How to make the bleak mid-winter even bleaker: Go to Spoons

Culture Food

Image credit: Louis Thomas

Hark! An angry drunkard is outside, shouting at some smoking children – that can only mean that I am in a Wetherspoons on a Monday night in December.

There is plenty to dislike about J.D. Wetherspoon – the characterless interiors of their “pubs” and its owner’s anti-EU stance being two which stick out, but then again, I am an out of touch metropolitan liberal Oxbridge elitist. But even if you’re one of the Brexit faithful and do like high ceilinged pubs, surely one thing this fractured nation can agree upon is that Wetherspoon’s food is an affront to all that is sacred. I’ve been burned many times before by the menu of your grandad’s favourite place to go at 10 AM, which is surprising, given how it seems that the preferred method for warming up the food is placing it under a lightbulb for a few minutes. Normally I would just go in for a spot of wassailing, as I so often do, being a bit of an Early Medieval Yuletide lad, but on this occasion, I thought it appropriate to sample the nourishment on offer this Nowell so you don’t have to. Every time I go, I vow never to return – but invariably, I find myself shamefully crawling back for some inexplicable reason.

As what I have said already demonstrates, I went into my local community centre for students and pensioners with an open mind, eager to see what festive delights were on offer. What could be nicer than a stuffed turkey breast with seasonal vegetables? Well, something edible would have been a pleasant surprise, but for just over ten pounds with a pint, there can’t be too much to complain about, apart from every single aspect of the dish. Jesus Christ, it was dreadful.

I went to the bar and, in the style of fat King Wenceslas, ordered the staff to “bring me flesh and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither!”, and they told me to return to my table, or they wouldn’t serve me. Honestly, some people. Silence descended as the blue plate of horrors arrived. I was somewhat confused at first, because I could only see turkey, potato and peas, with a brown glaze varnishing the pile of food. But, using my considerable powers of deduction, I worked out that winter vegetables were sheltering beneath the lump of meat, rather like how the infant Christ was sheltered from King Herod – a lovely festive touch. The portion size did seem somewhat meagre for that amount of money, but perhaps it was going to be a case of quality over quantity. It wasn’t.

“Every time I go, I vow never to return – but invariably, I find myself shamefully crawling back for some inexplicable reason.”

Mashed potato is not an orthodox side to have with roasted turkey, and it certainly isn’t orthodox for it to have the same consistency as wallpaper paste, and a similar flavour – yet another way in which Spoons are culinary pioneers. I suspect that what little potato flavour there was came from a wise old man, who has heard rumours of Maris Pipers, whispering to the blob of wallpaper paste. The parsnips were similarly bland, though the carrots were absolutely fascinating, because, in spite of the menu’s claim that they were roasted, and therefore I assumed they would be in a solid state of matter, I stabbed one with my fork and a little spurt of water came out before the carrot then disintegrated into an orange pulp. Clearly, Wetherspoons are aware of the dental frailty of their average customer and have, very considerately, pre-masticated the carrots. But, joy of joys, the peas were not atrocious!

In what can only be described as a Christmas miracle, they managed to make pigs in blankets bad: cheap, nasty sausages and flavourless bacon, though at least they weren’t cremated. I also liked how I was given a trio of them, perhaps a nod to the Three Magi. However, in the greatest plot twist since Joseph found out that he was not the father, the turkey meat was almost adequate. It was a fairly thick piece, and it was neither as dry nor as bland as I expected it to be, though there is so little flavour in turkey anyway that there wasn’t a great deal for Spoons to ruin, and it was still fairly dry – indeed, there are great swathes of the Negev Desert with more moisture, but t’is the season to see the good in turkey, and so I can forgive that.

The most unforgivable part of the meal was yet to come. I like a good stuffing almost as much as I like a double entendre, but this was truly dire: the flavour of the sage was incredibly overwhelming, but, I suppose I should be grateful that it was still a flavour. The stuffing was very light, incredibly light in fact, because it was 98.3% breadcrumbs. The whole dish was decorated with a syrupy gravy which was more like a Bovril jam than a sauce – not terrific. I still ate it though, partly because I don’t like wasting food, but mainly because I’ve got to maintain my voluptuous curves.

The greatest sin of this dish is its pointlessness: the menu namedrops “Chantenay carrots” and “Maris Piper mash” in an attempt to make it seem “gourmet”, and yet what you actually get is a, thankfully, small portion of lukewarm gloop on a floral plate. Spoons would be better off doing their festive menu Mr. Creosote style: all mashed up in a bucket with eggs on top. You would be better off spending the money on four pints and getting a kebab on the way home, maybe with a smear of cranberry sauce to make it festive. Mary did not give birth to the baby Jesus so that culinary atrocities like this could be devised in order to profit from her son’s birthday. However, in spite of my criticisms, I look forward to seeing what egg and crucifix themed treats they will be offering for Easter.