Let's begin by defining what I would consider to be the essential attributes of an inn. First things first, decently kept ale is absolutely vital. Followed closely by a friendly and preferably warm welcome. Somewhere comfortable to sit is always a good idea. An inn, by definition, provides food (which a pub does not necessarily do); the food should be fairly priced and of a quality that leaves you thinking you've had value for your hard-earned.
Now we'll take a peek at what the Jamaica Inn does.
Firstly, I can't fault them on the ale. The ale was well kept and drawn through obviously clean pipes at the right temperature (that's far too warm for our American cousins, but perfect for the English gentleman).
From hereon in, though, it goes downhill fast.
A friendly welcome was not forthcoming - the bar staff did their job with reasonable efficiency but without particular interest. We started (as it was still only just after 11am) with coffees all around. The coffee was alright, but certainly nothing special. A young chap came to clear our table after twenty minutes or so and asked us accusingly "Haven't you got tray?". Well, no we hadn't. No such implement had been proffered at the bar and as there were four coffees and two willing carriers, each of whom was equipped with the usual number of hands, a tray didn't seem necessary.
This was obviously taken as a personal affront by the young fellow, who cleared the table with plenty of inward sighing.
Mrs The Millbrooker and Sandybum then checked the menu, which looked quite promising, offering meaty treats like a (fairly expensive) mixed grill, plenty of fishy things - all decent pub grub type fare. On the strength of this we thought we'd stay for lunch and then Mrs The Millbrooker could enjoy a pint with plenty of time to spare before having to drive again.
The pint was duly sunk. Driving away was no longer on the cards.
We approached the restaurant where food orders are taken.
"Oh, no" we were blithely informed. "We don't do the full menu until 3 o'clock. You can only have what you see..."
What we could see was grossly overcooked roast beef, vegetables that had been left under heat for what must have been several centuries and similarly unappetising stuff. It was like a motorway service canteen but without the caring attitude and welcoming atmosphere. It was evident that the place is there to pile in the coach parties, rip 'em off and get 'em out. As if on cue, several coach parties arrived and the numerous tourists began taking tables to "enjoy" their travesty of a carvery lunch at the famous Jamaica Inn.
We were in a cleft stick; we couldn't go somewhere else now without drinking and driving; like all decent people we don't even consider such behaviour.
So, we re-checked the original menu which clearly said that food was served from 12 noon until 9 pm. And so it is, but not what's advertised on the menu. Nothing for it, then, we had to eat something. I tried the appalling, dry, stringy beef with some pallid chips and tasteless vegetables. Mrs the Millbrooker couldn't bring herself to eat that, so just had soup which was evidently straight from a packet and served with a part-baked roll.
Here's a shot of the lovely trimmings from my beef:
Believe me, I rarely leave anything edible on a plate but this was revolting. And overpriced even had it been a decent cut of beef.
To cap this, whilst Sandybum was still eating our friend the table clearer stood himself over our table and asked "Have you nearly finished?".
Yep, "have you nearly finished?". Get the nuance, here. What's that word "nearly" doing in there? Get some training, boy. It's ok to take a subtle peek at a table of diners, see if anyone's still eating and go away again if they are. It's ok to ask if everyone's finished if it's fairly obvious that they have. It's none of your goddam business whether someone has "nearly" finished. You might as well stand there and say "hurry up, you're getting in my way". Very welcoming, I must say.
A few minutes later, another chap came along and cleared our table without saying anything at all. Not good, but at least we had actually finished. The first fellow turned up again looked blankly at the cleared surface and asked "has someone taken your plates away?".
No, I ate them because they were better than the food, you pillock.
In short, dear readers, I advise you most strongly not to waste your money in visiting the direly run establishment that is the Jamaica Inn which should be a jewel in the crown of Cornish inns, but is run to extract the maximum possible profit in the shortest possible time and is staffed by untrained wallies with no idea of how to conduct themselves. And the menu lies by omission in implying that you can get a wide choice of food. You can, but not at lunchtime.
I recommend, instead, a trip to our own much loved D&C where a warm and friendly welcome is always to be found, the food is truly excellent VFM and the ale is as good as it gets.