A couple of evenings ago I visited the King’s Head in the village of Hursley in Hampshire. It is a pub I have known for many years but it isn’t on my regular list. On this occasion I was very favourably impressed.
I wanted a light bar snack, something it isn’t easy to get in evening opening hours in pubs around here. Among the things the very civilised young barman offered me was Welsh rarebit, which I chose. I also bought a pint of Ringwood Bitter, a beer I have drunk many times over many years. When I sat down at my table in the bar, I thought the Ringwood tasted rather different from usual and not very nice, though definitely not ‘off’. So I took it back to the bar, where the same young barman greeted me again. Me: ‘I’m afraid I’m not really liking this pint of Ringwood’. Young Barman, unhesitatingly: ‘Then we’ll change it for you’. The perfect response. No ifs, no buts. No ‘What seems to be the problem?’. No, ‘No one else has complained’. No holding it up to the light with mock expertise. The usual defensive reactions may save the licensee the profit on a single pint but lose a customer forever.
The model response I received more or less guarantees a returning customer who may also recommend the place to his friends and even praise it in his blog – all at that very same modest cost: the profit on a single pint. Doesn’t that make the model response a no-brainer? You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But how often do you get it?
In more general terms, in mid-evening on a Tuesday night, I found the pub agreeable in most ways. Other customers were smiley. There was a slightly old-fashioned bonhomie in the air. The pub does have a dining room and I’ve heard the food is good, but the pub itself feels like a pub.
The only thing I didn’t like, which has kept the pub off my list hitherto, is rather loud background music, varying from rocky-pop to female jazz singers (which I like, but not as background music in a pub) – but that’s their decision.
In overall terms I rate the service standards and attitude towards their customers of this pub way ahead of most of the local competition.
Postscript, 16 May 14: I had a snack lunch (that Welsh rarebit again – a bargain at £2.95) at this pub today. I must repeat that I find the loud pop music in the bars really annoying. It could not reasonably be called background music, except perhaps for those in the garden. I am at a loss to know why anyone trying as hard as this pub’s owner/manager is to run a nice pub should think his customers want to be subjected to music they may not like and certainly didn’t choose. It will stop me using the pub regularly.
Postscript: I understand that the ownership or management of the King’s Head has changed, so its character is likely to have changed too. In fact, its character had become inconsistent anyway.