Good days – and bad pubs

Last Sunday’s feast at The County Arms was always going to be a tough one to beat; sadly, today’s lunch at The Britannia in Hackney, right next to Victoria Park, was woefully lacking in comparison…

I don’t usually find myself out in the East End, but today was an exception. We did our annual 5km walk in support of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a charity very close to our family. The walk usually takes place in Regent’s Park but the move out east hasn’t changed the atmosphere, fun or the vital aims of the event. The kids were full of beans and the sun was out and after a really well arranged walk we had some time before lunch to explore the brilliant playground in the park.

Double burger on the start line for Mr. Fashion Detective

Our medal winners on the finish line

Someone in my team always wins the fancy dress competition: Well done, Sonny

Post-playground, we were all famished, and during the walk we’d spied a big, old pub with a huge beer garden. The Britannia is right on the edge of the park and given how many families were packed into the pub and garden, we figured it had to have something going for it.

But a glorified creche does not a family-perfect venue make, and although it was fairly busy, there was no obvious reason why we had to wait 75 minutes for our starters to materialise. After the walk the kids were starving and poor E was nearly in tears when his roast chicken didn’t come out at the same time as my long-awaited pate (which, incidentally, resembled cat food and didn’t taste much better). When babies are crawling under the tables and nappies are being changed all over the shop, I’d normally expect a kid’s meal to appear at the same time as the adult starters. My friends paid £10 for a “mezze platter” – and why they had to wait over an hour for four measly bowls of cold nibbles (olives, hoummous etc) is beyond me.

After another 15 minutes of (impatiently) waiting (with no apology or excuse forthcoming) I approached the waitress and the rest of the food finally arrived. Our friends ordered at the same time and had finished their meal, but we weren’t the only ones with a gripe; there were complaints flying all around the bar as plates were sent back, complaints were lodged and a general air of chaos ensued.

The Sunday roast, while decent enough, consisted of piles of meat and not much veg and the failure of the staff to offer a proper apology or a free drink (I mean – come on) by way of compensation was duly noted. I hate writing negative accounts here, but sometimes a place falls so short of the mark that I need a place to vent. It may be “family friendly” on the surface, but if you’d like a bit of atmosphere as well as a place that welcomes children (or if you’re hungry) this particular watering hole is best avoided.

The Britannia may look the part, but I won’t be going back in a hurry
Written by Johanna Payton