“ Address: Sirhowy Enterprise Way / Blackwood NP12 2FS / Gwent „
My husband and I enjoy eating out on a regular basis where we often join my parents and sister and will generally tend to travel outside of our hometown to reach a few of our favourite restaurants. A couple of years ago we were delighted to learn that the Marston's chain was building a new establishment within just a few miles of our house in Blackwood. I love their choice of name, the Bumble Bee and this review discusses my experiences of eating at their restaurant. First impressions are extremely positive, as the new build is modern and inviting as well as being pleasing to the eye. The car park for eight cars plus one disabled space is situated at the front of the building with the restaurant also renting a number of parking spaces in the nearby retail park, which is situated across the road.
Décor and Seating
The restaurant offers casual dining and the interior is decorated in a calming and relaxing blend of creams, browns and terracotta. The lighting throughout is ambient with a combination of both ceiling and wall fixtures. It is evident that careful consideration has been put into the finishing touches where contemporary and extremely eye-catching accessories have been situated throughout the restaurant to create a homely environment. Modern music plays at a comfortable level, so conversation with my group is possible without the need to shout to make myself heard. Reasonably priced drinks are purchased at the bar and on each occasion that we've visited there has never been a queue. There is a considerable amount of dining space and the seating, which accommodates up to six people, has been arranged so you are a reasonable distance from neighbouring diners. I'm not keen on restaurants where a staff member will take you to your table, as more often than not, when dining as a couple, my husband and I end up being seated adjacent to a busy walkway or next to the toilets and as a result, will always request to be moved.
Fortunately, the restaurant allows you to choose your own table where there is a combination of comfy chairs with soft cushions or dining style chairs with high backs. Our last visit was on Saturday, 23 June to celebrate my sister's birthday with my parents and we arrived just after midday as the restaurant was opening its doors. It was obviously that cleaning had not long taken place as I noticed a can of polish and a duster situated on the end of the bar together with a "wet floor" sign, which was located in the middle of the walkway, which is a combination of carpet and tiles. This surprised me, particularly as the notice located inside the porch area states that the restaurant opens at 11.30 am, yet the barman declared that they had just opened. After purchasing our reasonably priced drinks we selected a table and perused the main meal menu; a number of which were situated on the table. Whilst the majority of casual dining restaurants display chalkboards listing the specials for that day I find it rather bizarre that the Bumble Bee use the specials board as another means of displaying an extremely lengthy list of menu choices as opposed to half a dozen or so. Consequently, I found myself not bothering to take a look whereas other diners were standing in front of the board studying all of the choices. During our last visit I made the stupid mistake of choosing a table located adjacent to a chalkboard and as a result, I was becoming increasingly frustrated at the diners who were congregating directly behind my chair.
Choosing and ordering our meals
As a meat eater it is very unusual for me to be pondering for ages over a menu due to there being limited choice. I'm not a fan of spicy foods and the menu offered a variety of these types of dishes as well as battered fish and those that I would describe as heavy foods such as stew and chicken cooked in beer. I finally made a choice of meat lasagne with garlic bread and a garnish of lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes (£8.95) with both my husband and father opting for an 8 oz flame grilled sirloin steak served with chips, onion rings, half a grilled tomato and peas (£12.75 each). However, the menu was a little confusing as it described the steak with garlic and herb butter, but we were informed that this is no longer the case, as customers have complained that they didn't want the garlic, so the steaks are now served without.
We experienced the same issue some three weeks prior and I'm surprised that no effort had been made to update the menu. My vegetarian sister chose Wexford cheddar and chutney tart with jacket potato and salad from the chalkboard for around £8 - £9 with my mother opting for lentil shepherd's pie, mashed potato, peas, beans and carrots (£8.75). All main meals start at £8.45 and are available for "two for one" inclusive of those listed on the chalkboards. I don't pay that much attention to vegetarian dishes although my mother and sister both pointed out that there was a huge selection on both the table menu and the chalkboard. For those diners not wanting a main meal the front of the menu displays a list of reasonably priced Quick Bites such as wraps, melts and jacket potatoes priced from £4.95 although these are excluded from the buy one get one free offer.
A waitress in a casual style uniform appeared within a few minutes of us selecting our table and asked if we were ready to order. She was customer focused and had a very friendly manner and it was obvious that she enjoyed her work as she showed interest by enquiring if we lived locally and if we'd previously eaten in the restaurant. Our orders were noted on her pad and taken to the kitchen. She reappeared within a couple of minutes with paper serviettes and cutlery including steak knives for my husband and father with each set being neatly placed in front of us. Whilst initial appearances gave the impression that the restaurant was clean I was quite surprised to note that the light fitting above our heads displayed a number of dusty cobwebs, which clearly hadn't been cleaned for some time. In addition, I noticed that the uplighter style glass shades had a layer of black blobs, which I presume to be dead insects, which was rather unpleasant, particularly as they were directly above our heads!
