Eating Out with the Phoenician Trader: Wetherspoons

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A sizzling meal


The life of a food reviewer isn't all glamour, fine dining and dressing up. It also includes eating in the cheapest places fairly regularly. One place that gets my regular custom is the Talley Ho in the Mid-North of London.

I have been to a couple of Wetherspoons pubs to eat over the last few years and some of them (although a few years ago) scarred me badly. However, I have since darkened the door of the Talley Ho many times now and the food is actually quite good and the price is excellent.

Last weekend it was a Burger and a Beer for £4 (more or less) which is amazing since the beer was a fairly wonderful type of ale which would cost over £3.50 in most pubs. So, using conventional beer pricing, the burger was delivered for about a pound. Interestingly it was quite edible. Obviously it isn't about to win a 'best burger in North London' competition but it satisfied my two major criteria for this type of food: it mustn't be made from fine ground, mushy sausage meat and it has to be very, very slightly pink.

The patty had been ground just large enough that it doesn't feel like puree when you bite it. I would like it ground even bigger but at the price they are charging, my guess is that if it were ground any more coarsely you might be able to identify what it is made from, and that may not be something you would want to know. The cookedness of it was on the good side of 'burnt' which means that whatever flavour it has (and it was fine) survived the local kitchen.

It comes with a handful of chips, prepared to a modern industrial cooking standard. There are not enough to make you want to stop eating for a week but if you are peckish rather than ravenous, they formed a nice munchy function.

Between the burger buns is a slice of tomato and some lettuce. Vast quantities of tomato sauce/ketchup, mayonnaise et al are available from the counter. This is also to my taste as I am not a big fan of litres of mayonnaise with my food, but I recognise that in the UK I am in the minority. Allowing the punter to exercise their own discretion is a good thing.

Other favourites of mine have been the Roasted shoulder of lamb (the random lottery of the kitchen can give you the joint of the shoulder or the lower top of the leg). This comes with a good range of veggies, a yorkshire pudding and gravy (and on Sunday before 6pm a pint of your choice). This has always been lovely except once when the chef (I use the term loosely) forgot to defrost the meat all of the way through in the microwave. The staff were happy to fix it: the ice next to the bone made it a no-brainer.

I suspect that the quality of the cook on site is significant. There is no doubt that this is food prepared in a massive kitchen in some low cost centre somewhere in Europe and shipped to each pub frozen with instructions. The trick is that this can be done in a way that scales well (or not) and, for the moment, the Tally Ho shows that, with someone local who knows what they are doing, it can.

Getting There: Like Chickenman– they're everywhere

Who should eat there: They don't mind if you don't.

Dining Style basic pub

Price: £5 including a pint.

Quality: Not too bad.

Would I go Back: Often.

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