They say first impressions count, and they do, but so do final ones.

I recently went to stay at a pub for a special occasion. It was so special that I was even paying for it myself.

I'd been to the pub about a year before and had been impressed by the food, location and hospitality so my expectations were already quite high.

We checked in and, with night descending, I went to draw the curtains. I noticed a beading pattern running up the drape. I looked a little closer and thought it odd how randomly placed the beads were. Then one of them started to move. Then another.

I may have emitted a squeal at this point because my wife asked if I was ok. Bravely, I removed my hands from my eyes and saw that the curtains were covered in hundreds of ladybirds.

While ladybirds are probably the cutest of all beetles (a young Paul McCartney aside) neither of us felt a strong desire to share a room with them, so I went to tell the manager about our discovery.

To his credit he immediately dropped what he was doing to attend to our concern and, upon seeing the colony, he swiftly moved us to another room.

We solemnly unpacked our bags to the sound of a ladybird extermination taking place in the room above.

A few hours later we headed down to the pub's restaurant to go for our meal. I still felt the necessity to apologise for the invasion, even though I wasn't directly responsible.

'I'm sorry. It's got great ratings for its rooms on Trip Advisor... five stars... no I don't think the reviews were written by ladybirds.'

I was heading to the bar and about to buy a couple of drinks when the manager, the same one who had taken the ladybird situation in hand, motioned for us to come through to dinner.

He took us to a table where a bottle of champagne on ice was waiting for us.

'Strange,' I thought. 'That seems like an extravagant and uncharacteristic gesture for me to have made when booking the room.'

Then the manager explained it was on the pub by way of apology for the room. Double win: free champagne and a saving on going to the bar for the rest of the meal!




It was backed up with an excellent three course meal, attentive service and a passable version of 'happy birthday' performed by a couple of members of the team.

It was a great way of making up for the disappointment of having to change rooms and we went to bed full-up and feeling far better about the pub then when we first arrived.

And that is where I wish the story ended.

Unfortunately all of the good work to get us back on board was undone just before we left. An own goal in the 90th minute.

The pub only had four rooms so guests were asked to fill out a form the night before requesting the time they would like breakfast. The options were between 9-10am. We have small children which means 10am is basically lunch so we opted for the earliest slot.

On the first day this was fine. On the Sunday morning it was not.

I know I'm being petty but little details bother me, like why did I get a pot of coffee on day one and only cup on day two? Why did I have to ask for a plate and butter for my toast? And why did four couples have to share a jug of milk meant for cereal rather than having our own on our tables?

Collectively, those details are irritating and by 9.20am, with no sign of my breakfast, they were annoying me even more.

By 9.30am I had virtually forgotten about the meal and champagne from the first night. I went to complain but the member of staff on front of house duty had vanished.

He appeared again at 9.45am delivering my wife's vegetarian fry-up with a line I will never forget: "That might not look much like a vegetarian sausage but the chef assures me it's fine."

To me it looked like it had been regurgitated by a dog but I thought best to let my wife be the judge of that. You can too if you like, I took a photo...




To be fair, she ate it and didn't suffer any serious consequences.

Grumpily, I ate my food before going to pay the not insignificant sum for a two-night stay, three-course meal and a few drinks at the bar.

It could have been a great story of a pub redeeming itself, but guess what part of the experiences we talked about on the car journey home?