I'm an off-road cyclist and I was following the route up the river from Cambridge to Waterbeach, late on Sunday afternoon, when I came across The Plough and suddenly my priorities changed to food and beer. I'll give the pub 7/10 and here's why.
The Plough has the look of a family oriented pub, with large areas of grass to sit and play in, and indeed that is what a few families were doing. Also the picnic tables encourage people to stop and have their food with out fear of chastisement. The site is very picturesque next to the river, with a few boats berthed, and from the deck of the pub you can overlook the fields. As it happened some rowers went by as they were barked at by some chap on a bike, on the other side of the river.
Anyway to pub and it's service. At the entrance I browsed the menu and made my choice. I went up to the bar to order, because that is what other people were doing, and I was asked if I had a table number. I didn't know needed a table number as there were no instructions to locate a table, but I got over that quickly as the young chap told me the numbers are on the tables. So off I went to find a nice outdoor table on the deck. There were no table numbers that I could see. What I could see were a number of untidy tables that still needed to be cleared and no obvious table arrangement. I approached a couple and asked them where I could find the numbers. They said that they had the same problem but the waiter told their's was 107. So I went back to the bar and told the waiter my table was the one next to 107, and I pointed at it to help him. I ordered the Pie of the Day, Chicken, with Colcannon mash and a two bottles of beer. It came to about £14, which I thought reasonable, and the size of the portion justified the price. On my way back to the table I noticed on a unit by the door a number of small metal bucket with cutlery wrapped in napkins and number painted on the side. Number 107 was sitting there, but not 106 or 108, so I don't what number I had. While I was waiting at the table the waiter reported that the pie had been changed to Beef and Carrot as they had run out Chicken. A simple tally system where the waiting staff chalk off the special items as they are ordered would have remedied this oversight. I settled with the beef and carrot. It arrived about 10 minutes later.
The pie's (puff) pastry, was light and crusty and there was a generous portion of beef and carrots in pie dish. The beef was tender and gravy very tasty, and I found that I did not need to add any salt and pepper. The Colcannon Mash failed to impress. Given the little cost of the ingredients in Colcannon mash I would have expected the full show, however, the green cabbage was sparce and under cooked, there was a hint of leek, if there was garlic present the flavour didn't feature and the bacon failed to make an appearance. The beer, Budweiser Budvar, was nicely chilled and the option of a glass was given, which I accepted.
I should mention the inside decor was modern and comfortable looking, spaciously organized in an arrangement that complemented the curves and recesses of the interior, rather than competing with it. The bar followed this style although it struck me as being too large for the size of the restaurant. They have avoided an off-the-shelf style of furniture and opted for a mixture of tables and chairs which borders on the homely look. One down-side to was that the gents toilets were not monitored regularly so the soap had run out and one of the cubicles had no paper.
I can see they have tried to adopt the modern less labour approach to customer service that you find in many of the regular family-oriented pub chains, but they haven't managed the efficiency gaining aspects of it yet. Having set dishes almost ready to serve is a good idea because the public don't want to wait 30 minutes for a meal. This idea is by no means new. It has been around for decades.
I suggest that if they are going to make themed national food they should consult a chef of said nationality.
The main area of disappointment was the customer service. It won't hurt to show the customers to a table, and they don't mind ordering at the bar, as long as they know that is what they have to do. It would also pay to check that the customer is happy with what they have been served. The British reserve is not always keen to pro-actively complain, but when asked for an opinion, will most certainly give one.
To summarize decor and setting are very good. Food is good, and reasonably priced. Customer service and floor management is poor, but thankfully this can be remedied..
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Map showing The Plough on Green End