MICHELLE TOMPKINS piles it high at a chain doing its best to keep costs low


The Kembrey Inn

Kembrey Business Park,

Swindon SN2 8YS Tel: 01793 500680

Open: Mon-Sat noon to 11pm, Sun noon to 10.30pm

IN today’s economic climate, when families can cook a meal at home for less than fiver, pubs and restaurants need to work really, really hard to persuade us to part with our hard-earned cash and pay someone else to cook for us.

The Kembrey Inn in Swindon – part of the Brewers Fayre chain – is trying really, really, really hard, with more promotions than the brain can compute to try and convince you to leave the comfort of your kitchen.

There’s the weekday carvery at £5.99 from noon to 2.30pm; the two meals for a tenner menu from noon to 6.30pm on weekdays; the all-you-can-eat buffets at £6.49 from 5pm daily; the two desserts for £2 on weekdays; and the kids meal deal of two courses for £4.49.

Blimey! By my reckoning, a family of four eating at the right time on the right day can have two courses each for just over £20. Add to that four ‘bottomless’ soft drinks and £25 will cover the lot.

How to they do it? Well, by their own admission, this isn’t gourmet stuff – you won’t see any claims of locally sourced produce or home-cooked cuisine here.

What they do claim is ‘quality pub food at great value prices’, and that’s what you get.

We visited on a Tuesday evening and plenty of other families had been tempted out on a dreary, drizzly night by the promise of cut-price grub.

It was Pie Night, which means you can choose your filling from steak & kidney, lamb hotpot , chicken and ham or chicken and spinach, then choose a topping to suit from cheese and herb crumble, cobbler or a puff pastry lid.

Just to be awkward, however, we all fancied something different and made our choices from the main menu.

Orders are taken at the bar and our food arrived within five minutes – further evidence that the chefs are not cooking from scratch, but great if you’re hungry.

I’d gone for slow-cooked lamb with mash and peas (£9.59), which came with a thick rosemary and redcurrant gravy. The lamb was succulent and the pile of mash huge, but I couldn’t taste the herb or fruit in the gravy at all. I still polished it off though.

My husband went for a pie, but one not included in the Pie Night menu. His eye was caught by the beef and ale pie (£7.59), made with Marston Pedigree Ale, and served with chips, peas and gravy. It was a thick wedge of pie and very meaty and, best of all, the gravy came in a boat on the side so it could be applied liberally or not, according to taste.

Our son chose the rack of ribs (£10.79) from the grill menu, which promised extra BBQ sauce, chips, coleslaw and a side salad.

Our very helpful waiter pre-empted his request for wipes for his hands and an extra plate for his bones – a nice little touch.

The only thing that let the dish down were the chips, which were pale and insipid. Freezer to fryer food is all very well, but less freezer and more fryer would have been better here.

The dessert menu called to us and we did a grand job of sampling the spectrum on offer. Between us we had the chocolate fudge cake (£3.29), the Belgian banoffee waffle (£3.99) and the chocolate sundae (£3.99) – all perfectly edible desserts, if not remarkable.

Our total bill, with a large glass of wine, a pint of cider and one of those ‘bottomless’ Cokes, came to just over £50.

It could have been considerably less if we’d taken advantage of one those many, many promotional offers.