Monday, April 15, 2024

The Two Julians

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The Two Julians
DerehamTwo Julians

Dereham Pub Day – King’s Head Hotel

Dereham Pubs

This was the fifth pub that Julian and I visited on our little adventure to Dereham, the King’s Head Hotel which is still operating as an accommodation venue and bar. It’s been operating since the late eighteenth century and for a while was a Chef & Brewer managed pub.

Dereham Pubs

When entering, this is the first room that’s visible and it’s a slightly odd sight. I’m sure it’s just the breakfast room for hotel guests but it really wasn’t clear to me whether this was a venue that was open to drinkers in the day.

Dereham Pubs

It did feel a little like walking into the dock at a court room, although I imagine that this is just to ensure that guests don’t linger in the licensed area after closing. Actually, just for clarification, I’ve never appeared at the dock in a court room, I’m just imagining what it must be like. I was questioned by magistrates back in 2004 when I got my alcohol licence for the first time, but that was a rather more friendly affair and I was assisted with the formidable, and much missed, licensing officer for Ipswich who was Bob Coleman.

Dereham Pubs

I wasn’t tempted. Maybe if it was 25p per pint.

Dereham Pubs

There was no real ale available, so I went once again for half a pint of John Smiths. I’ve got to be honest here, this is depressing in terms of pub management, there’s no craft beer, there’s no real ale and there was a feeling of terminal decline here. I can’t dress that up in a more positive way unfortunately. The staff member was polite and service was efficient, but there was never really any engagement beyond the minimum needed here.

Dereham Pubs

The John Smiths tasted fine, albeit it in the wrongly branded glass.

Dereham Pubs

There’s a pool room out the back.

Dereham Pubs

I don’t think it would be unfair for me to say that there needs to be a refurbishment and modernisation.

Dereham Pubs

We sat by the fire door, not realising that it would be constantly opened and propped open so that smokers could partake in their hobby outside. This was sub optimal, but humorous, there’s perhaps a little more thought needed on how to make this work for all customers.

The pub is generally poorly reviewed and had the lowest rating of any of the six venues that we visited during the day. There’s an element of sadness about this as the pub should be a licence to print money with its hotel room, extensive gardens and large premises. It seems from reviews that the pub has come under new management in the last year and I hope that a renovation of the premises is being planned. I don’t quite follow why someone who is coming in new isn’t offering a better range of drinks, as a venue should be offering real ale as a basic, even if they don’t want to dip their toe into the wonderful world of craft beer.

A recent review suggests that the problems are more substantial:

“When we checked into our rooms we were given breakfast sheets so we could inform the kitchen what we wanted. However, when we came down to breakfast we were informed there was only enough bacon for two of our party because it had not been defrosted! We were shocked to say the least. As for the rest of the breakfast, the mushrooms were rubbery, the tomatoes were not cooked, the beans were cold and the sausages were inedible.”

And another recent review:

“On arrival to see a board stating no chef, so no food, when you have booked breakfast was concening. Going into the bar mid afternoon, to be warmly greeted by the same lady who had twiced promised to confirm by email, VERY loud music and drunk people at the bar. We actually left as fast as we could! Managed to find another very nice place thank goodness! Looking back at the reviews it seems that things went downhill fast about 18 months ago with new management?”

And one more in the sea of negativity:

“Please, Do not stay at this so called hotel. I would not let my dogs stay there, just look at the mattress and pillows. It could be a great business, how ever the owners have no idea…It is in need of complete overhaul.”

Back to the positives, which is that the atmosphere was comfortable and welcoming. It’s not a threatening venue and the prices were middle of the road (and bargain basement if you like Amstel), so there’s nothing offensive happening here. There was no evidence of a food menu, but there is a sign outside saying that lunch and evening meals are served on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. That’s an odd arrangement and I was disappointed that there were no visible menus. The pub does have a web-site, but it’s out of date and I’m not sure whether the menu listed there is current. The social media pages also appear to have been abandoned which isn’t ideal.

I understand that there’s a slight element of negativity in this post, and I try to avoid that as the hospitality industry needs all of the support that it can get. But, this venue is a wonderful opportunity to make a tidy sum and I’m little surprised that they’re not seeking to take advantage of that, not that that’s anything to do with me…. As it stands, I’m not sure what it is offering to the people of Dereham that they can’t get anywhere else, which probably isn’t helped as they’ve nearby to the award winning Cock pub nearby. That’s as positive as I can unfortunately muster, although there was a genuine farewell offered and that is always a friendly thing to do. I wish them well though, it’s a fantastic building with its grounds and it’s a marvellous thing at all that it’s open rather than being converted into something else.