The first thing I did when I entered the Thomas Ingoldsby at 10am yesterday on Halloween was to estimate how many people were drinking alcohol.
By my reckoning it was somewhere between a third and a half of the 60 or so people on the ground floor of Wetherspoon’s in Burgate, the biggest pub Canterbury.
That’s telling of itself given that it was midway through the AM trading period. On a previous visit, I’d witnessed a man eating chips while he smoked and drank lager at 9.30am. Indeed, it was a spot of breakfast I was after.
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Aside from people kicking off their days with a few sherberts, the first thing you notice about top Spoons at this time of day is that it feels far less a pub than a cafeteria. Maybe even a school canteen.
Plates strike in noisy pain against one another. Cutlery scrapes and clanks against the kitchenware. A foetid bin of uneaten food sits in the middle of the de facto dining hall. Occasionally, someone arrives to push it amid the diners.
Allied to the non-human sounds, are the sounds of the denizens of this here place. With no music playing, their voices are clear.
A table behind me composed of four late teens or early 20s is horribly audible. A girl guffaws stupidly. One of her male companions whoops, another makes guttural sounds, the kind of racket you hear at a sanctuary of unwanted pets.
Nearby, a father and son engage in boring chit-chat, the unfortunate product of being blood relatives who maintain good relations.
Two tables from me, I hear a hairless man and his girlfriend send back their Eggs Benedict. “They’re cold,” he says he icily.
Not the thing the expectant and ravenous diner sitting within earshot wanted to hear. When my own food – the traditional breakfast – arrived moments later I used my fingers to test it.
Its components ultimately broke down like this:
- Bacon: cold, still edible (it’s bacon, after all)
- Egg: hard, still edible
- Hashed browns: cooked, edible
- Tomato: barely cooked, inedible
- Bread: barely toasted, still edible
- Beans: lukewarm, edible – just
- Sausage: hot, spot on
Starving, I ate virtually all of it. Spoons’ brekka is cheap and passable, but not a patch on proper breakfast joints like Pantelli’s, The Longport Cafe, Saffron and Cafe Solo.
And if the food had been served to me anywhere else in Canterbury, I probably wouldn’t go back. The truth is as it’s Wetherspoons, for one reason or another, I probably will.