MEAL REVIEW: The Electrical Wizard, a Wetherspoon’s pub, Morpeth

Steak and chips.
Steak and chips.

A nearby taste of what may not be coming to Alnwick

Northumberland’s first authentic Turkish restaurant was the advert’s claim and it sounded an ideal place to visit while our friends were up for the weekend.

Mexican chicken burger.

Mexican chicken burger.

However, the eagle-eyed among you may notice that the name at the top of the page does not sound very Turkish and indeed our efforts to eat at Ephesus, on Morpeth’s Bridge Street, on its second night were dashed by what sadly must be described as incompetence.

I was well aware that there may be teething issues on a new restaurant’s first weekend in business, but the menu, available to view on the venue’s website – www.ephesusmorpeth.co.uk, sounded too good to miss.

An extreme case of laziness perhaps – a drive down the A1 rather than a flight across Europe to the gateway to Asia to get a true taste of Turkey.

We arrived just after 7pm and were shown to our table after a short wait, but that was the only short wait of the night.

Interior of Wetherspoon's Electrical Wizard in Morpeth.

Interior of Wetherspoon's Electrical Wizard in Morpeth.

We did get some drinks by about 7.30pm, but having ordered our food at 7.45pm, we waited until 9pm with no sign of anything arriving before deciding to call it a day due to the need to get something to eat and returning home to Alnwick.

We weren’t the only ones to leave without eating and very few dishes seemed to be making it to the tables upstairs where we were sat – perhaps ‘authentic’ meant flown in from Istanbul.

The manager was extremely apologetic as we left and I can only hope that some lessons have been learned and that they can iron out the issues.

I haven’t written Ephesus off for good and after a few months for them to settle in, I want to give it another go because the extensive menu really did sound very appetising.

The Electrical Wizard in Morpeth.

The Electrical Wizard in Morpeth.

Happily, despite four very hungry people being let loose in the centre of Morpeth, the town offers a lifelife in the form of The Electrical Wizard, a JD Wetherspoon pub.

It proved its real worth in a situation like this as it serves food until 11pm at night and I would challenge the naysayers to name many other places where you can get a sit-down meal at that time in towns like Morpeth and Alnwick.

It also offered a chance to preview what may still be coming to Alnwick, if the petty issues holding up the Corn Exchange plans can be ironed out.

The pub is named after Dr Walford Bodie, known as The Electrical Wizard of the North, who brought his magic tricks to the venue in its former days as the Coliseum cinema – a similar past life to Alnwick’s would-be Wetherspoon’s.

Many of you will have eaten in a JD Wetherspoon establishment before – they already have quite a number of pubs in the county as well as on Tyneside – but there will be some who haven’t, perhaps put off by their reputation for cheap but poor quality grub, unfair in my opinion.

I think the food was never that bad, but efforts have been made to improve it, particularly in the past few years.

It’s not à la carte dining, nor does it try to be, and it offers simple, practical and tasty food for all the family at very reasonable prices.

In my opinion, one of its very best traits is that whether you eat in their pub in Berwick, Birmingham, Bolton or Bedford, the food is remarkably consistent, meaning you know what you’re getting if you’re in a new place.

But on the night in question, our quartet ordered two steaks, a Mexican chicken burger and a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, which ranged in price from just under £7 to just under £10 each including a drink, as all of the items in the burger and grill sections in the menu come with a drink.

In the case of the burgers, the price drops by £1 if you have a soft drink rather than an alcoholic drink.

My Mexican chicken burger featured a moist chicken breast fillet topped with cheese, spicy chunks of chilli and a refreshing dollop of guacamole, as well as onion rings and salad.

Accompanied by crisp but potato-filled chips (the coating has changed in recent years and is definitely improved), it went down very nicely indeed.

Both steaks were tasty and cooked as requested, medium and medium-rare respectively, while the Philly cheesesteak sandwich – shaved rib-eye steak, on a baguette, with sautéed onion and Monterey Jack cheese and pepper sauce – also went down well.

On a busy Saturday night, within a quarter of the time we waited at Ephesus, we had ordered, been served, eaten and left – and for a grand total of £33.38.

One common moan that you hear is about the quality of food and the fact that dishes are just bunged in the microwave, but Wetherspoon does make an effort.

Their beef burgers are fresh, never frozen, and are 100 per cent British beef while their steaks all come from Britain and Ireland. They use free-range eggs, dolphin-friendly tuna and farm-assured British beef in their chilli con carne, lasagne and steak and kidney puddings.

SELECTION FROM THE MENU

Despite having very reasonable prices generally, Wetherspoon pubs also offer joint meal deals as well as ‘clubs’ whereby most days, a certain meal is promoted at a discount.

Two for £7.89

This current offer allows you to get two of the following for £7.89 all day, every day:

British steak & kidney pudding

Wiltshire cured ham, eggs and chips

Five-bean chilli

Chilli con carne

Sweet chilli egg noodles

Jacket potato

CLUBS

Tuesdays are steak days with around 10 dishes on offer, Wednesdays are chicken, Thursdays are curry, Fridays are fish and chips while Sunday is traditional roasts.

STAR RATINGS (OUT OF 10)

Quality of food......7

Choice......9

Vegetarian choice......8

Children’s menu......8

Value for money......10

Atmosphere......6

Use of local food......4

(efforts on British food, see above)

Service......7

Access for disabled......9

Toilet for disabled......Yes

Overall rating......8

Verdict: The quality is better than many might think and you cannot grumble at the choice and price.

Contact: 01670 500640 or www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk

Last week’s Northumberland Gazette Eating Out column reviewed the Amble pies and mash at Red House, Quayside, Newcastle., and if you missed it, here is a link to the Gazette’s top tips of 2014.