BEST PART: The Price!
The Waterend Barn, for those who don’t know, is the sole surviving Wetherspoon’s in St Albans. It is also an actual old barn that someone decided to move from their farm to the centre of St Albans for reasons best known to them, but it is the Wetherspoon’s aspect that I want to talk about.
There is a slightly unseemly air that hangs around the chain, a cheap punch-line, the pub equivalent of Lidl, but in my experience they are ace (Lidl might also be ace, I’ve never been there).
They are cheap, certainly, but this should only be used as a black mark against them if it denotes a lack of quality and that is not the case here. The food might not be troubling Darcy’s or Chez Mumtaj in the classiness stakes, but it is solid, plentiful and varied. You can spend a good ten minutes just reading the menu before you even start deciding what to have. On top of that there are the themed days (we went on a Thursday, Curry day, when there are 7 different curries available), and the Managers specials (half rack of ribs and chips for £2.99! How is that even possible!). When you add calories to the menu as well you get such an explosion of numbers and data that you need an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of it.
The excellent well-thought out range extends to the beer, with possibly the best selection in St Albans (after maybe the Boot) and exclusive brews from Brewdog and Devil’s Backbone. And these are pretty cheap as well (cheaper still when they’re in the bewildering range of meal deals available). The Waterend Barn is an attractive space, the high ceilings and rustic feel of the place are somehow make you feel more carefree. Due to the sheer space it is also a good place to bring young children for a midweek lunch; their noise gets lost somewhere up in the rafters. The Wetherspoon’s children’s menu and colouring pack are very thoughtful too.
Anyway, we weren’t dining with our children today. We had our weekly challenge of finding a lunch venue that could serve us a prompt good meal in our 50minute lunch hour slot. A pint of very pleasant Reverend James, a massive chilli burrito and a side of tortilla chips/dips set me back £5.50. My wife went for a Superfood Salad and, possibly thinking this too healthy, added a side order of fried halloumi cheese. She reports that it really was super; a colourful array of fresh ingredients that complimented eachother well. It wasn’t just the salad that was colourful either for Waterend Barn serve their wares on vibrant blue and white Moorish style crockery. It just makes everything jolly. White plates are classy and draw attention to the beauty of the food it is true. They also stop us confusing a balsamic dressing for a swirl on the plate but white plates are also boring! Bring on the blue, that’s what we say. Admittedly my food was probably too well acquainted with the inside of a microwave, and I would hate to delve into the supply chain savings that made the low price possible, but the same criticisms could be made about pretty much any pub that had no pretensions to the prefix “Gastro-“. Our bill came to under £15 which was more than reasonable for our eating experience. We had to provide our own after dinner mints but alas this seems to be the way of things nowadays.
So, why are people so down on Wetherspoon’s? Admittedly the clientele can run to the price conscious but in today’s credit hungry, live beyond your means society surely this is to be applauded. Why are people down on a place with an extensive (possible slightly too extensive) range of good value and well presented meals, complemented by a thoughtful and intriguing range of beers? My conclusion?
People are jerks.