On Monday 12th December, the extended Grumpy family headed out for a luxury meal at the Weighbridge Brewhouse in Swindon.
The Weighbridge is know for it’s fantastic food and attractive surroundings and there’s no doubt that when you arrive you are struck by how clean and pleasant the restaurant is. There is a well stocked bar near the entrance, a good sized eating area with room for both large groups and more intimate dining, and a balcony area which sometimes features live music. All of the tables are immaculately dressed for fine dining and the overall impression is one of a very fashionable, premium venue.
Ours was a relatively large group with five adults, six children ranging in age from five to fourteen, and of course Grumpy Baby. On arrival we were shown to our table which was spacious and a good distance from the tables surrounding it. There was some delay in taking our drink order, but once taken the drinks arrived quickly and the staff were more than happy to provide water to heat Baby’s milk, so all was going well.
Our table or area didn’t seem to have a set waiter, but one member of staff was eager to take our order. He didn’t however seem familiar with the menu and was unable to tell us what the pie of the day was without going to the kitchen to ask. This wasn’t a good start and sadly was an indication of what was to come.
It wasn’t long after we had placed our order before the waiter was back. We had ordered two cauliflower cheese meals from the childrens menu and although this was the only vegetarian option, the kitchen didn’t have any cauliflower cooked and as a result were not able to provide it. Instead they offered to make broccoli cheese, which was an odd suggestion but acceptable to one of the children and eventually they agreed to make cheesy pasta to replace the second meal.
Although alternative vegetarian meals were eventually provided, we did find it very restrictive that there was only one option for vegetarian children and were even less impressed that the reason for them not being able to provide the only vegetarian option on that menu, seemed to be a lack of preparation and an unwillingness to cook the dish to order.
The restaurant was now starting to fill up but despite this most of the meals were brought out relatively quickly. Unfortunately they seemed to have miss-timed one of the childrens meals and as a result she was waiting between 5 and 10 minutes after the rest of the table had been served before her meal was brought out. This would have been frustrating for an adult, so for a child this was quite distressing.
Once all the meals were served we realised that we were missing some of our sides. We had ordered 6 adult meals at an average price of £25 to £30 each and these were all advertised as coming with potatoes and vegetables. However we had only been brought 2 servings of potato and 3 servings of vegetables. This seemed to be a deliberate choice on the part of the restaurant to serve less than half of the vegetables and potatoes that should have come with our order. In addition two of the childrens sides had also been forgotten.
With some difficulty I flagged down a waiter and requested all of the missing sides. The waiter bustled off and several minutes later returned with one of the childrens menu sides and asked if that would be all. I again asked about the other missing sides to which the waiter looked at me blankly and once again bustled off to the kitchen.
This time, when the waiter returned, he brought the outstanding childrens menu side and one more serving of vegetables and potatoes. At this point we decided not to chase the remaining sides as repeatedly chasing the waiters was ruining our enjoyment of the meal, so instead we decided to share what we already had.
Towards the end of our meal, when everyone was full and contemplating whether they could manage one more mouthful, closer examination of our side dishes turned up some tin foil which had obviously been missed in haste. This isn’t the worse thing I have found in my food (that was a spider) but it would still have been unpleasant to eat.
Once the meals were finished the table was cleared quickly and desserts, coffees and drinks were ordered. They managed to get this order nearly correct with a couple of minor mistakes.
My biggest disappointments on previous visits had been that the desserts are quite lack luster and not worth the price you pay for them. For example, on one previous visit I had ordered the honeycomb cheesecake. When it arrived it was a large portion and looked delicious. I had dug in excitedly, only to find that it tasted nothing like honeycomb. In fact, apart from a slight aftertaste of cheap chocolate, it didn’t taste of anything at all. When the waiter on this occasion came to collect the plate I asked if they had substituted the cheese cake and they confirmed that by honeycomb they meant that they crushed crunchy bars and put them in the cheese cake mix. This explained the cheap chocolate taste and why there was no honeycomb, as the honeycomb used in a crunchy would have disintegrated in the cheesecake mix.
The dessert on this occasion was even worse and almost inedible. I ordered the chocolate brownie sundae, which looked good, however the top of the sundae was a watery and rather disgusting tasting piece of brownie, followed by about half a scoop of ice cream. The rest of the sundae was entirely made up of bitter and burnt tasting brownie with no ice cream at all. There was so much wrong with this dessert that I honestly wish I hadn’t ordered it.
While the main meals at the Weighbridge are exceptional and the surroundings are luxurious, the experience was significantly impacted by the service. The staff seem to buzz from one table to another with no real organisation, meaning that service is often slow and orders are often wrong. Perhaps if the Weighbridge chose to employ a maitre d, or re-organise waiting staff so that each table had a named waiter looking after them, this could be resolved. A quick search of the internet has proven that our poor experience with the waiting staff was not unique, as this is the most common criticism of the venue.
I would also suggest that as the Weighbridge doesn’t offer any starters, they should hire a talented dessert chef to ensure that the quality of the desserts are matching the quality of the rest of the meals. Until they do this, the final impression of their food will be one of disappointment.