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Secret Drinker reviews Wetherspoon pub the Leading Light in Faversham

A sirloin steak and chips with a great pint of beer to wash it down – what could possibly be better? And, all for just a fraction over a fiver. Ever heard the saying ‘you get what you pay for’?

I’ve enjoyed some great value meals at Wetherspoon pubs and completely reject the snobbish, often unjustified, attitudes adopted by some folk toward this chain.

So, discovering the Leading Light in Faversham was still serving food after 8pm on a Saturday night looked like a lucky break.

The 'I don’t care if you don’t attitude' of the doorman almost stopped us in our tracks.

Though perhaps the mutterings of his stouter colleague should have sounded more of a warning: “Management don’t care about us anyway, that’s why they get us to do the door”.

With these words, and a promise waiting staff would be with us very shortly, ringing in our ears we were directed to a filthy table covered by a stack of dirty dishes and glasses.

Like so many Wetherspoon pubs, The Leading Light sits in the centre of town in a carefully restored old building – in this case you get two for the price of one, a butchers and a furniture store
Like so many Wetherspoon pubs, The Leading Light sits in the centre of town in a carefully restored old building – in this case you get two for the price of one, a butchers and a furniture store

You could argue there’d been enough warning signs to send us scurrying straight back past the less than efficient doormen to head for anywhere else. However, I’d spotted the manager’s specials and the prices on the pumps so we decided to give it a fair chance.

Although plenty of staff wandered past us it took an absolute age, and two requests, before the table was cleared and we were finally able to put in an order for drinks.

Our waitress insisted we order food at the same time and, given the length of time we’d already waited, this seemed sensible. We both ordered from the manager’s specials card – I went for the steak and Mrs SD chose an Empire State burger.

I was later informed there was no steak left so was offered the mixed grill instead.

The Empire State Burger came with chips and onion rings
The Empire State Burger came with chips and onion rings
The screens, currently installed between tables and the fruit machines, look a little out of place next to the historic interior features
The screens, currently installed between tables and the fruit machines, look a little out of place next to the historic interior features

I was a little surprised when the fellow drinking alone on the table next to us ordered three pints of lager in one go, but sensing method in his madness I requested both a Ruddles and a Bishops Finger.

The drinks eventually arrived half an hour after we entered the pub and the food just a few moments later.

Now, I need to be fair and say, when she finally arrived, Erika our waitress was reasonably chirpy and straight away referred to me as ‘my love’, ‘my dear’ and ‘my lovely’. I must also report the drinks, both Mrs SD’s wine and my pints, were absolutely fine – you really can’t knock Wetherspoon’s beer. But, the food – oh dear.

The large glass shopfront windows which have been retained are impressive
The large glass shopfront windows which have been retained are impressive
The most expensive draft pint was a powerful cider called Black Dragon, which will set you back £2.85
The most expensive draft pint was a powerful cider called Black Dragon, which will set you back £2.85

I did my best with the pile of grey, grisly meat I was served, but chewing most of it proved completely impossible. The chips it came with were soggy and cold while the peas were like little bullets. Still, I did at least manage some of it – Mrs SD declared the burger the worst she’d encountered and failed to eat anything apart from the bacon.

Just when I thought this Spoons visit couldn’t get any stranger the manageress walked up to our table and took away my three quarters full pint.

To be fair she added to Erika’s terms of endearment by addressing me as ‘my sweet’ and my drink was returned, almost instantaneously, having been transferred to plastic.

Unfortunately Mrs SD found her meal just about inedible and only managed to eat the bacon on the burger
Unfortunately Mrs SD found her meal just about inedible and only managed to eat the bacon on the burger
Slightly lighter in colour, I was surprised I enjoyed the Ruddles more than the Finger
Slightly lighter in colour, I was surprised I enjoyed the Ruddles more than the Finger

By way of explanation she simply said the type of people the pub attracts means it can get very lairy and she’d rather get a plastic pint in her face than a glass one. The ‘plastics-only’ rule takes effect at 9pm.

The next approach was from the taller bouncer who asked us to drink up as a decision had been take to close early tonight, at 9.45, to avoid trouble.

The building, as is often the case with Spoons, was impressive and the toilets were clean and well presented, but everything else was a huge disappointment.

It might be cheap, but you definitely get what you pay for
It might be cheap, but you definitely get what you pay for

This said, the place clearly knows it audience – 95% were aged just under, or just over, 20 and on a mission to consume enough low-price alcohol to feel the need to be arm-in-arm with their mates to avoid crumpling into the pavement when they left.

It may be different at other sessions during the week, but Saturday night is all about getting the younger generation as battered as possible on a budget.

There might have been a few entertaining moments later on, but it was generally a sorry sight to behold.

Read more: Secret Drinker's last pint before lockdown

Apart from yours truly I only spotted one other ‘older’ customer braving the generation gap
Apart from yours truly I only spotted one other ‘older’ customer braving the generation gap
There are screens installed right along the bar, but it’s strictly table service only
There are screens installed right along the bar, but it’s strictly table service only

The Leading Light – 20-22 Preston Street, Faversham ME13 8NZ

Decor: Like so many Wetherspoon pubs, this is another fascinating building with some wonderful features. It was created by combining an old butchers shop and a furniture store. ****

Drink: Both the Ruddles Best and the Bishops Finger were fine when they finally arrived. Surprisingly I found myself preferring the former. ****

Price: You can’t argue with the price. The Ruddles was just £1.29 and two meals cost £8.98. A large Sauvignon Blanc was £ *****

Food: The mixed grill was appalling with blackened slices of completely unrecognisable meat. If it’s possible, the burger was even worse and totally inedible. *

Staff: Ineffectual and detached, the staff clearly expect trouble to flare up any moment and simply want everyone out as soon as possible. *

Clean, fresh and pleasant-smelling, the gents were well maintained
Clean, fresh and pleasant-smelling, the gents were well maintained

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The weather was mild enough to ensure there were still plenty of people choosing to opt for a seat in the outside area on the left at the back of the pub
The weather was mild enough to ensure there were still plenty of people choosing to opt for a seat in the outside area on the left at the back of the pub
The legendary Black Dragon cider from the Gwynt Y DdraigBrewery is 7.2%
The legendary Black Dragon cider from the Gwynt Y DdraigBrewery is 7.2%

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