Wetherspoons divide opinion.
When they first appeared in North London back in the 1980’s – I was there.
One of their earliest bars – The Rochester Castle – became a frequent haunt of mine – & I’ve been in many since.
The Wetherspoon model – which is still in use today – was relatively radical at the time.
No piped music.
No TV screens.
No slot machines.
No smoking areas.
Food served all day.
Free refills of tea & coffee.
Varying taps of ‘real ale’ offered at decent prices.
Little did I know nearly 40 years later I’d be looking forward to a weekend away with herself staying in the newly opened €33 million Keavin’s Port Hotel & Bar to enjoy that very same model!
Most of those monies were spent on the careful & detailed restoration of the 8 Georgian Town Houses – plus 1 Chapel – the premises now occupy.
Pictures, memorabilia & artifacts recalling the former uses of the buildings now adorn the space. From specially commissioned stained glass work of church providers Early & Company to the marvelous inclusion of the former Chapel into a dining area.
The modern hotel is discretely added on at the back & boasts sleekly designed contemporary rooms with all the expected mod cons – plus the lovely touch of artwork from local schools commissioned by Wetherspoons.
The bar areas include a stunning 12 metre high glass atrium, 2 beer gardens & cosy snugs within the old Georgian building.
Prices are very keen – Top Brands – Sensible Prices is the tag line – although I was a tad disappointed at the lack of an Irish flavour.
Opting for a Kenyan Tusker Lager – whose malty body provided a pleasing flavour profile – herself enjoyed a Gunpowder G’n’T from Drumshanbo.
Wetherspoon stalwarts of Hobgoblin, Ringwood & Abbot were on tap – no Irish representation here yet – although Beamish & Franciscan Well are available in pint & cans.
Despite being open for less than a week – with a few minor teething problems – the hotel & bar were packed. At one point the very friendly, helpful & courteous staff informed us they had to turn folks away to keep the numbers manageable!
A convivial & jovial atmosphere ensured a mighty evening – whether it was because of the All Ireland Final the following day or folks out for the first time post easing of COVID restrictions remains unknowable.
The controversial & outspoken head of Wetherspoon, Tim Martin, may continue to outrage – though the model of affordable drinking & dining in a bright, architecturally attractive, friendly & comfortably atmospheric space continues to pull in the punters.
Would you choose to drink at Wetherspoons?