Waggon & Horses
On the A4
THIRD VISIT: WEDNESDAY 19 NOVEMBER 2014
SECOND VISIT: SATURDAY 8 MARCH 2014
We’d been for a stroll round the standing stones of Avebury. We’d been for a pint in the Red Lion of Avebury. We fancied something to eat. We fancied something to eat that wasn’t frozen food quickly cooked. We needed to visit the Waggon & Horses.
When we walked in a member of staff was sat at a table glumly tapping away at her phone. She looked up but didn’t make an attempt at verbal communication. We stood at the bar for more than a minute while she continued glumly tapping away. Another member of staff appeared and enquired about our needs. Perhaps the one glumly tapping away was on a break. The Waggon has four cask handles but for this visit only three were in use. The choice was 6X, Henry’s (not really) IPA and Swordfish, which is 6X with some Pusser’s rum thrown into the mix. It had to be a Swordfish. It’s an alright pint. Nothing special but not totally dull and devoid of taste. The rum isn’t especially noticeable but it is there if you can be bothered looking for it.
We took a seat in the restaurant area and perused the menu. It was a struggle to choose a clear winner among such notable entrants. Eventually I whittled it down to veal calf liver, venison and duck pie, duck leg, belly pork with black pudding or rump steak. (All dishes had more components than I’ve mentioned but I can’t remember the specifics.) I decided to keep it simple and go for the steak. Prior experience has taught me that the steaks in the Waggon are most excellent. I usually go for rare but this time I opted to go medium. Not sure why. Oh! And we got some olives and feta stuffed peppers to tide us over until the meat arrived. By the time the waitress arrived to clear away the nibbles dishes my pint of Swordfish was dead but she didn’t ask if I wanted another. Perhaps she would when she brought the steaks out. No. She didn’t. The food was good but I’d made a mistake opting for medium as it had gone beyond medium and was venturing into the world of well done. But despite there being no blood there was still a bit of moisture. And the onion rings and sweet potato fries were great. As was the hollandaise sauce. Just a shame the service wasn’t up to its usual standard. When I went to pay the glum tapper was all smiles and sunshine. She was probably angling for a tip.
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FIRST VISIT: THURSDAY 2 JANUARY 2014
I’ve been a patron of the Waggon & Horses for almost a decade and during that time I’ve seen off several management teams. The initial couple could be grumpy bastards when the place was super busy but mostly they were good spirited. And she cooked a damn fine Sunday roast and he was passionate and knowledgeable about ale so I was happy to overlook their indiscretions. In the beginning it was a free house. You could choose from local favourites 6X and Herny’s IPA (both served from the wood) and a couple of guest ales. For a number of years it was our go to place whenever we (me and my special lady friend) fancied a meal out. Within time the owners welcomed us as ‘regular irregulars’, which made me smile as it got me thinking of Kinky Friedman. Then they sold out to Wadworth. They stayed on as managers but it was obvious that they weren’t entirely happy and their days there were numbered. The guest ales disappeared. They had to serve food on Sunday evenings. They had to open on Christmas Day. They weren’t happy. Then they left and we weren’t happy. But then new landlady arrived and she quickly began steering the place towards a new and glorious era. We were happy again. Customers can be such fickle bastards.
This was our first visit to the Waggon for quite a few months and I didn’t recognise anybody who was working, which suggests that there has been another regime change. But everyone was welcoming and had what appeared to be genuine smiles upon their faces and real warmth in their voices. We sat down at a table in the bar (the wifi doesn’t work very wall in the restaurant area – old pub, thick stone walls) that once upon a time had a telly above it that I’d whacked my head into several times – sometimes more than once per visit and before even having a drop of beer. The food menu was different than previous visits but still maintained some form of continuity – no doubt thanks to a guiding hand from Wadworth. Service seemed a little slower than usual but nothing to get too stressed about and when it arrived it was hot and tasty.
Casks beers were all Wadworth: 6X, Henry’s IPA (do Wadworth’s pubs legally have to sell 6X and/or Henry’s?), Bishop’s Tipple and Old Timer. Keg offerings were Wadworth’s Corvus Stout (a pretty decent Guinness/Murphy’s replacement), Amstel and some other things I’ve chose not to remember. I opted for a pint of Old Timer – a 5.9% Old Ale that only makes a draught appearance during December and January. The first couple of glugs tasted a bit tired but by the time I was approaching the bottom the glass it had perked up nicely, which suggests it was my taste buds that were jaded and not the beer. The second pint was on tip top form and proved to be a great pairing with the meat platter I’d ordered to accompany the beer. Thirst (and hunger) slaked we departed. We will no doubt return.
If you are visiting the wonders of Avebury don’t bother with the Red Lion because if you venture just past Silbury Hill you’ll find a pub that does better food, service and beer.