After a weekend off and a busy Monday, the last thing anyone wants to do is get home and cook a meal, especially one that will fill a huge hungry gap. This was my dilemma this week and so I decided to head out and find a tasty easy meal. As always I only want three things when I go out, first it has to be good food, second good service and thirdly a good price.

After my last review, I had a hankering for a carvery and thought this would be a great hearty meal and fill the large gap growing in my stomach. There was only one place that sprang to mind, so I headed over to North Swindon again and tried out The Friary, or as everyone calls it The Toby.

Getting to the car park around 8pm, I found a large and well laid out parking area with plenty of spaces. Parking was easy and going in through the door the place looked great. The smell of the food hit me and my stomach started to rumble. It smelt so good from the door and my mouth starting to water I knew it was a good choice so I approached the ‘wait here’ lectern looking forward to this dinner.

It was at this point I realised there was no one stood at the door greeting people and I started to feel the dread of poor service coming on, but just as I thought this a server looked up at me from serving a table, gave a nod and a smile and I knew she would be over very soon.

It only took a minute and I was greeted by a smiley happy member of staff and was guided into the eating area. I was taken straight to a little table and there was plenty of people still eating. My first thought was that they had crammed in a lot of tables and I was about to join a party of 4 for my meal but then it all changed when I sat down. Although it was busy, I still felt I was on my own table.

I quickly spied a ‘drink all you can’ soft drinks machine opposite me and the member of staff asked if I would like a drink so I ordered an empty glass. I was told I can refill it as many times as I like and was asked if I wanted a carvery and of course I nodded and was left to approach the hot serving plate area.

There was no queue and I went straight to the front, seeing the 4 meats, Gammon, Pork, Turkey and Beef then a long line out of different veg at the end. The chef, or carving member of staff was behind the line, he was happy and chatty, offering me a ‘Yorkie.’ Glad to see there were no small dogs being handed out, I accepted a Yorkie Pud. Choosing Pork and Turkey, even though I was told I can have some of each, I stuck with my choice and made my way to the veg section.

Toby CarveryEven though it was later in the evening I was glad to see all the veg was still looking fresh and inviting. Filling the rest of my plate with potatoes, peas, carrots and other carvery favourites, next came the gravy. Here I was surprised to see ladles in pots and an expectation to drown your plate in the hot brown stuff.

With a plate full of food, the weight of the carvery it was a balancing act to get the plate back to the table without spilling the fluid over the side. This was a personal test but I make it back and was about to sit when I saw the server had brought me over my glass. Leaving the plate I got over to soft drinks station, where I could have pretty much anything, Coke, Orange, Lemonade, it was all there.

Racing back to the table because my stomach felt like it was being tortured, offering the food but not eating it, I dug in. The food was great, the meat tender and tasty, the veg all cooked properly and the gravy thick and rich. The food was wonderful. As I tucked in, I listened to the people around me and would have felt comfortable to chat with others if I felt like it.

I heard one couple complimenting the food “never had a bad meal here” another conversation discussing what meat they had asked for and comparing how good it all was. I was pleased that I was not only me feeling that I had made a great choice of location.

After I had finished, I pushed myself back into the seat, then the server was there, checking if everything was OK and clearing the plate away. I was asked if I wanted any desert and after a short pause she said she would come back. It was great, as it did not feel pushy but friendly and helpful, giving me space back in front of me to relax.

I got another drink refill and sat reading the desert menu. If I was honest with myself I should not have had any more food, but the pull of the Ice cream had me and I wanted to order a toffee one, after waving at the server, she came straight over and I asked for the item, hoping it was not too big.

The desert was brought out quickly and I again lifted the spoon to start the sweet treat. Nothing really to add other than it was a ‘Mr Whippy’ type ice cream with a flake and a squirt of sauce, but it was the perfect end to a carvery dinner.

As I was finished people around me were asking for their bill. I watched one couple show an email from their phone and the server scanning the phone. I discovered that people who subscribe to the email list had been sent a bar code for a great deal, 2 people can have a carvery for a tenner. I know these maths are easy but a fiver each for all that food, what a great price.

After I finished, I asked for my bill and when it came it was less than 15 quid. All that food and drink for such a low price. I realised why I was seeing so many tips being left behind, everyone seemed genuinely happy and showed it in the money left on their tables.

I was more than happy to drop a few coins on the table as I got up to leave and I realised I had a huge smile on my face. I could hardly walk from all the food and made my way to the door. As I walked out there was someone at the wait here lectern, bidding me farewell and to have a lovely evening.

If there is one thing about the evening was that it checked all 3 aspects of my wants for a good meal, great food, wonderful service and a price that I could not fault. Maybe next time I will sign up to the email and take a friend!

If any other pub, restaurant or food serving establishment need to see how it should be done, book a table. My thanks go to all the staff with Top marks and a top recommendation from The Swindonian local foodie writer.

Vince Penne.



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