86 reviews from the community
Review of "Harvester Restaurants"
Harvester RestaurantsRestaurant Reviewed: Stag and Hounds
(next to Comet and Home Base)
**** Parking and Getting a Table *****
The Harvester chain of Restaurants have over 2000 outlets across the United Kingdom and owned and operated by Mitchells and Butlers, who claim to be the UK's leading operator of managed pubs, bars and restaurants. Harvester claim to offer healthy eating, drinking and entertainment in one reasonably priced outlet.
As with most of the Harvester's I have visited, there is usually ample free parking at the rear of the establishment. However on Saturday evenings and Sunday lunch times these places are heaving with customers, so avoid the crowds, go early and if possible ring and reserve a table. The Stag and Hounds is no exception but fortunately there is an over flow car park used by travel lodge customers next door.The entrance is usually through the bar. Just before the restaurant entrance is usually a waiting area; it's here that a waiter or waitress will show you to your table. You will be greeted by the obligatory "have you been to a harvester before" question as you walk to your seats and the "help yourself to salad".
The waitress will hand you over a large menu (these things are over 40 cms in length) and as you try to juggle it open without knocking over a strategically placed wine glass, she or he will take your drinks order before returning to take your food order. Depending on how busy the place is, you will be given around 10 minutes to choose but if you are not ready, just say so and she will return.The menus use a large and clear font size, they are easy to read and also inform the customer of dishes suitable for those with allergies and vegetarian options.
You are not committed to order a starter. To be honest, as you are allowed to eat as much as you want in salad cart, I would avoid the starters altogether. The salad cart is more filling and tastier than the starters and best of all, completely free.Bowls are situated next to the cart and tongs in each separate container. The majority of the time they are clean but one tip is to always rub your finger around the inside first. On one occasion there was a dried mayo sauce which though you couldn't see, I could feel it.
Allegedly "fresh rolls" are placed on top of the cart to also help yourself. The rolls taste like the pre packed baguettes that you bake when required, hopefully not full of preservatives but definitely not fresh and steaming that you buy from the bakers.The salad cart contains a good varied selection, including potato salad, coleslaw, cous cous, Florida salad, cucumber, grated carrots, croutons, bacon bits and at least three different jugs of dips. One to recommend is the blue cheese but don't over do it as too much is overpowering and ruins the flavour of your salad. The mayo and thousand island are rich and creamy. ****** Menu as of Feb 2007 ******
As with all menu's they are subject to change according to season and prices. Starters are priced at just £5 each. I have tried most starters but to be honest, along with your free salad, a starter on top of your main meal is too much.
Crackerjack King Prawns - Hot and spicy, crunchy-coated king prawns with a sweet chilli dip on the side.Nachos - Nachos served with guacamole, salsa, melted cheese and jalapenos with sour cream. I found these quite sickly and not very tasty. Also comes with the option for two of you to share.
Chicken Wings - You will receive a large portion of chicken wings cooked on the flame-grill. They are then basted in either BBQ sauce or a very hot & spicy chilli and garlic marinade. You should receive an extra pot for more dipping. I hate anything hotter than a ginger nut, so always opt for the BBQ which is absolutely divine. The sauce could do with being slightly thicker as it has a tendency to drip - usually down a crisp white blouse.Greek Lamb Skewers - This is one of my husband's favourites and this receives his full marks of approval. You will receive 3, though small, lightly spiced minted lamb skewers with red onion and chilli all served in an iceberg lettuce cup. This is served with mint & sour cream dip. Yum !
Crunchy Breaded Mushrooms - Quite soggy and very small, about 8 or so mushrooms coated in bread crumbs with the standard garlic & herb dip.Satay Skewers - chicken skewers marinated in a satay sauce, with red onion and chilli and served inside an iceberg lettuce cup. Similar to the lamb skewers above.
Soup of the Day - The waitress will usually tell you as she sits you all down at the table.Prawn Cocktail - Cold water prawns, iceberg lettuce, tomato and the delicious Marie Rose sauce, served with slices of buttered brown bread. Absolutely delicious though the prawns are in small supply. I counted 6 the last time I chose this.
Chinese Platter - Crispy king prawn crackers, duck and veggie spring rolls and chicken wantons, enough for one person but they do pass it off as for two to share. The spring rolls are quite small, but with a crisp outer shell and succulent vegetables they are extremely Moorish.Harvest Festival - for 2 to share. BBQ chicken wings, chicken fillets, breaded mushrooms, corn on the cob and soggy onion rings. Served with the harvester sour cream & chives dip and BBQ sauce.
If you eat during the week before 6.30pm, including lunch times, it's known as the early bird. The restaurant is usually quieter and the food prices are considerably less, up to a third off each dish. Remember that on Saturday this offer is only valid until 5 pm. Early bird menu prices range from £4 to under £10. Just because you pay less doesn't mean they cut back on quality or portions, it's just as equally appetizing then as it is later on in the evening. Eating later on in the evening you can expect to pay at least £10 for a main meal.
