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“I won't be back”
Review of The Ernest Willows

The Ernest Willows
Ranked #174 of 266 Quick Bites in Cardiff
Price range: £2 - £12
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Dinner, Breakfast, After-hours, Reservations
Description: The Ernest Willows is located on City Road in the Roath area of Cardiff. A popular Wetherspoons establishment which boasts a large beer garden and plenty of indoor seating.
Reviewed 15 July 2015

I visited The Ernest Willows on two nights for meals and a pint - on 14th and 15th July 2015. I was quite dissatisfied with the service I received. My reviews are usually in depth and OCD in detail, so if you're not interested in that sort of review, that's fine.

On 14th July I completed an order for an Angus Steak dinner and pint for £9.25 all-inclusive at 19:53PM (Till 2 Sascha was written on the receipt). I have a photograph of the receipts if anyone needs it. Near to completion of the transaction, I was told that it would take about "20 to 25 mins" to serve up. I agreed to wait that time. The establishment was moderately busy but not crowded, so I thought 'that's fair enough'. As I'm a stickler for detail, I put on my stop watch on my phone about 3 minutes after getting back to my table (- screenshots of my phone's stopwatch available).

At 30 minutes, I'm getting rather anxious. Have they forgotten about me? I could see lots of other meals being served by staff to their customers in that 30 mins. At 32 minutes I'm thinking about leaving. By 34 minutes I'm thinking of asking for a refund. At 35m 3.44s a waiter arrives with my meal. He goes, "I'm sorry for the delay." I go, "Let me stop my stopwatch. There it is 35 minutes. That's really too long." I expressed my displeasure non-verbally with a look of serious disappointment. He goes off. I'm now about 42 minutes in the establishment (3+35+4). [I add 4 minutes in a queue].

About 2 minutes later he's back, "How is it?" I go, "I'm just photographing the dish and the receipt - I haven't tried it as yet." He goes off. As I tuck in, I realise there are no sauces on the table. I hadn't noticed earlier, as was on my phone on and off - but it's for them to serve the customer properly. It's called 'customer service'. So a few minutes later - steak going cold - I wave to the waiter again, "Could I have some sauces please, mustard would be fine." I get another apology and prompt delivery of ketchup, mustard etc.

The steak was nicely done to medium and of good taste and texture. Chips and a bit of veg was great. The Wild Mule pint I was served was very nice too.

At about 8 minutes into the meal a female member of staff approaches and asks a very specific question, "How is the food?" I go, "The food (with emphasis in my voice whilst being polite) is fine. The steak is delicious. Thank you." I took notice of the specificity of the question about 'the food' - with a partcular tonal emphasis. I've not been asked that specific a question in the very many restaurants and pubs I've been to over the last 3 years. I usually am asked something less specific, such as, "How is everything" or "How is it going?". The rather quick sequence of two bar staff approaching me seemed unusual. Somebody must have caught on that I was casting an OCD eye on what was going on - and wanted to make sure I was 'attended to'. I've not ever had two staff approach me in the short timescale like above, or with the specificity of question about 'the food' - at any other establishment. No - these people were not just being good, they knew this sort of report might be coming their way. These days lots of businesses are aware of the impact of TripAdvisor reports.

On 15th July I set off from my hotel and get to City Road thinking, 'Where should I go tonight'. I'm on Newport Road and then enter City Road. The Ernest Willows was closest. I spot their advert for Chicken at £6.15 including a pint. Similar to the steak meal above. I decide I'll check it out again, because maybe I just had one bad experience and it's not a good idea to form impressions on just one bad experience. So methinks, 'I'll have their chicken - saves me a further walk down City Road - and I get to see if service is better than last night'. It's less busy on this Wednesday night than on the Tuesday. I wait only about 2 minutes to get to the till to make the order. The young lady at the till enquires which chicken meal I wanted. I said "The one advertised outside for £6.15 with the picture of a chicken meal". She shows me a menu with pictures of 4 chicken meals each for the same price. Some a chicken breasts and other things. I see the same photo on the menu as the one outside. It's a "Peri-Peri Roast Half Chicken". I point and touch the picture and said, "That's the one". She offers me either rice or chips. I asked for the chips. But I had some difficulty understanding her - as she appeared to be speaking English in an unusual heavy accent. It certainly wasn't a Welsh accent which is very nice and understandable. I love the Welsh - really. She gets the order finally with me doing a double take twice about what she's saying. I ask how long might it take for the meal to be served. She says, "No problem - in 10 minutes". BTW this time I've started the stop-watch immediately after the payment is taken - as that finalises the order. The pint is served up nicely. I think to myself, "This is looking good so far - that's much quicker than last night." [Till receipt photographed. Till 2 Mireya @ 19:56].