All of our meals arrived within a reasonable timescale and were sufficiently hot. We were asked if we required any sauces and the waitress quickly returned with our requirements. My lasagne was a good portion size, but sadly it lacked on flavour, as it was too bland and the mince beef that had been used wasn't of the best quality although I cannot admit to finding any gristle or fat. The garlic bread was flavoursome and offered the right amount of garlic for my taste buds. My mother and sister reported that they enjoyed their vegetarian meals and neither had any complaints. Whilst my husband's and father's steaks were cooked as per their requirements, they were disappointed, as they contained a considerable amount of fat, which they felt should have been removed by the chef prior to serving. Hot sauces such as peppercorn or blue cheese and pepper were charged at an additional £1.40, but both decided not to purchase, as there was nothing available that they fancied. My husband informed me when we arrived home that his onion rings were soggy and not very appetizing and normally he has very few complaints when it comes to food.
The waitress returned during our meal to enquire if everything was okay and whether we required any additional drinks, which I always feel is a nice touch and is something I expect when dining. We all decided to choose desserts although one of the menus displayed the remains of a previous diner's chocolate offering, which was rather off-putting. As we were the first diners through the door that day I found it very disappointing that the menus had not been cleaned following the previous evening's diners. Our plates were collected from the table shortly after we had all finished eating unlike our previous visit at a rival restaurant where the waitress removed my husband's plate whilst I was still eating, which is bad manners as far as I am concerned. We were asked if we required desserts and these were brought to us fairly quickly although my sister's was missing as despite making a note and confirming our requirements, the waitress had forgotten. However, this was a minor detail as far as we were concerned, as she was extremely friendly and the missing dessert was with my sister in a few minutes.
Despite being satisfied with our desserts on our previous visit both my husband and I were disappointed as I ordered the identical dessert as I had the time before of Caramel Crunch Sundae (£3.85), but for some reason it had reduced in size by approximately 50% as it was presented in a much smaller dish. My husband ordered his favourite of apple pie and custard (£3.00), but he informed me that it was luck warm with pastry resembling cardboard and from the taste I had from the end of his spoon I had to totally agree. My father chose the same dish as me and whilst it was delicious it was something of nothing and not value for money. I cannot recall my mother and sister's choices, but there were no complaints from either of them. Whilst the choice of desserts is fairly limited, there is something to satisfy most cravings with prices starting at £3 to the highest priced dessert of Indulgent Chocolate Torte at £4.35. Our total bill was around £56, which isn't too bad for five people including drinks although I would advise that I had vouchers to receive two free soft drinks. We tipped the waitress, as she was extremely friendly as well as being very attentive towards us during our last visit.
The toilets are on one level and situated to the rear of the restaurant and via a door with a large brass panel and handle, but unfortunately, it was rather grubby and smudged and the inside of the door had remnants of food splashed over it. On opening the door into the toilets, which offered a good number of cubicles although I cannot recall how many, I was met with a beautiful air freshener fragrance. The toilet area and inside the cubicles were clean and fresh, but the issues for me were the bolts on the doors, as the first cubicle I entered refused to lock as the receiver was incorrectly aligned. Consequently, I proceeded to the next cubicle, where the bolt was extremely difficult to open and close, which would subsequently cause a problem for people suffering with mobility issues in their fingers and hands. The other complaint I had was that the inside of the cubicle door was a little grubby, so I refrained from hanging my handbag from the hook whilst I spent a penny. There was a plentiful supply of toilet paper as well as liquid soap and hand dryers, but during my visit on that particular day my shoes stuck to the floor although I later discovered when revisiting to touch up my lipstick that this was due to the floor having not long been cleaned. I noticed that the end cubicle was slightly wider to offer additional space as well as there being a large bar on the inside of the door. There was a disabled toilet situated within the corridor although I did not step inside to inspect and my husband informed me that the gents were clean and tidy.
Located in a small section of the restaurant is a choice of seating for babies and young children with the disabled toilet area offering baby changing facilities. The patio and grass beer garden situated at the rear of the building offers areas of seating as well as an array of shrubs and plants. The Bumble Bee is part of The Food Standards Hygiene Scheme, which at present is voluntary in Wales, but will soon become compulsory for all establishments that offer food. The Bumble Bee is part of The Food Standards Hygiene Scheme, which at present is voluntary in Wales, but will soon become compulsory for all establishments that offer food. Its rating is four stars, which evidences a good standard of hygiene and has been determined by a Food Safety Officer who has checked the business to ensure that it meets the hygiene standards as required by law.
I have visited the Bumble Bee on a number of occasions and have always received an excellent standard of customer care. The restaurant has always been clean other than for the few issues I noticed on our last visit. I pondered for a little while before deciding on a rating, but unfortunately, there are two areas that let it down for me with the car park being one of them, particularly as my husband is disabled and the other is the quality of their food and for those reasons I feel I can award it only three stars. Would I visit again? I'm undecided, so if I do decide to eat there again, it probably won't be for a while.
Sirhowy Enterprise Way
Tel: 01495 227319
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope you found my review useful and thanks for reading.