Recently we were invited by Brewers Fayre to review their Watford restaurant. We carried out an anonymous review a few Saturdays ago. When we entered, we were greeted warmly by the manager who took us to our table and explained how the restaurant worked. The waitress then came around with crayons and activity packs for the girls and again welcomed us politely to the restaurant. The girls eagerly began colouring and choosing their food. They have been to this restaurant before, and so were excited to come again. At Brewers Fayre you have to go up and order your food at the bar, noting the table number it will be delivered too. If you are having the 'Bottomless' drink option, you also have to leave the table and get your own drinks yourself. Personally, I dislike both of these processes as I don't find it very conducive to enjoying a relaxed family meal and sharing time together. I also don't think it is very family-friendly or practical when you have kids to have to keep leaving the table to go up and order food, and get drinks, especially if you were a single parent or dining on your own with the children as it breaks up the meal and the conversation, and you have to worry about leaving the kids at the table, or leaving the table and dragging them along with you.
Having said that, this is a family restaurant, designed to appeal to all ages, and there is a wide choice of meals for children and for adults. There are also healthy options on the children's menu which I like to see. Vegetarian main course options for the adults include Vegetable Lasagne, Cheese and Onion Quiche, Goan Vegetable Currry (which I have had previously) and Quorn Chilli. Vegetarian non-meat starters consist of Soup, Camembert and Breaded Mushrooms. There are also various specials on the specials board, along with different meal deals including two meals for ten pounds and two desserts for two pounds at certain times of the day. Additionally, there is a different all-you-can-eat buffet held each day - although it doesn't seem very vegetarian friendly.
After deciding what we would like, I went up to order our food at the bar, leaving hubby to entertain the monsters. I ordered our starters, main courses and drinks, opening a tab to do so. I decided to road-test the service and asked for the Vegetarian Quorn Chilli - currently available on the lunchtime menu but not the main evening menu. I was able to order the Vegetarian Chilli, and Sarah, my server was very pleasant and happy to accommodate my request.
To start I ordered the Garlic Mushrooms, served with a garlic mayonnaise. It was evident that these were cooked from frozen due to their watery nature, but I wouldn't have expected anything else from a chain restaurant. The mushrooms were nice enough and most importantly were served hot. The kids had Garlic Bread, which they enjoyed and hubby went for a Chicken starter which again he really enjoyed. Our starters were served within a realistic timescale and by friendly waitresses.
For main course, both kids chose a non-veggie Chicken Nuggets, with Chips and Corn on the Cob. The portions were served on the same sized plate as hubby had his dinner on, so definitely an ample portion for them. They couldn't manage all of their dinner as it was so big, but they did enjoy what they ate. I had the Vegetarian Chilli, with Sour Cream, Tortillas and Rice. I really enjoyed my main course. Although not very imaginatively served, and again, warmed through rather than made from scratch, my chilli did taste good. I would have preferred a larger portion of sour cream than the tiny portion I got, but apart from that I enjoyed it. Hubby chose the mixed grill and readily devoured his dinner, enjoying it also.
After dinner, there was a short interlude where we were not really sure what was happening as our plates were not cleared and we were under the impression that we could order our desserts via the waitress. However, when none materialised, I again walked the long walk up to the bar to get our desserts, having to wait in a queue with other diners and those just drinking in the pub - again for me, inconvenient and detracting away from time spent as a family. For dessert, we chose the Strawberry Sundae and the kids had Sundaes from the kids menus. The ice-creams did take a while to come, but eventually they arrived and were enjoyed immensely. My only bug-bear during pudding, which is a real bug-bear of mine, was that a couple of our dinner plates were left on the dinner table when the puddings were served and remained there even when we had left to pay the bill at the bar.
I think that Brewers Fayre Watford is a pleasant enough restaurant for what it offers - chain owned, pre-cooked food for the masses, which lets face it, is what most restaurant chains of this genre offer. The thing that would deter me from going to this restaurant is the order at the bar procedure. I think it is completely un-family friendly, and also actually un-diner friendly. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer to be served at my table, by one member of staff, where I can relax and enjoy my food, drink and company, pay the bill and tip the member of staff at the end, rather than having to keep leaving the table to order things. The restaurant is attached to a Premier Inn, and so I feel this is a negative for parents staying at the hotel with the kids on their own. I also think (and observed) that it can make the staff complacent, as they feel they don't have to be as attentive to customer's needs if the customers are mainly serving themselves. Additionally. there was also the age old problem of dirty sticky menus and dirty walls, which seemd to always get missed during cleaning. The toilets also had that water logged carpet, covered up in air-freshener smell. However these are only observations that I made having worked in the restaurant industry, which would probably not be picked up by the average guest.
The good thing about Brewers Fayre is that it appeals to people of all ages, and there is a great variety of food, so most people are guaranteed to find something they will eat - vegetarians included! I think that the vegetarian menu here is a lot better than at other similar chain restaurants as there is a great choice of vegetarian food and they are flexible to accommodate different diets, although I would always welcome more vegetarian menu choice.
The food at Brewers Fayre is good, served hot, in decent sized portions representing good value for money. On this visit, the service was very good most of the way through the meal, although it was lacking towards the end. We have been to this restaurant many times before and have had mixed experiences, so I think it depends what time of day you go and who's serving you.
I would choose to go back to this restaurant as their food is good and a meal for a family is reasonably priced. Further improvements I would like to see would perhaps be two sized plate options for children, and a smaller plate option for the older generation (as requested by my Nan!). A three course meal for four of us, including two sides cost £55 which I would say is extremely good value for an enjoyable night out!
Price: Very good value for money 10/10.
Ambience: Nice restaurant, was very quiet when we went in and has a nice feel to it. - 8/10
Service: We received very good service to start off with, but it got worse towards the end. 7/10
Food: - We all enjoyed our food, it tasted good and went down well. However, I prefer my food made from fresh rather than warmed in the microwave so for this reason I am awarding 7/10.
Overall: 32 Points = 8 out of 10.
However, due to the rubbish ordering system, I am downgrading the Brewers Fayre to a 7/10 as I wasn't impressed with no available table service.
Disclosure : We were invited to review The Brewers Fayre in Watford and received a complimentary meal. All opinions are my own and I was not asked to write this review.