I get to table 36 - actually the same again as previous night - it's just near the fruit machines - and there is good view of the staff at the bar. I'm relaxed and got a bit lost with emails on my phone. Then I check my phone stopwatch. It's 15 minutes. So I think to myself, "Oh oh.. this doesn't look so good - is this more of the same as last night?". By 17 minutes the said young lady who took the order comes to ask me, "Are you having chicken breast?" I go, in a puzzled tone, "No - you took the order. It's what was advertised outside. She quickly finds the menu flyer and I said, it's this one - I showed you earlier when you took the order." (and I touch the photo of the peri-peri half-chicken just to ensure that I'm not contributing to any confusion - as there now seems to be confusion coming my way I thought). She goes, "Ok" - and heads off through the door leading the courtyard or garden at the back.

Two minutes or so later another female member of staff comes with food and goes, "Here's your chicken breast." I go, "I didn't order chicken breast. It was the half-chicken." [19min 32.32s] She goes, "That's what you ordered." I go, "No" - and by now am prepared to play the 'Yes you said, no I didn't' game for as long as she wanted. My tone is quite dispassionate but my non-verbals are of total disappointment. She goes, "Well, I'm not to blame!” I go, "It matters not. The service here is poor. I need a refund now, thank you very much." She goes, "Ok.. I’ll sort that out." - and walks off at amazing speed, in what very well appeared to be a huff and a puff. So I'm waiting around table 36 then nearer the counter. Nothing happens for about 3 minutes. Then a male person at the till beckons to me. He goes, "I understand you need a refund." I summarise the situation as I experienced it above, in less than 15 seconds. He goes, "Ok..and goes into the till, and then hands me £4.26 in coins. I go, "No - this is a meal deal for £6.15". He goes but you had a drink. I go, "Yes - the drink was part of the meal. I only took the offer because of the drink being included." He goes, “Where’s the drink?" I go, "See it over there on table 36, hardly touched". Only about an inch of it from the top consumed, because I was really waiting on the food. So he stretches and tip-toes a bit to look over at table 36. Then he agrees to the full refund. I hand him back £4.26. I go, "I don't want your drink. This is the second night I'm here and it’s been poor service. Last night was 35 minutes to get food to me. Tonight the order is not right – I’ve wasted at least 19 minutes" I'm then handed £6.15 (a fiver and coins). No I didn't photograph that. He goes, "Thank you" with the usual stilted politeness I expect in situations like those.

I head deeper into City Road, where I come across LILO Grill House. Warmly welcomed there - and get this - order taken promptly and meal served at 7min 22.46s into the establishment. That was a very enjoyable experience at LILO but that's for another TripAdvisor review (up next).

Some will say that I've gone into too much depth as if I was on some mission. Well, my only mission when I've parted with my money is to get quality service. I am quite experienced and skilled in assessing services for certain companies - hence the stopwatch. And my time is precious to me. I don't mind having a bit of a wait but at the same time I don't like to feel my time is being wasted.