The Original Spit roast
A seasoned fresh spit roast chicken served with BBQ dip. Comes with an accompaniment of chunky chips and a small corn on the cob. The chicken is moist and falls off the bone, not too filling but rather tasty. The sweet corn has always been cooked to perfection but beware, it does drip when you bite into the cornels'.
Half a spit roasted chicken again but this time drizzled in a light lemon, parsley & thyme butter sauce, with crisp seasoned fries and corn on the cob. Only a hint of lemon, infact it was so light I couldn't even taste it. I don't think there are many differences between this dish and the original spit roast above.
Piri Piri Chicken
Flame-grilled chicken breast topped with a tomato & roasted vegetable sauce with a kick of Piri Piri chilli, served with Cajun rice. Absolutely delicious, a firm favourite. Nothing as succulent as Nando's version but it still ranks high on my recommendation list.
Flame-grilled bacon steak and Emmental cheese sandwiched between chicken breasts, topped with sticky sweet plum sauce and served with new potatoes and steaming hot garden peas. The bacon steak is too salty and it takes what seems forever to chew. I enjoyed the chicken and the Emmental cheese combination but this meal is nothing special, quite bland actually.
The Cajun Chicken Big One
Flame-grilled chicken breast dusted with hot Cajun spices and served in a soft white bun with mayo, crunchy iceberg lettuce and tomato. As with most dishes, it comes with fries unless otherwise stated.
A grilled, lightly breaded tuna steak, served with Cajun rice & tomato salsa. Revolting, too chewy and tasteless. I only managed a quarter of this before pushing my plate away in dismay.
Fish, Chips and Peas
Chunky battered fish with seasoned fries and juicy peas that have a tendency to catapult themselves off the plate as soon as you stab them. This is nothing like the traditional fish shop offering but my children rate this quite high. You have to ask what the fish is as sometimes it has been Cod and other occasions, Haddock. The fish is not boned so if younger children are eating this, please make sure you cut the flakes up for them. The fish can be quite soggy but the meat is usually pure white, no grey bits which children hate.
Crunchy breaded scampi served with fries, peas and half a lemon. Full marks on this one, though the scampi pieces are few and far between, just like the prawn cocktail starter. No soon as you get into the scampi, it's gone. A very crunchy coating on the outside with succulent fish in the middle.
Totally Stuffed Mushrooms
Juicy open mushrooms stuffed to bursting with creamy leek and cheese. Served with buttered new potatoes, peas and a revolting grilled tomato. Apart from the tomato, this is rather yummy. Ideal for the smaller appetite.
*** Side Dishes ****Priced at under £3, you can choose from button mushrooms, corn on the cob, extra chips, potato wedges, garlic bread, onion rings and extra sauces. Most of it you get when you order your main meal apart from the garlic bread, so check to see what is included before you order extra.
*** Desserts - the best till last *****Just a selection of some puddings available and priced at under £5.
Raspberry Trifle Sundae
Soft vanilla sponge, raspberries in jelly and vanilla ice cream laced with raspberry flavoured sauce, topped with cream and chocolate fudge pieces and just as good as homemade even if the cream is fake. You do receive a good sized portion in a tall glass dish.
Deep-filled, with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, served warm with hot custard or vanilla ice cream. Full marks on this one even if the slice is somewhat small and the custard is no more than a drizzle.
Choc Mallow Muddle
Thick chocolate mousse with soft marshmallow, crunchy nuts and chewy toffee on a chunky biscuit base. Served with chocolate flavoured sauce and whipped cream. Once was enough, too sickly and too chewy.
A creamy New York style baked vanilla cheesecake shot with raspberry fruit pieces and served with fluffy whipped cream. The cheesecake slice looks miniscule, especially when there is a Rocky Horror alongside. However once you start digging in, it becomes apparent that the allocated portion is more than enough. The cheesecake is so rich and gluttonous that is sticks itself to the roof of your mouth and you spend the next ten minutes trying to remove it from the top of your palette. It's ok once in a while but not one I would choose again.
Warm chocolate fudge cake topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped but synthetic cream and crunchy chocolate fudge pieces. This resembles a gold fish bowl and is packed full of cholesterol laden ingredients - but so what, this is delicious and comfort food at its best. This has to be the ultimate Harvester desert.
Vanilla ice cream covered in your choice of butterscotch, chocolate, toffee-fudge, raspberry or strawberry flavoured sauce. My son ordered this and couldn't make up his mind about which sauce, so the waitress gave him a bit of everything.
The Big Double Dipper
Marshmallows coated in coconut flakes, strawberries, chocolate brownie chunks and light profiteroles all dripping in chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. Incredibly sickly and too over powering, not one I would recommend.
