Published: 17:42, 09 December 2021
| Updated: 06:06, 10 December 2021
A pint will cost you 99p and the food arrives faster than you can get a Big Mac – whatever you think about Wetherspoon, you can’t knock the business model.
I had a spot of special shopping to do with the apprentice but before either of us got the chance to spend a penny he’d dragged me into the Thomas Ingoldsby, just inside the city walls of Canterbury.
I completely ignored the 99p Ruddles option and spent big on a pint of festive 5.2% Three Kings, Coach House Brewing Company, at £1.99 but at the last minute got the munchies so combined it with a tuna mayo jacket and splashed out £6.65 for the combo.
My would-be young reviewer was even more outlandish with a Punk IPA, again 5.2%, but priced at an outrageously low £3.19 so I insisted he ate as well – he chose pepperoni pizza.
The drinks were passed across instantly by a guy who was fully mic’d up and presumably in direct contact with the kitchen, his manager or a gopher lower down the pecking order.
The food was popped silently onto our chosen table less than 10 minutes later by another mic’d employee. The apprentice can’t even make himself a sandwich in that time!
I was slightly disappointed the food arrived so rapidly as it robbed me of my favourite Spoons’ pastime - people watching. Three Ensign bus drivers had left as we came in but it wasn’t long before a hi-vis jacket made an entry and a couple of young girls started ordering cherry shots and falling over at the bar.
I left the apprentice to pick up the young ladies and took a trip upstairs to visit the palatial facilities – these looked impressive but when you got up close had the usual, recognisable ammonia aroma.
The upstairs bar, which also includes the checking-in desk for the hotel’s 13 rooms, is nearly as large as the one on the ground floor and the capacity for this place must be massive, running into the hundreds.
Left alone on table 64 the apprentice clearly hadn’t wasted his time while I was away and had a few profound thoughts to share when I returned.
Having looked around he’d concluded there isn’t a company anywhere that is run more effectively and efficiently – he reckons it is the perfect business model delivering exactly what its customers want.
The food and drink, to his mind, was perfectly acceptable and the fact it was delivered within nanoseconds by staff who didn’t utter a word was again a positive for him.
"It does", he says, "exactly what it says on the tin" and it does it at highly competitive prices.
In keeping with Wetherspoon tradition there is, of course, no pool table, dartboard or jukebox.
And, unless I’m much mistaken, there were no large TV screens showing endless silent news reports with subtitles. In fact, there was no background music playing either – definitely a bonus as we enter the Christmas season, though I don’t know whether this is always the case.
There are at least six monster electronic fruit machines blinking away constantly which are very nearly as bright as the carpet.
Wetherspoon, renowned for having a different carpet design in every pub, has certainly gone for a hectic pattern here.
I took a picture so you can appreciate it too and might even share it with the fellow who wrote a book on the subject and set up a website in homage to Spoons’ carpeteers.
The variety of different drinks available was impressive and had it not been for the £2.80 an hour parking charge (which must be particularly off-putting for hotel visitors) we might well have stayed longer.
However, I reminded my accomplice that, quite apart from the fact I’d need a new mortgage to afford the parking fees, we had important birthday shopping and the consequences of non-production of gifts could be dire indeed.
The Thomas Ingoldsby, 5-9 Burgate, Canterbury CT1 2HG
Decor: The pub is comfortably furnished all round and although Christmas decorations have gone up they are not as ridiculous as some pubs this year. Special mention must go to the full-on carpet design. ***
Drink: The Three Kings fully deserves a star upgrade to four – a very decent, slightly spicy, reddish winter ale. The Punk IPA was equally as good according to the apprentice, who rates it highly. ****
Food: You get exactly what you pay for, both the spud and the thin crust pizza were hot and filling without being spectacular. ***
Price: With a pint starting at 99p and two meals with drinks totalling 15 quid how could anyone possibly argue with the prices? The pizza and Punk IPA was £8.45. *****
Staff: They did exactly what was expected of them, no chat, no time for dawdling and no nonsense – barman and waiter simply delivered the food and drink to order. ***
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