The Marlborough is a strange place, that seems to try hard, but fails on many levels.
Eating there with friends was a disappointment, especially having been there on several occasions throughout its recent transformation. If you're interested as to why, read on. If you're not, just book somewhere else:
We visited when the owner first took it on and had great plans for the place. He was friendly and open. At that time the food was perfectly good and the atmosphere was welcoming.
A few months later (Summer 2013) the place was just emerging from a restoration that appeared, at first glance, to have been a great success. The ambience had improved and the menu was even better. At that point in its life The Marlborough could be described as one of Wiltshire's best 'real' pubs, and this was a general consensus. The bar was full of friendly people as the food was a lovely mix of unique choices, most of which I'd have chosen any day of the week.
What has happened since is more disappointing than finding out as a child that Santa doesn't really exist....
We arrived to a relatively quiet bar that was manned by someone who was more interested in chatting to her clientele friends than serving us. After a patient wait we were served.
Menus arrived and their author has either recently graduated from Shakespeare's 'adjective' university or has recorded far too many episodes of Master Chef on Sky+. To describe the menu as pompous and pretentious would be an understatement. As one of out guest correctly said, "sometimes I go to a restaurant and I want to choose everything, but here I'm really struggling here". It's just trying too hard. So hard in fact that it puts you off.
Yes, it's quite expensive, but that's not the issue here. It's as if the chef thinks that the more bizarre and complex he makes the menu, and the more Blumethalesque adjectives he inserts, the more appealing it will be. Sadly, it has the opposite effect.
The waitresses were very good, attentive and polite. In fact, they can't be faulted.
The food, when it arrived, was perfectly ok, but nothing to write home about. I suppose there's an upper limit to how sexy one can make two slithers of mackerel and toasted bread look after writing a Booker prize winning description about it on the menu.
Having the misfortune of walking through the bar to use the facilities mid-dinner was like stepping out of Fortnums and into [insert name of cheap market town pub here]. The bar was smothered by even more of the bar girl's mates, and with the concept of getting another drink seeming to be a matter of hours away rather than minutes, I opted to quench my thirst with the complimentary water. Incidentally, this water had no exciting descriptions or adjectives on the menu. Perhaps this is something that can be worked on.
The owner, once a friendly and welcoming person, seemed more interested in the girls at the bar buying Bacardi and Lucozade than people in the restaurant. Can't say I blame him, they were quite attractive and he probably would have struggled to understand the menus too!!
Joking aside (about the water and the cryptic menus), we decided that we were glad we had returned (after the pre / during / after refurb process) to see the final product, and agreed that we wouldn't return. It was almost as if the transformation just went on for too long.
Best of luck with the new venture.
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