Sitting in the Briar Rose at one o’clock in the afternoon, I lounge happily across from my meat eater plus one, sipping a pint of Worthington’s. A man at the table in front of me turned on his side, politely out of sight of his guest, and pulled out his false teeth, tucking them into a plastic case with a quick thud of a toilet plunger. Pop.
I put down my pint and looked desperately at Robson to be reassured he hadn’t missed it all. Wetherspoons had never felt more Wetherspoons for me than then, but I accepted it, returning to my little mountain of food and clinging desperately to my appetite. In fact, I love a cheap, cheerful boozer and all the quirks that come with it.
I was here on a mission to try some items from the new Wetherspoons menu which launched today, including a ‘boneless basket’ of chicken. I had brought Robson on as a meat correspondent, given that I’m a vegetarian, and he seemed quite impressed with his own dish.
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There is something familiar and comforting about those blue and white plates, cursed false teeth, which centered me. Mine was covered in fries, spiced with some sort of seasoning, and piled next to a basket full of Quorn Nuggets, a side of gravy, and a tub of coleslaw.
Robson had “Mexican rice” instead of fries, real fried chicken strips and bites, BBQ sauce and a casserole of coleslaw. We were both quite impressed with our lot at first glance, served by friendly staff, promptly. Just what you want on your lunch hour.
The chicken looked fresh and crispy, not sizzling with grease like KFC’s version, but fluffy, like clouds in a magical sky. I eagerly awaited the first impression of the Meat Guy.
He looked impressed, mulling his mouthful as I shoveled Quorn nuggets into my cakehole. They’re not new to Wetherspoons (they already do a pretty good wrap of Quorn Nuggets), but they’re new to this iteration – in a basket, American diner style.
Robson nodded, eyes closed, the universal non-verbal for “that’s tasty.” It was “fresh,” he said, somewhat surprised. Good quality chicken, he noted, looking at the white meat under the crispy coating, but not as crispy as KFC. As an avowed KFC fan, he couldn’t commit to saying it was better. It was fine, but I just couldn’t walk to Colonel OG.
Robson lived in Mexico for a while so he couldn’t really vouch for the quality of the “Mexican rice” on his plate either. “It tastes like Uncle Ben’s Mexican rice,” he told me, and we swapped plates so he could eat my chips instead. I really enjoyed the texture of the rice, very well cooked, not too dry and not sticky and overcooked. The flavor was neither here nor there, it was just fine. I ate it all, so I certainly couldn’t complain. I’m not sure I’ll order it again, but it filled the hole.
Robson, on the other hand, had eaten every morsel of his “good quality” chicken, the meat tender enough that our gummy tablemate could have tolerated it. The batter was a six or seven out of ten, he said, but the chicken itself was much better than any Wetherspoons chicken he had had before.
Both baskets were £7.95, or £9.25 with a pint of beer. Higher than your average Wetherspoons meal, but still far from ‘expensive’. We both left our entry level coleslaw, tried but mostly untouched. It was nothing special, drowned in mayo and crispy, and Robson had to give up a handful of chips after filling up on the chicken.
We enjoyed what was left of our pints and got up to leave, making sure not to leave anything behind. Wallet? To verify. Coat? To verify. The teeth? To verify.
All in all we had spent £18.90 for the two of us on a nice, quick and filling lunch on a working day including beers. Good value, but I think next time we’ll go to KFC when we crave fried chicken, veggies or whatever.
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