I'm not just about 'food'. A meal is about a whole experience: the surroundings, the service, and the food. If I just need food, I could knock up something a home and save myself the bother going to the likes of The Ernest Willows. My rating is confined to two night's experience. I don't know the place on every day of the year. As a customer if I get that sort of experience as above on two consecutive nights, I think I am reasonable in thinking as I do, 'I'm not going back there'. Others may have rated the place to be good from their separate experiences - and that's totally fine. I'd not be risking my time and money there another occasion. I declare that all of my observations and feelings above are accurate and reasonable in the circumstances I experienced. This report is filled out within 3 hours of the experience. I accept full responsibility for the facts told here.

Date of visit: July 2015
3  Thank CaptainWalker
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Manager754, Manager at The Ernest Willows, responded to this reviewResponded 25 July 2015

Hi, Thanks for your comments. At the Ernest Willows we pride ourselves on high standands and service, and from time to time there are mistakes made, we have many happy returning customers and all your comments have been taken on board

Thanks
The Ernest Willows Team

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviews (247)
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188 - 192 of 247 reviews

Reviewed 7 July 2015 via mobile

Popped in the Ernest Willows today as my car was in the garage opposite. The bar had 10 ales hand pumps. I had an Indian red ale, very nice indeed. Will be back to sample more. Jus wish I didn't have my car. Toilets were clean. The bar area was spotless. Well worth a visit

Date of visit: July 2015
Thank brian661966
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Manager754, Manager at The Ernest Willows, responded to this reviewResponded 25 July 2015

HI

Thanks for your comments, its good to know that customers appricate the time and the careful selection we put into our ales here at the Ernest Willows

Thanks
The Ernest Willows Team

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 July 2015

We paid a visit here last Friday morning, the plates were warm but the food was nearly cold. The pub was very busy especially with food so I would have thought, with the amount of food going out it would have been piping hot.

As to portions the Bacon was very thin, so thin you could have seen through it. The portion of baked beans was very small. The young boy delivering the food, must have been new, did not have a clue on the table numbers and having to search for them did not help the food.

Had the food been hotter leaving the kitchen it would not have been so cold on arrival at the table, we were lucky as our meals were not paraded around to find the table, so they should have been hot. With the tables not been in order surely a table plan should be displayed by the pass in the kitchen.

Its a pity this happens in this pub from time to time, as it spoils good food. All the staff were pleasant, polite and overworked, on a Friday Morning it always seems to be very busy.

This pub has a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, on this occasion it did not deserve it. This house never replies on Trip Advisor, Do They Read Reviews.

Date of visit: July 2015
    • Value
    • Service
    • Food
Thank Brian P
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Manager754, Manager at The Ernest Willows, responded to this reviewResponded 25 July 2015

Hi

Thanks for your comments, You are correct in saying that the gentleman on the floor was new, however we were overly busy at the time you visited and usually its pretty quiet at this time, which enables us to train our staff. We do have a table plan on the wall for all staff to view which should have helped him deliver the food.
However all your comments have been discussed with the team and everything taken on boards,

Thanks
The Ernest Willows Team

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 June 2015 via mobile

This branch has been a family favourite for years but not after our last experience there this week. The person on the till took nearly 10 minutes to ring through a simple 3 dish order and managed to overcharge us in the process. Then the food turns up and the onion rings were so overcooked you couldn't cut them, a burger bun lid was burned black and my steak baguette was inedible as it had been covered in pepper. The waitress told me that's how it always comes always and argued with me when I said it's never come with any pepper the last 20+ times I've ordered that item. Twice she went back to the kitchen always did came back protesting there was nothing wrong with it despite me saying I was unable to eat it. In the end they grudgingly gave me a refund but I ended up not having a meal there at amtll so had to go home and cook my own. The refund didn't cover the overcharge.
I had no apology from the manager either.
The place has gone to the dogs which Iver charges a shame, my advice is go to one of the other branches where you might get edible food, not be overcharged and get some decent customer service.

Date of visit: June 2015
4  Thank katrin k
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Reviewed 24 June 2015

one of the cheapest wetherspoon pubs in cardiff for food and drink always enjoy it in there service and welcome not to much trouble for the staff

Date of visit: June 2015
Thank meryl1950
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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