minutemat (7) Ford, England | February 9, 2014| Updated February 10, 2014
8 AMBIANCE 1/5 SERVICE 1/10 SELECTION 1/15 FOOD N/A VALUE 1/10 OVERALL 1/20
Absolutely shocked at just how bad a place that calls itself ’The Cider House’ and proudly draws upon over 100 years of cider heritage can be.
My girlfriend and I came to visit on a Sunday evening having heard about this almost mythical ’cider house’ in the middle of nowhere with no website, facebook, twitter etc.. According to people we spoke to "they’re always packed" and "just serve cider". As big cider drinkers we felt we just had to see what it’s all about.
After driving down country lanes and seeing the lights we were getting pretty excited. We pull in and drive over dozens of plastic pint cups littered about the car park, as if there’d been a music festival earlier. A big sign in front of us: "CCTV IN USE, NO LOUD MUSIC ALLOWED". Hm.. We walk into a deathly quiet bar with around 10 pairs of eyes staring right back at us.. asian teenagers in tight-fitting clothes played music videos on mobile phones, glancing / flirting at the other teenagers on the table next to them. No less than 3 signs on the wall stated: "STRICTLY NO DRUGS ALLOWED". Next to the bar was a ’Lucky Leprechaun’ fruit machine flashing manically at us.
We looked to the bar expecting an impressive selection of cider. There wasn’t. On draught was Thatchers, Stowford Press, a sickly sweet Westons ’GL’ and their ’own’ 7.3% ’house’ cider. We choose the latter, which was served in a plastic glass and appeared clear, sparkling and tasted like a sweet perry. In fact, EXACTLY like a mass market pear cider. We look worriedly at each other, take a deep breath, finish it and choose their other ’house cider’, curiously only available from a side room. It looked and tasted exactly like Thatcher’s Cheddar Valley. Anyone who’s had Cheddar Valley will know its unmistakable taste and vivid orange appearance. I finish it and mention at the bar how it looks and tastes exactly like Cheddar Valley. The bargirl goes to check, and returns saying "yes it’s Cheddar Valley. It’s on sale at the moment, that’s why we put it on our pump."
What? So hang on, you sold me this saying you made this yourself knowing full well it was Cheddar Valley? When will you have your own cider back on?
She looks behind to her Mum. "We have to wait til the guys get some more apples delivered. Probably April." Now, I’m no cider expert but aren’t cider apples harvested in the Autumn? When has cider ever been pressed in the Spring?
Almost out of desperation I looked for a saving grace and asked what bottles they had, only for the bargirl to look forlornly at the fridge where a solitary bottle of Thatchers ’Katy’ stood next to 2 cans of diet coke and 1 bottle of Appletiser. You run a ’cider house’ right on the border with HEREFORDSHIRE, one of the world’s biggest cider producing regions and you stock 1 bottle of Somerset cider and apple juice from apples grown in South Africa.
I have never been anywhere so shockingly mis-managed and mis-represented in my entire life. They have a brown sign leading off the main road for Christ’s sake.
I’m writing this rating as a cider lover to warn others who plan to travel to this godforsaken place. Seriously I would make the trip south to Bristol’s Cider Boat instead. It’s overpriced but it’s the best selection of cider you’ll find in a pub in this part of the country.
UPDATE: Have just seen a BBC news article about the pub losing their license a few years ago after police were called to 88 incidents (!) within a year including a man being shot. This explains a lot.