This review has been sat in my drafts folder for a while and it was only when the Evening Telegraph’s JPBaker mentioned he’d paid the Apple Cart a visit that I thought I should add my opinion into the mix.
To cut a long story short, I found the food at The Apple Cart pretty average (more on that below) but as the pub is brand new (albeit a chain pub operated by an established name in the hospitality industry) I decided to give it another try – three tries in total to be exact.
Since I originally penned (and drafted) this review I’ve also received a few comments from friends that have since eaten there. Going on their feedback, they also didn’t think much to the food but here are my thoughts…
Welcome to Cardea
To much of the population of Peterborough, especially those living and working North of the river, the new Cardea development South of Stanground will be a mystery. A new estate built following the creation of a much-awaited Stanground bypass, the site is directly south of Oakdale Avenue.
Unlike it’s neighbour Park Farm, Cardea developers have included retail amenities such as a supermarket and a pub called The Apple Cart. Operated by Marston’s Taverns, The Apple Cart is a chain pub in every sense of the word. Designed from scratch as a modern food focused restaurant-cum-pub, The Apple Cart is in a good location for those living in Cardea and also outsiders driving in.
Decor and ambience
As you’d expect with a brand spanking new business, the decor is modern and inviting. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s like a home from home with a nice mock fireplace, trendy wall paper, etc.
The pub does have a very nice family feel to it. A deceptively large pub inside, there’s a childrens play area at one end of the dining area which is always welcome for families with young children. This is far enough away from the bar so if you are just popping in for a quick pint or glass of wine with friends, you don’t feel like you’re at a playground.
All the staff I encountered, from front of house greeters to wait and bar staff were excellent. Professional, friendly and efficient. What more could you possibly want?
To summarise the food in one word: “meh”, or in other words mediocre. That’s not to say the food was awful or inedible, it wasn’t – it was all served hot without delay, but the meals themselves just seemed average. I don’t know how many dishes at The Apple Cart are cooked from scratch but with roughly fifty or so dishes on the menu I am guessing that a good number of those are pre-prepared ready meals.
I should add at this point that I’m not against the concept of chain pubs or restaurants, I dine at many of them and it’s not often I’m left feeling so disappointed by my choice of meal.
The Apple Cart menu is designed heavily around a Two for One concept which I detest. Why not lower the price of individual dishes instead of penalising diners that are eating alone or in parties with an odd number? If the food is good then a restaurant shouldn’t need to use constant marketing gimmicks to get people through the door.
My advice would be to skip the starter course entirely.
Starters were pretty much an onslaught of beige and wouldn’t look out of place on an Iceland £5 200-piece party box. Breaded mushrooms, potato boats, wasabi tempura vegetables, chicken wings, onion rings, potato wedges. Ok, there is also the obligatory Soup of the day a Smoked Haddock Tart and a Prawn Cocktail but it’s just eating for the sake of eating. My advice would be to skip the starter course entirely.
Now the choice of mains does at least sound more appealing, especially when you include the oft-changing specials board (why can’t more restaurants offer specials!) so we had high(er) hopes for this course. Across my numerous visits to The Apple Cart I’ve sampled the Ale and Hearty pie, Beer Battered Fish and Chip, a Ranch Burger and the Mexican Chicken (from the “Lighten Up” section).
Of those, the pie was probably the tastiest, but in reality the Morrisons supermarket opposite does a better pie for about eight times less. In fact, I would go as far as saying most of the “Finest” or “Extra Special” ready meals at a supermarket would be comparable to the menu, you just have to operate the microwave yourself.
The burger had a texture I can only describe as “odd”. It was like the meat had been overly ground but the patty was loosely formed. Certainly not a burger I would have again in the future. Burgers should be one thing a restaurant gets right, no excuses.
A special mention has to go to the Mexican Chicken however. Quite what was going through my mind when I ordered from the Lighten Up range, but in hindsight a dish advertised as 500 calories or less is asking for trouble when it comes to flavour. Supposedly marinated in “chipotle flavours”, the chicken was served with a wet, feeble tomato sauce. If anyone is trying to eat healthily then skip this dish as you’ll definitely be heading for the dessert menu to make up for the disappointment.
Sadly we didn’t stop for desserts on any of our visits but if you have, please let me know how they were by commenting in the box below.
It’s hard criticising The Apple Cart when I think the problems with the food lie not with the management or staff but with the parent company – those that control the menus, the promotions, etc. Perhaps Marstons Taverns and I are just not a good mix? On the occasions that I’ve been past the pub, there always seems to be a few people eating so it’s possible that my expectations are different to others.
I would recommend that anyone considering eating at The Apple Cart gives it a go. My opinions are my own, all I can do is share my experiences. If you have been to The Apple Cart in Cardea and would like to share your views, good or bad, please comment below!
Bellona Drive, Cardea (Stanground)
Tel. 01733 302480