It’s a Thursday and we’ve taken a drive over to Hayling Island to see the sights. It’s as depressing as expected; a seaside resort in winter is always spooky. The funfair eerily quiet, the gift shops empty the Royal Shades pub looks unloved and boarded up.
However, it’s not completely deserted, it’s Hayling Island so there is a guaranteed amount of traffic, as well as shoppers at the new Lidl and holidaymakers at the caravan parks.
There’s one business that looks like it’s doing okay. The Barley Mow, a Stonehouse restaurant-pub, in Manor Road, stands proud, and its allure is enough to pull us in.
We are not alone, and there are quite a few people inside, like moths drawn to the glowing light of the carvery.
We are greeted and allowed to choose a table, although we pick an awkward booth which we almost instantly regret as not only is it difficult to get in and out of because the table’s so big, and an awkward step making it a pain for the pushchair and subsequent highchair.
The table is sticky, the menu is grubby. Oh well, at least the waitress is friendly, but quite clearly overworked. And at least it’s cheap – almost Wetherspoon level of cheap.
There’s a plethora of garish menus on the table, which we are left to try to understand. My eyes hurt and my head pounds with all the special offers.
I can’t take it, so I just order fish and chips, as that’s what’s pictured on the menu (£7.79).
My mother has discovered the patronising ‘young at heart’ menu. It’s £4.99 for a smaller main meal with a drink, especially aimed at those 60+, only available Monday to Friday lunchtimes.
My mum picks half a lager and a small carvery, and is handed a ticket. She waits until our other meals arrive before heading to the counter.
I order a meal from the kids’ menu for my son after looking through the complicated and disorganised allergy folder, which is simply handed to me, and pick tomato penne pasta for the boy (£3.99). I hope and pray that his milk allergy info is passed to the chef, otherwise I fear his vomit will be adding to the pub’s grubbiness.
The kids’ meal arrives, accompanied by strips of cucumber, and my fish and chips arrive, not accompanied by the pictured peas.
I go on a hunt for the staff to ask for my peas. It’s no use, tumbleweed rolls behind the bar. The friendly waitress is nowhere to be seen. We discover the company has only today introduced table service, a big change with which they are just getting to grips.
The glowing carvery looks appetising, but there’s a lack of a chef to do any carving. At least there are peas. I help myself. My mother waits patiently as one chef appears, she asks him but he’s not the designated carver so he disappears out the back to find him. Another busy chef arrives carrying something else for the ‘help yourself’ section, but alas he is also not today's designated carver.
The saying goes ‘third time lucky’ and it proves true as the third busy-looking chef emerges from the kitchen, a la someone on Stars in Their Eyes, and tonight Matthew we’re in luck as he is today’s designated carver. Hooray.
We’ve all got our food, it’s okay, it’s hot, it’s edible, and it fills a hole. It’s cheap – our total bill comes to £16.72 – and much like the pub’s own website declares, ‘it’s not fancy’.
We scoff the lot, pay up quickly and chalk our Barley Mow visit up to experience. You most certainly get what you pay for.
Barley Mow, Manor Road, Hayling Island
Tel no: (023) 9246 5611
Ratings (out of five):