Food review: The Royal London, Wolverhampton
A Friday lunch down the pub with work buddies is the perfect way to kick off the weekend. Lisa Harrison heads into the city to eat out. . .
The menu really doesn’t reflect what’s served up,” said the two foodies sat in the pub. The disappointment was palpable.
There was a lot of sighing and heads were resting heavily on slumped shoulders. I was inclined to agree, despite not falling into the ‘foodie’ category.
The menu was pretty hip in its design. With a 1950s feel and quirky American diner style images – a crowing rooster sketch by the breakfast options and a boy eating cake alongside the desserts – it lured us into having high expectations: mountainous plates of comfort food with sumptuous garnishes, presented in gourmet way. It was tempting.
I was starving. We’d been waiting to leave the office for what seemed like hours. I’d had my coat on ready to go pretty much as soon as I arrived there that morning but there was always a pressing matter to attend to for the two foodies delaying the lunchtime exodus.
When we finally made it into the pub of choice – The Royal London in Wolverhampton – I was practically fainting from lack of food.
We grabbed a window seat – I think it was to watch the world go by which, it turns out we had plenty of time to do – and hopped on to high stools to read the attractive and creative menu.
Foodie One quietly read the menu – unfolding the big sheet in order to do so, Foodie Two was commenting on the styling and typeface of it animatedly expressing his approval. I was scouring the pages to find something hearty and filling while telepathically trying to communicate to the foodies the urgency in which I wished to place our order. ASAP please. They ummed and ahhhed and questioned various things before eventually making a decision. I hurriedly went to the bar to order and returned to the table with three large diet cokes – very rock and roll – full of way too much ice on such a cold summer’s day.
We chatted excitedly about the meal to come, expecting American-sized portions of more imaginative than your average pub grub.
We waited patiently for the food to arrive. Out the back the pool tables had a bit of a crowd of drinkers, in the main front area there were a few tables taken one with a group of office workers supping on pints, a few others were dotted with diners.
The decor is bold and bright with vibrant patterned chairs, painted wood and lots of purple, yellow, turquoise and other rainbow shades. It does have slightly retro-student feel to it.
For a Friday lunchtime it wasn’t that busy – perhaps it was the unseasonal cold spell or maybe something else – but it did seem too quiet.
Turns out it could’ve been the something else as we were about to discover.
We carried on chatting about everything and nothing and waited.
We carried on chatting about work and play and waited.
We carried on chatting about where the devil the food was, still waiting after 30 minutes.
We carried on chatting about why it could possibly take so long when the place is practically deserted, still waiting after 40 minutes.
Enough was enough. Foodie One went to the bar to get more drinks (we’d had plenty of time to finish the first round) and to enquire about the food situation.
She returned a few minutes later saying it was on its way. About time too.
And as if by magic it appeared. Underwhelmed doesn’t even begin to cover our feelings when the ‘feast’ was set before us.
The first thing we noticed was the size. It matters and these weren’t great helpings.
The stuffed red pepper salad looked nice enough but the pepper was small. Can you even buy red peppers that small? Apparently, yes, you can. The seasonal mixed-leaf salad wasn’t the most imaginative when it came to variety but was garnished with a crunchy slaw, red onion and tomato, topped with spicy rice and black bean stuffed baked red pepper.
Foodie One commented that the rice that was crammed inside the small pepper tasted like microwave pouch rice. It was rather dry but had a suggestion of Mexican flavours and was a little bit spicy. The salad was limp and there could’ve been more of it for the price – £6.25.
Foodie Two had gone for the southern-fried chicken bagel with sticky BBQ sauce and mixed leaves. He was not happy. The chicken was overcooked and chewy and so dry that he couldn’t even tell if it was southern-fried or not. Because there was only a drizzle of BBQ sauce there wasn’t enough to compensate the dry chicken.
He didn’t even want to try and jazz it up with the condiments on the table as one bottle in particular had an unpleasant and dubious looking crust on the nozzle
There was no seasoning on the fries which made them taste pretty bland. We had ordered angry fries but they didn’t arrive, much to the disappointment and ‘anger’ of Foodie Two – but here’s what he could’ve had. . . ‘skinny fries topped with blue cheese sauce, crumbled Stilton and Frank’s Hot Sauce’ sounds nice – we’ll never know. We were also charged the additional £1.25 for these fries!
The bog standard skinny fries came in a camping mug which may look trendy but I always think it’s a cunning way of giving a small portion rather than piling them on the plate.
Inside the bagel the lettuce was again limp but on the positive side – there is a small glimmer of hope – the bread was lightly toasted and tasted decent and had a nice doughy chew to it as it should. Yay!
Moving on to the last meal the grilled cheese sandwich: A combination of mozzarella, Cheddar and nacho cheese all in a toastie, served with a side of skinny fries and salsa.
The bread was just basic white sliced loaf so no frills there and the fries came in a camping mug again.
The cheese combination was odd. It tasted a bit beery and also a bit chemically perhaps the mix of cheeses didn’t quite work, probably the nacho cheese which is more of squeezy, fake cheese.
There was no salsa to be seen so I wasn’t even able to spice things up a bit.
The side orders were overpriced for the size and price. The mixed salad (£2.45) was a few leaves and not much else and the mac and cheese (£2.95) was about four tablespoons worth – it was pretty cheesy and filling though.
Half way through eating we realised the onion rings hadn’t arrived. We went to the bar (again) and mentioned this and they arrived fairly swiftly but with no apology or acknowledgement of a mistake being made.
Turns out they were to be the saving grace of the meal. Big, covered in crunchy batter, with lovely flavoursome chunky onion inside. Thank goodness for them.
The worst of it was that ridiculously long wait, having to chase the staff to see where the food was and the lack of decent customer service.
For two large cokes each and three meals, £36.30 seems a little steep for such a disappointing lunch.
Somehow we only got charged for one lunch deal which was featured in the ‘wraps and bagels’ section of the menu. We must have got confused as we were under the impression both the bagel and toastie qualified for the discount. Hey ho.
As the saying goes: never judge a book by its cover. Here’s a new one: never judge the food by its menu.