If ever there was a post produced without enthusiasm, this is it. Blame Tom Irvin. You’re not even getting a map extract.
This is the “Contractual Obligation” of blogging, and anyone who knows their Python will know that LP contains the underrated “All Things Dull and Ugly“, which sums up the subject of this piece.
Ember Inns is the Mitchell & Butler brand designed for people who don’t like pubs, but do like their cheap eateries to be identical.
There’s about 150 of them, and they pop up with relentless monotony on my Beer Guide travels, providing no local character or characters.
This one could be anywhere. Mind you, Camberley could be anywhere.
Wetherspoon get slated for their formula, but it’s not just Spoons buildings that vary in size and shape. A Spoons is as likely to attract professional drunks as free-range children, both in short supply in Ember’s monochrome world.
At 5 o’clock, the Crabtree, a mile from Frimley Green and Camberley central, could offer nothing more exciting for the pub blogger than three identically dressed painters drinking Stella at an identical rate, a bloke talking at his wife about gherkins, and a youth sprawled out vertically on that hateful sofa (above).
Ember thrives in the suburbs of the Home Counties and Birmingham, where competition is limited. When I first saw them in Selly Oak fifteen years ago they looked quite smart, but like Chef & Brewer they’ve homogenised and cheapened menus since then. They were proudly adult-only at the start, but dropped that to compete with Marstons.
And however much the Spoons beer range has slipped back in the last decade, it will never be as dull as this typical range;
The beer quality, at least, is often OK (see Caversham and Lickey), so I’ve no problem with their GBG presence at all. It was unusual that the Pride wasn’t drinking well here, but even at £2.05 a half, I hadn’t the energy for an argument about a replacement. No-one else was drinking the cask.
They didn’t even have the chip tanks with squid I raved about in the Lickey Hills.
The only think positive I have to say about Maidenhead is that it’s resisted the urge to have an Ember so far. Think how horrific a Maidenhead Ember Inn could be.
NB I’ve actually stayed in Camberley Travelodge twice, for reasons long forgotten. It’s a pleasant, functional town in the same manner as Scunthorpe, but only the Spoons has made the Beer Guide recently.
Can I stop now?