The Star, Gosport

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Mass refuelling along our high streets in all those chain restaurants and pubs is the norm these days.

Quick and convenient, the food in these chains is cheap to produce, thanks to central sourcing and mass catering. Menus are virtually identikit and this gives the companies a lot of control over what we eat.

J D Wetherspoon is just one pub chain which goes down this route. Its pub The Star on Gosport's High Street is painted a vivid yellow and when I visited one Monday mid-afternoon, it felt more like a Saturday night.

The place was packed with drinkers watching a large screen or playing game machines, low-priced drinks being dispensed at a rate associated with weekends.

The anywheresville pub also has a large family area resembling a holding pen, a No Children Beyond This Point sign setting the demarcation line. A motorway caf has more atmosphere.

The menu offers burgers; nachos; wraps; baguettes; toasties; paninis; noodles; sausages and chips (don't forget the beans); fish and chips; spag bol; chilli; all-day brunch; jackets; pies; curries; salmon; steaks; grills; ham, eggs and chips.

In short, it's the kind of menu taking over Britain.

But are they joking with Our New Recipe? Turns out to be mashed potatoes. Sorry, guys, but real mash came centuries before Smash.

It's the kind of pub where you hope to catch the eye of a server at the bar to order a meal. Be armed with your table number.

However, when finally served, staff were charming and helpful, but you need strong elbows.

Thai noodles with coconut milk sauce, shitake mushrooms, mange-tout and spring onions was my choice, sliced chicken breast bringing the dish up to 4.99 (3.49 without the bird).

The noodle dish confirmed my fears over quality. The gloopy mess including chunks of chicken tasted more like watery pulp.

I suspect chefs aren't needed in this type of kitchen, only packet-openers and button-pushers – a win-win situation for profits.

Pictures of shiny desserts decorate the menu's back page, including a warm chocolate fudge cake.

'Over eight million sold since 2000' is Wetherspoon's proud boast.

But my chocolate fudge cake was left, along with the poor ice cream that came with it.

Pub and restaurant chains are symptomatic of a general lowering of food standards in this country, despite their protestations that they are only giving people what they want.

I want to challenge the likes of J D Wetherspoon. Can we raise the stakes and go for quality over quantity? My bill came to 9.58.

Carol is a chef, former restaurateur and editor of Savour, the Guild of Food Writers magazine

The Star, 28 High Street Gosport PO12 1DF

(023) 92 512130

Open: Mon-Thu, 7am to 12am;

Fri - Sat, 7am to 1am; Sun, 7am to 12am. Food is served until 10pm every day

Food: *

Service: ***

Atmosphere: **

Disabled access: Excellent

How to get there: Follow the A32 down to Gosport. Get to Mumby Road and the High Street leads off it. Car park at rear of pub.

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