Maybe the older 'blonde' lady who served me was the landlord's wife (see previous review), because her attitude was certainly consistent with his. I've lived in & around York for several years but I'd never tried the Blue Bell, so I popped in for a pint one Saturday lunchtime. First impressions were great - totally unspoiled Edwardian pub, two small rooms, friendly ambience among the customers, a regular in the corner doing his crossword etc.
Unfortunately this only lasted as far as the bar - a super array of draught beers, but when I asked which were the bitters as opposed to the milds and stouts I got a very surly and offhand reply. I then ordered a sandwich and pork pie. The napkin was plonked down on the counter in the middle of a patch of beer, so you can imagine the response when I asked for a dry one! When I'd paid she turned her back on me, leaving me to work out I was presumably supposed to help myself to a pie from the display on the counter.
Once I'd sat down, pie balanced on napkin, she then shouted over to me that my plate was on the counter. Up I got, and at the counter she told me, with as much enthusiasm as she could muster, that I should help myself to a pie. At which point, to my delight, an older gentleman on a stool, clearly a longtime regular, clapped me on the back and with a laugh said to the barmaid 'He's already done that, you're too slow!' At which point she snapped at him - a harmless old boy, who presumably has put a fair amount of money in their undeserving pockets - 'How was I supposed to know?' Well, how about by paying attention and providing at least a basic level of service in the first place.
I'm sure reviews such as this are water off a duck's back, judging by the landlord's comments elsewhere on Trip Advisor about their awards. On the other hand, this was peak time, 1230 on a Saturday, it's a pub which is highly praised in all the local guides for its unspoilt atmosphere - yet I had a choice of seats, having expected it to be packed out. Maybe consumer power is having an effect, and with the choice of a large number of welcoming and equally traditional pubs in York city centre, I for one will never set foot in the Blue Bell again.
By the way, the single star is for the very cheery lady who brought my sandwich, and who should find employment more suited to her lovely attitude as soon as possible.
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