“Have you ever been to a Harvester before?” was the greeting that met us as we entered Harvester at Castle Marina. “No” we lied through our false moustaches (as any self-respecting food snob would).* The truth is that we had been many moons ago in Birmingham and hadn’t enjoyed it so we hadn’t bothered again. But, when pushed for somewhere to eat before doing the big shop at Sainsbury’s, we decided to give them another go (top tip: don’t do the food shop when you’re hungry, you’ll end up with all sorts of random stuff, or sat in the car eating a block of cheese out the packet).
I opted for half a rotisserie chicken, which came served with gravy, corn on the cob, coleslaw and sage and onion chips (£9.99). Emily went for a healthier option of chicken breast and king prawns served with sweet potato chips (£12.99). Both dishes come with as many trips to the salad bar as you can handle (we managed a pathetic 2 trips, what a let down).
My chicken was nice enough but just. It great – not as succulent as I’d hoped, but it had a tasty rotisserie flavour and was a fair size.
The corn on the cob was nice and fresh but the lacklustre coleslaw was hardly worth mentioning due to the measly portion size. The gravy was bland and tasted slightly of salt but nothing more. The sage and onion chips weren’t sage and onion flavoured at all as the seasoning was missing – though I did confirm that I wanted this on ordering.
Emily’s main was the surprise of the day. That chicken breast was cooked perfectly. Perfectly! Ever so tender and juicy with a nice bbq char and not a bit dry which is so often the case with chicken in a restaurant. The prawns weren’t good, they tasted frozen and waterlogged without any flavour. The garlic butter was the overwhelming flavour in the ancho sauce that left everything a bit too oily. The sweet potato fries were very nice indeed and the charred red pepper was a really tasty addition, but it’s very hard to get these wrong. An important question: who serves a side salad on a dish at a restaurant that specialises in a whole bar dedicated to unlimited side salads? Harvester, that’s who.
We can’t not mention the vast array of sauces at this point.
Emily lined up a blob of each of the many Harvester branded sauces to try every one with a sweet potato fry. From sticky bourbon glaze to peri peri, honestly each sauce was hilariously disgusting. The reactions were like watching You’ve Been Framed: “urgh, no… Eeeww… NOPE… VOM… WHYYYYY?!!” They are absolutely horrible and we couldn’t find a single one we actually liked, it felt like a bushtucker trial as we laughed ourselves under the table. Sorry Harvester, your sauces are minging.
The real winner of this meal (and any visit to a Harvester) was the salad bar. There was a good range of fresh salads and pasta, served with sauces and crispy onion bits – lovely stuff, but not an amazing recommendation for the place when a side salad is the highlight of the meal. Still, the service was fine, it was relatively cheap and left us stuffed so it kind of did the job. Nothing surprising, and we’ll never admit going there, but it didn’t kill us – which is all you want really.
*This never happened.
Atmosphere and surroundings: 5/10