The Dolphin, High Street, Botley
It’s not often that a pub lunch gives the Dish Detective a headache. Well at least not an instant one.
Unfortunately The Dolphin managed to do exactly that, and it wasn’t down to the booze.
Earlier this year the pub was taken over by family-run brewery Wadworth. It used to be a Hungry Horse pub-restaurant and if the reviews on TripAdvisor are to believed, a not-very-nice Hungry Horse.
However, it is clear that Wadworth has spent a lot of money on the pub, which is in the High Street of the pretty village of Botley. I was excited to see if it had upped its game or just simply changed its coat.
Wadworth carried out a refurbishment and from the outside it’s neat and tidy, and inside the bar is smart and trendy. Botley’s main car park is at the back with three hours free.
All the fizz has gone – and that’s exactly how we were starting to feel
There were plenty of places to sit. We visited on a Saturday lunchtime and were surprised by just how many free places there were for such a nice-looking venue.
Our group was quite large – nine adults and five babies – so it was never going to be easy to accommodate us. But we booked in advance and a table had been set aside at the back of the pub for us.
So far so good, but soon the snags began. There were a few steps up to the table – not a good start for a group with five buggies.
We were shown to the table by a friendly waitress – one of two young women serving. We settled in and drinks were ordered.
That’s when the wait began. Most of us were on soft drinks, and after what seemed like an eternity, the manager came over to apologise as the soft drinks machine was broken. All the fizz had gone – and that’s exactly how we were starting to feel about our visit.
Most of us switched to bottled fizz – Kingsdown Apple Sparkle (£3.10) and the like – and after receiving our drinks the manager came over to tell us that as the newly ordered drinks were more expensive, we would have to pay the difference. So much for customer service.
If you think paying more than £3 for a soft drink is expensive, it’s worth noting that a pint of Peroni set us back £4.25 and Amstel £4.15.
Food was ordered – I went for the safe choice and plumped for the cheeseburger (£11.95) as did my friend. Someone else opted for the pepperoni pizza (£9.95).
After another interminable and infuriating wait – far too long for a quiet pub on a Saturday – our grub arrived. And it was simply that – standard pub grub.
The pizza looked anaemic and undercooked. The pepperoni slices were buried under a splurge of pale melted cheese. The burger was okay, but looked a bit lacklustre. The chips were chunky but standard pub chips. The menu said we should have had onion rings, which were nowhere to be seen.
We told the waitress and after another long wait four onion rings emerged in a tiny bowl. When I asked about my friend’s portion I was informed that was it – two each. My burger had long been eaten so I treated the onion rings as dessert.
The dessert menu looked great – cheesecakes and chocolate tortes plus more for £5.95 each. But I couldn’t face another long wait. I hoped the last KitKat had not been eaten by my partner and was still in my kitchen cupboard.
It was a glorious day outside. We’d been in the dark pub (which was far too hot with the heating on) for two hours. There was no background music.
The company was good but the venue’s ambience left a lot to be desired.
My baby was fed up. The rest of the babies were fed up. Just about everybody was fed up – including the two waitresses.
We settled the bill, which came to £150.85 – with 15 per cent knocked off the burgers for the lack of onion rings – and hotfooted it out to enjoy the last rays of the autumn sun over a KitKat and a cuppa at home.
The Dolphin, High Street, Botley
Tel: 01489 782014