The George’s Meeting House is located in South Street in Exeter. Occupying an old Presbyterian Meeting House built in 1760, it was named after George III hence George’s Meeting House. It was opened as Exeter’s first non-smoking pub in 2005, and Wetherspoon’s second pub in Exeter. Tim Martin, JD Wetherspoon founder and CEO lives around the corner so I hear, so this Wetherspoons is special. This ‘Spoons is, I like to think, the flagship. The benchmark.
When writing about a ‘Spoons you have to remember that the whole experience is very, well, um.. chaotic. For the George’s Meeting House in particular, the number of people crammed in to a fairly large space, the height of the ceiling and the acoustics mean that the noise goes up in to roofspace and reverberates terribly. It is just noise. Noise. Noise. Noise.
The fact that this location used to be an old chapel is very evident, and I like it. The old pulpit still looks out over the sea of sinners and heathen as they worship their WKD’s, in the back area the wall plaques can still be seen and read, old memorials to pious teetotallers being read or ignored by their drunken forbears gives the whole place is very ironic feeling.
There is one thing that has to be said for Wetherspoons Real Ale and Conservation and these are the two main things that keep me feeling positive as I wrestle my way to the bar.
CAMRA has a presence in ‘Spoons psyche and it is good to see their Ale festivals with the vast array of local micro/mini brewery produced offerings and even better, they have real ale even when there isn’t an Ale festival. Last night I had a glorious pint of Janus, courtesy of the Dorset Brewing Company, a “full-bodied, walnut brown session ale, slightly nutty with a hint of zesty fruit on the palate”, which I mostly agree with. Only 3.7 percent, it was perfect with food, not being too strong or overpowering.
We had been hobbing and nobbing at the Ruby Burgers press night beforehand, drinking Prosecco, wine tasting and eating nibbles of nice food, and feeling very special. Given it was payday and we had been tempted with burgers, what better way to satisfy our hunger by going to the other end of the spectrum.
Who are Ruby Burgers going to be competing with? Well one of the places will be ‘Spoons and their Beer n Burger offer which despite the prospect of a triple dip recession, is still going. Admittedly prices are a little higher (£5.09 for a Beer n Burger, £4.09 for soft drink and burger) than they had been a few years ago but that is to be expected.
Wetherspoons has a new menu (new layout too!), and thankfully they have managed to keep some of the classics. Ham, Egg and Chips is still there and a new addition to the Gourmet Burger range is the Brunch Burger (pictured above). The actual menu itself has been redone too, looking quite sophisticated being just black and white on one A3 double sided sheet.
I went for the Brunch Burger because I was already slightly drunk and I just wanted something packed with Umami and fat. My other half went for the 8oz Rump Steak and a pint of Carlsberg (cos she’s so ladylike), but she was sad to see that the option to have Jacket Potato and Salad with your steak had been taken away in the new menu.
So, we ordered at the Bar, nothing special here. Sat and waited for about 15 minutes and like clockwork the food arrived. My Brunch Burger did look like it’d been thrown together, with the egg missing the rest of the burger spectacularly. The Burger was a bit overdone, but then I like it that way so I was happy enough, the rest of the sandwich was relying a little too much on the skewer to hold it in place but tasted good, it was exactly what I had in my head and satisfied the gaping hole in my stomach. The chips were slightly anaemic but still tasty and the average portion of Onion Rings was crispy and moist inside.
Report from across the table (stole that phrase from Vegging Out, go visit its good and written by my friend Helen Terry) was that the steak was perfectly cooked. 8oz rump steak at £9.69 with free drink? Pub value.
So to conclude. Its a Wetherspoons, get over it. Often people who moan about how terrible Wetherspoons pubs are, still go in and eat there. If you don’t like it, don’t go and eat there. Simple.
If you do like it, then you know what to expect. Overworked bar staff, irritating punters, NOISE and cheap booze. I gave it 4/5 as I felt satisfied, I would go again and recommend the burger to others as it did taste nice. Lost marks on presentation though.
Pros: Cheap food, Real Ale, nice surroundings.
Cons: Wetherspoons is considered evil by some, Noise (take ear protectors).