We chose the Dockle Farmhouse on Bridge End Road, a JD Wetherspoons pub I had been there before, but only for a drink. The building is huge and I knew it was going to busy. Getting there just after 9 pm, I managed to park the car easily as there is a huge carpark. Don’t worry as I was driving so this was going to be a dry night. We got into the pub and I was again surprised at how big this place is. Working through the cosy bar, the original building, into what I can only describe as a large function room on the side with loads of tables spread out. It was packed and if it was a lively atmosphere I wanted, I had found it. I don’t think there was any music just loud chatting and laughter. There were more people coming in behind us but we still managed to find a table in the corner, where we set up camp and started to browse the menu before going to the bar. There was a lot of choice:-


There were some good food deals, food with drink deals and combo deals. Being a Wetherspoons we knew it was going to be a cheapish night, but when we had made our choices we walked to the bar almost giddy, knowing there was going to be change from a tenner!

Where we were sat, it was a big room, with every single table being used and people milling around looking for any spare space, so I thought that the pub had organised a decent number of bar staff to work on a Friday night. Well that was what I was thinking until I got to the bar. The lad behind the bar and the one that eventually served me, I hoped was just having a bad night, but I quickly realised that he just did not want to be there and serving people drinks was not his forte.

It was painful to watch him taking orders for a drink and not be interested in getting them, it was frustrating and I secretly hoped another bar tender would jump in so I did not have to speak or deal with this one. Standing in the queue behind the till, I was eventually served and I placed a combo food order and a drink, some chicken bites for starters, chicken strips and cheesy chips, with a large Pepsi (they do not serve Coke).

I stood there and watched the barman, I could feel myself getting more annoyed as I watched him dithering as he went get my drink, even though the Pepsi pump was right in front of me, that I had seen others use. Then I can only imagine it was the land lady who arrived. I hoped that on seeing her he might jump into action, but it made no difference, she did not seem that interested either. Eventually I managed to get back to our table and had to relive the whole bartender thing with my friends, who all agreed he was probably the worst bartender they had experienced for a while. I wonder if ‘The Swindonian’ do awards? I might need to check with the Editor.

So back to the evening, as we sat chatting and catching up, it was at this point, after we had ordered the food but before it came, that some child decided to start screaming. It was only a few tables away but it had a great pair of lungs on it. I am not talking baby, I am talking about a child who had been allowed too much coke and had been allowed to let off some steam. Being it was late and really busy, I was hoping to have missed the nappy hour, but obviously this one had escaped detection until this point. Best efforts to ignore the child and to pass the ‘Paddington bear’ stare at the parents sort of worked.

As you may know I like a quieter life, the room was packed and people were chatting, but it was a grown up noise of conversation and laughter. Thankfully the screaming only lasted a few minutes and things quietened down and we could resume our evening.

I know this was only ‘pub food’, not a gourmet meal, there were loads of people eating and a constant ordering of food at the bar, however the food came out really quickly and it was hot. This was a massive bonus. I tucked in and can say that the food filled me up, the chicken was cooked just right and there was plenty of cheese over the chips. The sauces were tasty and again there was plenty of it to smoother the chicken. It was not a bad meal, considering how quickly it was cooked and the price that I had paid.

My friends had burgers and fish ‘n’ chips, again all ordered the same time but on different orders, I was not paying for my friends food – I am not made of money, my food and my friends food came out together. The kitchen did a great job sorting the orders, considering we paid for them all separately. We all ate the food and they all said it was ‘good’ or ‘OK’ but our plates were empty so that had to be a good sign.

We decided to stay for another drink as the screaming child had seemed to have disappeared and I made my way to the bar again, this time there was only one person serving. There was one person clearing glasses off the bar and 2 others were stood around chatting. Again the frustration was setting in. One lucky break, was that the world’s worst barman had gone.

After standing at the bar for a few minutes waiting, one of the 2 people chatting stopped and told the girl who was clearing the glasses to serve people at the bar as there was a ‘queue’?

I just started laughing and could only feel sorry for the girl. She served a few people quite quickly and got to me in a timely manner, far quicker than the other bar tender. I took my Pepsi drink back to the table and carried on chatting.

As we were getting back into things, someone appeared to clear the table, it was clear that they were stressed and trying to do the best they could. All the tables had finished eating and there were plates everywhere. When I looked there was little movement from any other staff member and only a small number of people are the bar being served.

After an hour or two, we decided that it was time to go as we could not face getting another drink at the bar.

So the Dockle, a good venue with alright food, cheap and a quick eat, but be prepared for frustrations at the bar, with a bunch of staff whom most are not there to serve.

Vince Penne.


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