Orwell that ends well?

The Moon Under Water, Enfield

Sunday 25 January 2015

In 1946 George Orwell described the ‘ideal pub’ - uncompromisingly Victorian, quiet enough to talk without a radio or piano and providing a pint of stout to accompany a solid lunch. Its name? The Moon Under Water, adopted by over 15 Wetherspoons outlets.

One is based in Enfield and is our second ‘Spoons of the day after a stroll along the New River from Cheshunt. It’s a different proposition from The King James. We’re met by a cavernous building with rows of books in the rafters, that betrays the building’s history as a school.

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The punters here are older and finishing their Sunday lunches. The pub accommodates by silently playing Escape to the Country on the television.

We find an empty spot – avoiding table 52 perched between two fruit machines – Orwell would surely not approve of this table of shame. Behind us, a group of late middle aged ladies in fluffy jumpers gossip about local events and are clearly the worse for wear. “He don’t cuddle me,” mutters one before she nods off in a haze of cheap perfume.

We pick up the menu. Somewhat reluctantly, as the prospect of a second Wetherspoons meal in a day feels a little Super Size Me. A desultory scan of the A2, 2-sided menu, offering seemingly bounteous choices results in a realisation: it’s all variations of the same stuff!

We’ve been had. The chicken wrap is there, under Pub Classics. And there it is again, in the Under 500 calories section. The ubiquitous tuna and cheese combination pops up everywhere: potato, wrap, panini…

And why is there no pizza? Or anything Italian: no carbonara, no risotto, or indeed any nutritious sounding noodle/rice dishes? There’s a whole segment of standard pub fare missing here.

Why don’t we want to eat anything? We briefly consider the ‘Wetherspoons Sharer’ and eschew it: a plate of spicy fried stuff. We keep scanning, seeking inspiration. A long list of burgery things and those weird, amber-coloured, Wetherspoons thrice-fried chips do not tempt.

(We consider a side project to take all our meals in a Wetherspoons one day. Breakfast, lunch, coffee and cake, dinner. We silently agree to shelve it for later. Next year, maybe.)

Wetherspoons caesar salad

Eventually we order. We opt for the Pasta Alfredo (upgrading to ‘with salmon’ for an extra £3) and a Chicken Caesar salad (plus 70p for bacon). One of us chose…badly. Coming in at just under a tenner, the too-generous portion of chewy penne swam in gluey, lukewarm, tasteless white sauce. The accompanying pile of watercress had a microwaved fillet of salmon plonked on top of it. It was too filling, too glutinous, too tasteless, too Wetherspoons. Yuk. (The Chicken Caesar was actually OK).

We pushed on through and shared the Salted Caramel Cheesecake for dessert. A manufactured £1.99, although perfunctory it was actually better than many of the Spoons desserts we’d sampled on other visits.

The Moon Under Water is a funny old place. Orwell also wrote, “If you are asked why you favour a particular public-house, it would seem natural to put the beer first, but the thing that most appeals to me about the Moon Under Water is what people call its ‘atmosphere’.”

And it’s precisely this ingredient that Enfield’s Moon Under Water lacks.

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