Bill Bailey once said that Little Chefs were built where the Ley lines crossed. Potentially true, but could also be just a statistical likelihood based on the density of restaurants. Or maybe ley lines don’t exist. You choose.
And I’m not sure on the ranking of chain-restaurants, past the fact that Subway have slipped into the lead against McDonalds, both in terms of number and impossibly costed deals.
But for the weary road traveller, the family worn down by shouts from the back seat as brother annoys sister, and for an easy meet-up of scattered friends, there is always the Beefeater.
Personally I flit between a possibly mis-guided anti-chain stance which sees me sing the praises of all that is both independent and individual, and a ease-back, relaxing stance which says I just want to eat where I know what I’ll get.
And I guess that’s what the Beefeaters Restaurants are: a standard menu cooked in the standard way, from standard ingredients. Each pub has a slightly different feel, and are within much older buildings, most of the time, but you still know roughly what it will look like, and how hard it will be to find a waitress when you want to pay and leave.
For this occasion I was looking for somewhere in Essex for me (Kent) to meet my Brother (Suffolk). The obvious place is bottom of the A12 plus a bit, probably near lakeside, so we agreed to meet at Thurrock services and work it out from there.
So after meeting up in a car park in a manner suited to people swapping cash for goods in suitcases, we consulted the ever-useful Yell mobile app, and settled on the nearest Beefeater: The Haywain at Stanford-le-Hope
As we arrived, the car park seemed deserted, but the building itself looked inviting, and a kids play-area outside was quickly noted. Inside we found that many families were already tucking in, and the smell of the flame-grill was wafting through and exciting appetites.
We ordered a mixed grill and classic steak and chips, the children decided to go for a roast dinner. The food was, as expected, good. Not the best steak in the world, but portion size was good, and the unlimited chips went a long way to keep me topped up after the steak had gone. The steak itself was a bit stringy, the fat running through it tasty, but at the same time making you wish you’d spent the same amount of money on a steak at the butchers.
The children’s roast dinners went down very well and with some potato and veg trading between them, both children were well fed and very happy with their lunches.
After lunch we retired to the bar, grabbed a table and chairs in the optimistic hope that the kids might sit still, and ordered the Costa Coffees that every Beefeater has available. With our Whitbread loyalty fully topped up, we took the hot coffees out to the garden to allow the kids to run riot over the play equipment, which they did, at top speed and full volume.
Aside from the temperature, which sat at around –1, and wasn’t really Whitbread’s fault, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It is what it is, A Beefeater, Another Beefeater, but then that’s the attraction to it. When you have hungry children, and adults who enjoy hearty pub grub and a pint on a Sunday, then the Beefeater offers the ideal solution.
Visit took place on 15 January 2012, at the Beefeater, Stanford le Hope
High Road, Fobbing
Stanford Le Hope
Telephone 01268 554500