“ Address: Ayleswade Road (on ring road Newbridge Road)/ Salisbury SP2 8DW / Wiltshire „
~Significant times and places~
Some of the landmarks of our lives are marked by particular pubs and my 18th birthday is eternally linked in my mind to the Greyfisher on New Bridge Road in Salisbury. I don't remember too much about the evening - not a case of too much drink though because I was driving. I remember instead that I left the car lights on in my mother's car and when I came out at the end of the evening I had to be push started by my friends. They - over enthusiastic at such times - managed to push the car into a small wall with the door open. The door never opened properly again - but with some kind of extraordinary luck, my mother either never noticed, or never worked out that it was me who'd caused the damage.
The Greyfisher used to be quite a classy pub in the 1980s. It wasn't one of the regular haunts of the crowd I hung out with (we much preferred the Rose and Crown nearby) but today it has moved firmly down-market into the 'bargain meals and cut price 'deals'' end of the market. However, it has one big thing to recommend it - it's extraordinarily close to where my parents now live. We were in there on the evening of the royal wedding. We didn't eat or drink, we just used it as a cut-through to the Red Lion (shh, don't tell them) and had quite a giggle after a smoker near the door told us 'Aled Jones is in tonight'. In fact we misheard him and it was a guy in a wig and ludicrous specs doing Elton John songs.
Last year I wound up my relatives by telling them we'd save mum the bother of cooking and all go to the Greyfisher for Christmas lunch. Even my sister - who's seldom fussy - exploded at the idea of it. "I'm not going to that horrible pikey place". Not exactly politically correct but until recently this was a big problem at the Greyfisher although I'm told the new landlord laid down the law to his clientele and banned quite a lot of the trouble makers.
~Could you eat a horse?~
The Greyfisher is now part of the 'Hungry Horse' chain. It offers some astonishingly good value meals which might make the nutritionists wince but they are extraordinarily cheap. We've had a few Sunday lunches there and when my parents can't face cooking they often pop round in the evening. With four Australian relatives turning up to see my parents a few weeks ago, my sister and her partner, my husband and I and my very strange cousin we all needed feeding and my parents proposed going round to the pub for curry night. They had planned a rather more upmarket celebration but the Australians were going to leave the next day and there was no time to book something more exotic. So we all shuffled round to the Greyfisher.
The Greyfisher is a tidy looking place in good decorative order. There's lots of natural light and it's quite a pleasant place for a budget chain.They have some 'booth' type tables down one side of the room with rather annoying televisions screens at the end of each booth. I'm not a fan of televisions in pubs since regardless of what's on them, you find yourself watching. Not surprisingly they don't have tables for eleven but my uncle and aunt got stuck in moving tables around until there was enough space for everyone. You don't HAVE to eat curry on a Thursday curry night but it does seem to make sense to do so, especially since curry with rice, poppadoms, chutney and chopped onions costs just £5.99 - and that includes a drink. As you can imagine even with a really easy menu and limited choice it still took a long time to get eleven people to decide what they wanted and even longer for my step father and sister to place all the orders for nine curries and two steaks. I don't eat meat so my choice was simple - take it or leave it on a roasted vegetable curry. I have absolutely no idea why anyone came up with the idea of combining roasted veg with curry
Various relatives brought the drinks over. I don't normally drink pints but my sister was determined that if it was included, then I was having it - thanks sis. The food was brought to the table after about 20 minutes and the portions were generous. Each person got a metal karahi-style dish with curry in it (clearly not cooked in it - just decanted in for serving) with a mound of yellow rice, two little paper tubs with chutney and chopped onions in and two poppadoms perched on top. Sounds great, doesn't it? Sadly it was one of the worst pub meals I've had in years. I think the meat eaters did a lot better than me but my veg curry was absolutely awful. The roasted veg were combined with a rather dry sauce which made the whole thing a bit sticky. The poppadoms were weirdly oddly just plain wrong. I suspected that there was a box filled with pre-cooked long-life poppadoms in the kitchen since they were perfectly dry to the touch but didn't look or taste like grilled pappads. Instead there was a strange floury taste to them that made them taste a bit like a giant Pringle. Being placed on top of the rice meant they were a bit soggy which didn't help. Everyone else seemed happy with their food - although they agreed the poppadoms were disastrous. It felt like hard work to get through my meal and with a pint of lager sloshing around in my tummy there was no room for pudding. Mum volunteered to knock up some pavlova when we got home so we called it a day and headed home.
~Getting a bit better~
The Greyfisher is not the pub it once was in my teens but it's much better than it was a few years ago. The problems of the rowdy clientele seem to have been addressed but it's still a very down-market kind of place and at risk of sounding snobby the bargain meals and daily specials play to the very cost conscious consumer. This is not the place to go for a romantic night out but for a rowdy gathering of my relatives it was just about perfect - especially since dinner for the eleven of us with drinks was around £70 in total.
As they say, Hell is other people - and whilst at times that sums up even your own family, I was getting really irritated by children running around the dining area although my sister's partner pointed out that they are legally allowed in until 9 o'clock at night. Personally I think there's a difference between saying kids are allowed in a pub with their parents to have a meal and letting them run riot in the pub with their parents ignoring their behaviour. My sister could see I was getting close to breaking point. It's not my first choice for a night out but for feeding a lot of people cheaply and quickly without breaking the bank, it's not awful.