Sunday, July 14, 2024

The Two Julians

We straddle the Waveney so you don't have to.

The Two Julians
Beccles

Beccles – King’s Head Hotel

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The final stop in our study tour of Beccles was the JD Wetherspoon operated King’s Head Hotel. For the purposes of these days out we try and avoid eating in Wetherspoons as we want to ideally experience some food in an independent pub, but the Bear & Bells finished food service early and we were left with no other options. I’ve been in this pub before JD Wetherspoon took it over in February 2013, but I can’t recall the previous layout internally as the renovation was quite extensive.

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A little information board in the pub notes that the venue’s history dates back to at least the seventeenth century and there’s more about the heritage of the building at http://relicsofbeccleshistory.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-kings-head-hotel-re-opens.html. It’s a shame that so few photos of the interior of pubs exist, but as Julian mentioned, it was hard to take photos inside dark buildings which often had smoke and often had people moving around quite a lot. That means although there are generally plenty of exterior photos of venues, there are few photographic records of how it all looked inside.

The King’s Head was for a long period the main coaching inn of Beccles, with the building being substantial itself as well as having numerous outbuildings. There are likely few operators would could have coped with such a large building, but JD Wetherspoon have utilised nearly all of the ground floor for the pub, the toilets are inevitably upstairs and there’s direct access to their hotel rooms.

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There were six real ales which were priced between £1.71 and £2.68 per pint. Not only that but there were some interesting options that I haven’t seen before and a range of beer styles to choose from which included a dark beer.

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Using two of my 50p off vouchers this was nearly the cheapest round of the day and we ordered pints here unlike in the other pubs….. The pricing for food may have gone up, but the price for drinks remains one of the lowest around. The service at the bar was polite and they’re operating a queueing system here. This seems to be the latest controversy for some people in this chain’s pubs, where now orderly queues form rather than there being something of a free for all at the bar. I must admit, I don’t much mind what a pub does, as long as it’s clear where I’m supposed to stand.

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Tastefully decorated, the pub has plenty of nooks and crannies. The restoration of the venue by JD Wetherspoon feels as though it has been sensitive and they’ve also modernised the accommodation as well for those wanting to stay overnight, with twenty rooms available. I have stayed here before and I remember the rooms being well appointed, quiet and also the prices were reasonable. There’s a lot to be said about this historic venues, imagining the number of coroner investigations, birthdays, wedding parties, fights, drunken behaviour and mischief to think of just a few.

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The Red Rocks from Peerless Brewing, a very agreeable and well kept ruby ale.

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I went for a chicken and bacon salad which looked well presented and I was surprised and delighted to find a heap of bacon hidden at the bottom as well. For the price point, I felt that this was very acceptable and the service time was ferociously quick. There were also numerous craft beers available as well, I went for the Devils Bridge IPA from Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery, a nice citrus flavoured beer.

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Julian was ready for his food. We were at this table as it was one which had a convenient power point for my phone, which once again needed quite a lot of attention as it was a bit worn out. Rather like me really.

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And soon after it arrived. I think Julian was content with his food, with the staff offering check backs to ensure that all was well. The collection of empty plates and glasses was also efficient, the venue was well staffed.

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What looks like part of the former stable area with the green doors is now used as the pub’s beer cellar. These stretch out further along the building into the large beer garden. It might not look it, but the pub was relatively busy even for a weekday afternoon, with a fair few families in where they’ve taken the kids after school.

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The dessert cost £1.70. I’m not suggesting that it was Michelin quality, but it was a biscuity and ice cream mini treat.

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And to finish off, the delicious and once again well kept Black Adder from Mauldons.

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And some information about carpets in Wetherspoons, which are all unique. I had a little look at the on-line reviews and it’s reviewed about as well as any other outlet in the chain, so they’re clearly doing plenty right. This review amused me for reasons unknown….

“Staff member cleaning the table of plates from previous customers passed me the cloth and asked me to wipe the table myself. I explained I had just washed my hands to eat and would rather not. Staff member argued the cloth is clean enough. She wiped the table, said ‘you’re welcome’ sarcastically and walked off”

And then the endless dogs debate, as they’re banned entirely by the chain. It’s quite awkward at this pub as there’s plenty of external seating, so they have to advertise quite clearly the policy. But it annoys some of those people who love taking their dogs for a little drink.

“I am so very annoyed.Today we went in to Beccles town center with our little dog.We went to sit at the tables a long the side of weatherspoons on the pavement and all the tables said ‘no dogs at these tables’thats surely not right.firstly the tables are on the pavement area at the side of the weatherspoons so its not their private area.we was so looking forward to sitting outside there with our dog having a meal when the weather is nice,but now we will never go in their again.”

This review was posted two weeks ago, so certainly wasn’t a reference to us:

“Full of loud local drunks.”

In the bin   🙂

“We ordered our food from a table that had no number so used next table a long.which the people sitting there were very helpful. The wine came with in 5 min. We waited for our food for 45 minutes it did not arrive. Thought a bit strange so I went in and asked politely if there had been a mix up. The waitress replied ‘o yes it’s in the bin’.”

But, I mustn’t spend too long reading reviews, however tempting it might be.

I am aware that there are some in CAMRA, and indeed some not in CAMRA, who are not best pleased about this chain for various reasons. However, they offered us the widest choice of real ales in the day, they offered the widest choice of craft beers, they were the only pub serving food in the afternoon and their prices were the lowest. The service was efficient and attentive, the surroundings were clean, the atmosphere was inviting and this felt like a professionally run pub. There is far more to a pub than being the cheapest or even having the most beer options, but given everything combined this venue certainly surprised and delighted me.