I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a pub.
There are restaurants and there are pubs, and in most cases never the twain shall meet. There are exceptions to this rule, such as gastro pubs like The Subi and The Boulevard in Floreat, but generally pub food is in a class of its own. Bangers and mash, pie floats, burgers, parmas and seafood baskets.
The Wembley is a pleasant looking, double storey building with wooden verandahs and a tree-lined beer garden. If it looks and feels old, then that is because it was built in the 1930s, and so it has lovely high ceilings, a grand staircase, and wooden windows. It's like Grandma's house, if Grandma was a bootlegger and enjoyed a good party.
A group of six mums descended on the Wembley on a Thursday night. The front bar and beer garden were relatively busy, but the restaurant area, around the corner and up the back was deserted. It looked nice, with a mixture of red and black chairs, black tables, sheer red curtains and a corner couch or two.
The few people who were dining, were choosing to sit in the hinterland between the restaurant and the pub. Maybe they still wanted to feel part of the action. It meant we had the room to ourselves, which was probably just as well.
To say the service was patchy is to imply we were served. It is very much on your own head to make sure you have what you need. Menu? They're on the front desk. Water? Better ask someone at the bar. When it is time to order, you need to leave the room and order at a desk that is across from the bar. You are given a number (but not a smile) and that is pretty much the end of the service until the food arrives.
One bonus of having to order at the counter is that it does away with the politics of bill splitting at the end of the night, so it's good to keep that in mind if splitting the bill is the bane of your existence.
The menu at the Wembley is quite extensive but doesn't break any boundaries. There is a large section of 'tapas' and share food. I think they might need to look up the definition of tapas though, because last time I checked bowls of fries and mini corn dogs weren't served in Spain.
That being said, the highlight of our dinner is on the 'tapas' menu: hand cut polenta fries served with a warm cheddar sauce ($9.50). They were the tastiest thing I had eaten in ages and we all agreed they were worth the visit. They were soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, about the size of your thumb, with a decent sprinkle of rosemary and salt. Ten times better than the fries and probably worth a trip on their own.
There are also eight pizzas which come in two sizes ($13.50-$26), four burgers ($19.50-$23), four salads ($18-$24) and a number of other mains including all your pubby favourites: bangers and mash ($24.50), chicken parma ($28), pie float ($24.50) plus various pasta and steaks.
There are also nightly specials which could yield you anything from Mexican to steak and prawns at ridiculously low prices.
After filling up on fries and those tasty polenta chips we were all looking for moderate mains. As such we ended up with a serve of lamb shank jaffles ($13), a Marco Pollo pizza ($22.50), a prawn po boy ($19.50) and a bunch of salads.
First the good news. The serving sizes on the salads are enormous, and not just because they're all lettuce. The bowls were as big as a dinner plate and there was plenty of protein (chicken). One diner said it was overdressed but that the dressing was tasty. The salad people were happy.
The pizza also was enormous and had a decent amount of tasty looking toppings. The jaffles were old-school, and presented on a wooden board with a smattering of rosemary. It looked like something my Mum used to dish up (except without the wooden board and rosemary).
Now for the not so good news. Comments were that although the food looked nice, it was quite bland. The pizza was only half eaten, and the jaffles went mostly uneaten as well. The salads were just too big to finish. Don't forget though, we had already eaten a bowl of fries and polenta chips and the better part of a bottle or two of wine.
I had ordered the prawn po boy and the menu promised fried
prawns, crisp lettuce and a spicy Louisiana sauce on a half baguette. A po'boy is a traditional sandwich that originated in the south of the USA. There are certain conventions but basically it's like Subway.
My po'boy was a bit of a disappointment. The roll did not seem to be a traditional baguette which is crispy on the outside and soft and chewy in the middle. My roll was chewy all over, which meant that the prawns and lettuce kept falling out when I took a bite. It was certainly not first-date food. I found the sauce too spicy, and it completely overpowered the prawns.
There is a lot to like about the Wembley. It's definitely not a seedy pub and you'd be happy bringing your girlfriend or Mum there. The beer garden on a glorious sunny day would be a nice place to sit and while away the hours, and there are some good options on the menu such as those polenta fries. But it's a pub and the food is pub grub.
Firm the look of the dinning room, I never would have guessed that was a pub. The polenta fries look amazing, but it is a shame about the baguette. It looks nice, but it is always disappointing when the taste does not match up.