gammon steak was well cooked and the eggs were just as I like them -cooked but with no crispy ‘skirt’ as a friend’s mother used to call it. Hubbie wasn’t happy with his over cooked meal. The salmon was tasteless and the carrots clearly overcooked but being hungry he devoured it.
Once we’d finished our meals we noticed that our drinks that we’d ordered at the start never actually arrived so Hubbie went to the bar to ask where they were and they were, after another short while, brought over.
He’d ordered a black Americano as he didn’t fancy a soft drink and we were all surprised when it arrived in a half pint glass.
It’s not something either of us had seen before and it just felt wrong! I asked on my Facebook page what others thought and there was a mixture of responses from ‘Quirky’ to ‘Odd!’
I’d visited the toilet and gave it a once over (I am slightly obsessed with toilets and public toilets at the moment) and I’m happy to say that they were adequate if freezing cold. The baby changing unit was a nice touch as was the mat on the top but it wasn’t clean and I wouldn’t have felt happy putting my baby down on it and also put this with the really cold room I’m not sure the baby would have liked it either. Under the unit were 2 potties which was, again, a nice touch but they were filthy and there is no way that had I ever needed a potty with my boys (they never used one) I wouldn’t have used these. This was a shame as cleaning the toilets takes place before the pub opens (I have worked in pubs many a time and have much experience in how they work) so being rushed off your feet shouldn’t really be the issue here.
We waited for our plates to be cleared which unfortunately never happened. Tobes wanted to get back to his drawing and put his book on the table knocking a few spare chips onto my lap as he did. This led me to stack the plates and then put them on the floor as I couldn’t really see what else to do.
We sat wondering if we were to be offered menus so I went up to the bar -which was empty of the 2 barmaids at this time – and waited along with lots of other people. I was given the balckboard and sat back down with the boys debating what they would like. Hubbie went back to order and to hear a customer ask if their baby food could be heated and was told ‘No sorry, all the microwaves are being used at the moment’ which surprised both Hubbie and the lady asking. Lots of people were wanting to know where their food was as they had been waiting and when Hubbie asked how long the puddings would be he was told first ‘I don’t know’ and then ‘about 20 minutes’ he said ‘oh we won’t stay then, can I have the bill please?’ By this time it was 2 o’clock and we’d been in the pub for 1.5hrs and had just managed our main meals. The boys were disappointed when we said we weren’t having puddings but they cheered up after I said we’d call in at Tesco’s and get something on the way home.
Overall it was a huge let down. The pub was beautiful, it was packed so had a good support from customers, it just needed way more staff than they had to run efficiently what they wanted to do. We did walk past the ‘staff wanted’ sign at the end of the carpark but if they didn’t feel they could cope with more food orders they really should have turned our booking away giving the perfectly reasonable reason as ‘sorry, we’re fully booked’ I would have then wanted to go back and definitely eat there as a pub that is full would seem, on the outside anyway, to be a place you’d want to eat. As it is none of my family want to eat there ever again, at least, not if they were actually hungry…
I’m glad we took games to play and things to do as the boys didn’t complain half as much as they would have usually. I wouldn’t recommend The Squirrel Pub as a place to go for families to eat though I would to walkers who were just wanting a drink and a place to get warm again. Such a shame really when it could have been great.