Children are made welcome in these establishments. Not only do they have their own menu to choose from but they are entertained at the table by drawing and colouring. This is such a bonus as it is very difficult to keep little ones from fidgeting whilst waiting for the food arrive. Don't worry if they get though the sheets of paper before the dinner comes, your waitress will only be too pleased to give you more. Dinners are under £6 and no drink is included.Children are offered, tomato Pasta , ( a vegetarian dish), Spaghetti Bolognaise, Jacket Potato with Tuna Mayo, Sweet corn & Spring Onions, Fish and Chips, Chicken Dippers, Beef Burger, Spit roasted Chicken, Sauce ages, and half rack of Harvester Ribs.
Avoid the sausages at the Basingstoke branch, twice I have returned my children's meals as they were undercooked and oozing with meat juices. Even when cooked the children said they tasted revolting - enough said.All children's dishes come with either chips or jacket potato and peas or beans. Extra dips are available and if your waitress doesn't offer them, just ask. A trip or two to the salad cart is included for little ones as is the dessert. Not from the main dessert section but is usually an ice cream or a jelly. Unlike other fast food outlets, they don't receive a toy at the end of the meal, perhaps a balloon if there are any available.
Try to persuade your child to have ice cream as the jelly is just a box standard jelly in a small plastic tub, similar to the Rowntree version that is mass produced. Far too runny and over powering in what appears to be artificial colouring. I know that Harvester promote healthy and nutricous eating, but what ever was in this jelly had my three year old bouncing off the walls for the remainder of the evening.*** General service and Appearance ****
Most harvesters offer cosy and comfortable surroundings with its wooden beams, there is a rustic farm house feel to the place. It is not compulsory to eat a meal, you are more than welcome to just have a drink at the bar and relax in the faux leather chairs. It is not just beer and wine, soft drinks and spirits are available. Bar prices start from £2.Fruit machines are seen flickering in the corner of the bar, normally next to the cigarette machine. With its jaw dropping jackpot of nearly £20, do your wallet a favour and ignore it. Piped back ground music can often be heard but is never too loud so you can still hold a conversation. There isn't much privacy at the tables but the lights are dimmed and unobtrusive.
nside the bar and restaurant, all disabled and wheel chair customers are welcomed, ramps are outside and disabled toilets are available. However, depending on what time of day you are visiting, these establishments do become packed and it could prove difficult for you to manoeuvre in comfort.
Tables are wiped down before you are shown to your seat and clean utensils are laid out for you. Always do a quick check yourself though. These places are cheap and cheerful with the emphasis on bring them in but push them out just as quick. I never feel 100% sure about the hygienic element, so to be on the safe side I always inspect.Staff should be polite, courteous and helpful at all times but we all know that in this real world, it doesn't always happen. Most waitresses have gone the extra mile for us and I reflect my gratitude in the tip at the end of the meal. Tips are entirely up to you.
If you feel you have received a poor service then let it be known. There is always a duty manager available to hear your complaint and the head office details are found on the website.I think the uniform policy varies as some Harvester staff in other branches have all looked immaculate and dressed identically. Unfortunately in this specific Harvester that I am reviewing, this does not apply. Staffs all appear to wear black bottoms with a white top, but not a set uniform just a colour code. Wearing their own clothes does not portray a smart appearance. They do wear name badges and a small apron, but other than that no other distinguishing marks sets them apart from customers.
Now onto the personal subject of toilets. It's obvious after eating and drinking, at some point you will want to visit the W.C. Toilets should be clean and immaculate at all times, however not in the Basingstoke restaurant. I have to name and shame this place as the loo's are revolting, full of filth and dried excrement. The paint is peeling, the light fittings loose, the place wreaks and the carpet is thread bear and bulging in place. It is an accident waiting to happen. Inside the cubicle it is so dark that you can barely make out that puddle of urine left on the seat. Apparently the "gents" next door is worse. I sincerely hope that all the stains left in the toilet are not the remains of a Harvester dinner.Paying for your meal is either by cash or credit card. Some take cheques but always ask before you sit down and order. Not all branches have cash machines either but those present are not free ATM's. The bill is brought to you by the waitress and it's at this point that you can decide to reward her or not with a small tip.
Most places do have a beer garden and seating outside but not many have play facilities for children. It gets busy during the summer season and the same rule applies as the restaurant, get there early and avoid the masses. On numerous occasions I have seen dogs outside but always on a lead and never allowed to enter the building unless a guide dog.
**** Sitting Outside ****
****Conclusion *****Ok, granted that the place is not palatial or pristine but it is cheap and cheerful, like an upmarket Mac Donald's. If you want a la carte then Knightsbridge have some exclusive eateries, if it's quick and local, then a Harvester will always be found close by. Conveyer belt food at its best, I don't feel it is as fresh and nutritious as Harvester claim but it's edible. The kids enjoy the change of scenery and above all us girlies get a night off from the kitchen.
*** Website****Harvester have their own website on www.harvester.co.uk. There is a branch locator which uses your postcode and then shows you a map to the nearest restaurant. You can also apply for jobs via this site and send feedback or comments.
Product Information : Harvester Restaurants
Manufacturer's product description
Listed on Ciao since: 19/11/2001