Secret drinker reviews The Corn Exchange Wetherspoon in Bury St Edmunds
Welcome to the second in our series of pub reviews by Suffolk News' own Secret Drinker, who will make their way round the county's watering holes and give you their honest opinion.
I wanted to get a Wetherspoon pub ticked off the list early.
People will always have their opinion on the national chain. It might be 'loathe' more than 'love' for many - factors such as political stance and treatment of workers to the fact the beer just doesn't taste that good are often mentioned.
With Secret Drinker, there is a bar set (no pun intended). Hopefully by the end of this adventure across Suffolk, a ranking system can be created, from good to bad, atrocious, terrible.
Wetherspoon, and it's maybe a bold prediction now, would probably be in the bottom half of those rankings. But that is the business model. And sat in the Corn Exchange in Bury St Edmunds, I was reminded that this Corn Exchange is probably one of the better establishments of the Wetherspoon brands in Suffolk. Located in a gorgeous building rich with history, it is definitely an unusual spot for such a restaurant.
If you asked me honestly before I made the ascent up the traditional stairs the company strangely likes to put in every location it owns, I would have expected to be pretty scathing in my thoughts. Microwaved food? Untidy tables? My mind was running free.
Actually, it was fine. You can get lost in using every adjective under the sun to describe something that wasn't all that fantastic, and I'm not going to oversell it. It wasn't so fantastic I was lost for words, and it wasn't that bad that I came away with steam coming out of my ears. It was just fine.
You could argue that it's simply because it is Wetherspoon and lower expectations may have influenced the ever-so-average rating. The beer and food wasn't fantastic, but that, too, was to be expected.
As I found my seat, the next step was tackling the app. Friends of mine will tell you I have a history with making blunders on it, most notably ordering two burgers and two pints for myself at the same time after I wasn't sure if it went through or not. That was a howler I have been scarred with ever since.
Anyway, to my disappointment, there was no Ghost Ship to test, so I had to settle for a pint of Doom Bar at £2.10. I should have seen the weird taste and lingering feeling of sickness coming.
If it was meant to be fruity then it was anything but. Pints shouldn't taste like the chair leg that you're sat on, but this somehow did.
The delight of a Wetherspoon comes in the deals to be had. For the price of £9.25, inclusive of the Doom Bar, a chicken jalfrezi was devoured.
After seeing the sign for Curry Club, the thought of one on their speciality evening swayed me. Except, it was not Thursday and therefore not Curry Club. Schoolboy error.
The jalfrezi was passable - pretty hot and it warranted the three chilli rating (one can only presume that meant hotness).
Elsewhere on the plate - which was one of the normal Wetherspoon plates - the naan was actually fresh and hot, much to my surprise. The rice, though, was not and was lukewarm at best. Mango chutney is also not something that should be frozen, if I am to presume that was why it was congealed.
However, all of this happened within 16 minutes. From the moment I put the order through, I had a timer set and actually thought 16 minutes was above the usual time for your average wait in the Corn Exchange.
The delight of a 'spoons, and most pubs in fact, is weird and often wonderful conversation. While sat there, I heard someone utter words that I can only presume related to topics I probably shouldn't repeat. The confidence to discuss topics you perhaps shouldn't in public has always amused me.
During the 45 minutes spent drinking it all in and observing what it had to offer, it made me think of the last two to three months. The Cost of Living Crisis has hit people hard, and across Suffolk, people are struggling to get by one month after the next. We can be quick to criticise a Wetherspoon, but as I sat in the Corn Exchange, I studied the room. There were plenty of families, some elderly couples, too, and this was their chance for a nice meal out. It made me appreciate my surroundings a lot more.
The scores (stars out of five):
Decor: You can't really fault a gorgeous building like this and the way it looks both inside and out. There are plenty of reminders of the history as well, and the carpet kept in line with the tradition of each pub being different. ****
Drink: It just wasn't for me, and I won't apologise to Doom Bar drinkers for that. It didn't taste anything like the fruity scent it was supposed to have. **
Price: You get what you pay for and you get what you expect. In my humble opinion, it's good value. ***
Food: As above, you get what you expect. It wasn't fantastic, but it was passable. **
Staff: It was busy and they were keeping on top of things as best as they could. A smile goes a long way. ***