Yesterday, we were invited along to our local Hungry Horse (the Traveller’s Joy in Rayleigh) to take a look at the new menu and have a family meal. We took my mother in law with us again, just like last year, so that we could see how it suited three generations of the family, and I have to say, it was a bit of a mixed bag.

Parking upon our arrival was a tricky affair as the car park was absolutely stuffed, although the fact that the place was so busy on a Tuesday afternoon is probably because it’s half term and it’s a very family-friendly venue, so the parking situation, whilst a bit annoying, was by no means their fault.

We were seated promptly and had our drinks order taken and were left to make our choices from the menu. Unfortunately, our server failed to tell us that the restaurant had no mashed potato, beef chilli or pulled pork, which was slightly annoying as two of our choices were meals which involved these items so we had to quickly scan the menu again to amend our choices, which I hate doing.

Our food arrived promptly and was hot and well-presented when it arrived; I ordered The Triple Rib Stacker, Husband had a Full Monty Mixed Grill, MIL ordered the Hand-Battered Fish & Chips and Sausage had the Cheese & Tomato Pizza served with a jacket potato and baked beans (BB had fallen asleep on the way there and slept almost the whole way through the meal and so missed out on our little treat). As was to be expected from previous visits to a Hungry Horse, all of the portions were huge but the quality of the meals was very varied.

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My ribs were absolutely delicious – the meat fell off of the bones and the sauce was beautiful. The coleslaw was really fresh-tasting and crunchy and the chips were cooked perfectly. I wasn’t a huge fan of the beans, but that’s just personal preference. If I had one minor complaint it was that my mini corn cob wasn’t served with a skewer or fork in the end to hold it with, so I felt rather self-conscious eating it with my hands in a restaurant.

MIL loved her fish and chips – I tasted her cod and it was really well cooked with a lovely crisp batter which wasn’t too thick. The little pot of tartare sauce was tasty and her peas tasted fresh. I was actually super impressed; MIL usually has a fairly moderate appetite and doesn’t like to feel too ful but she really soldiered through this massive portion and ate way more than I thought she would, which I think is a testament to how much she enjoyed it!

Husband’s mixed grill, on the other hand, was not such a positive experience. The piece of rump steak, which he ordered medium rare, was on the cremated side of well done and was really not a good quality piece of meat. On a couple of occasions, he looked rather green around the gills after taking a forkful and realising it consisted mainly of fat and gristle, and on one occasion actually excused himself to go to the bathroom to spit the meat into a hanky. The gammon was nice and well-cooked, as were the sausages, although the chicken breast was incredibly dry and the tomato looked as though it had been chucked on a grill for about 2 seconds and was basically raw and cold.

Sausage’s meal obviously came from the kids menu and although the choice is massive, I wasn’t hugely impressed with the quality of her meal. The pizza was (I’m pretty sure) a Chicago Town microwave pizza but it looked rather over-cooked and her jacket potato and beans looked more than a little bit sorry for themselves. I mean, I’m glad that there are kids options which don’t only come in nugget form and accompanied by chips but the overall quality wasn’t great. Having said that, Sausage demolished it, so perhaps my adult standards aren’t matched up to what a kid expects or finds appetising?

Not to be deterred by Husband’s bad experience, us ladies ordered dessert, with MIL going for the Jam Doughnut Pudding with Custard and the girls and I sharing The Ultimate BIG Candymania. MIL really enjoyed her pudding, which was warm and hearty and would have been perfect for a cold winter afternoon. The girls and I gave it our best but didn’t even come close to finishing our sundae, which probably would have comfortably served about 8 people but it was very tasty and the perfect thing to have as a treat.

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All in all, I’d say that our experience this time was mostly positive, however I was really disappointed with the quality of Husband’s meal. The young ladies who were serving us were really attentive and polite, although forgetting to tell us about the items which were off the menu hampered us a little in the beginning. We’d go back to the Traveller’s Joy Hungry Horse again given the value of the meals; our food would have cost £44.94, not including drinks, which is great value for three adults and a child, in my opinion, but I think Husband would be avoiding the steak next time around. Thanks to the Travellers Joy for having us and providing us with the meal for the purposes of this review.