The beautiful Allerton Hall is set within the public park Clarke's Gardens in the Allerton district of South Liverpool.
Allerton Hall is a Grade II listed building, which was donated by the Clarke family (hence the name of the park!) to Liverpool City Council in 1927 and for many years it was simply a very impressive building that children would play outside of and dog walkers would stroll past.
Then in 2009, the building was turned into a pub – the aptly named “Pub in the Park”. Since that time, being only a short 5 minute drive away, it has been the pub my family and I have frequented the most due to the fact that it’s located in a park where we spent a lot of time anyway, their menu catered for all tastes and appetites and the outdoor play area (and for a time an indoor one too) was a great way to keep fidgety kids entertained while waiting for their food to arrive.
In 2017, it changed its name to Allerton Hall and became part of the Farmhouse Inns chain of Greene King.
Being honest, over the last 11 years we’ve been visiting, the best way to describe the experience was “hit and miss” – the food wasn’t always that great, the service would often range from super efficient to downright awful and it got to the point where I would need to have at least 3 main course options in mind as often my 1st and 2nd choices were “off that day”.
About a fortnight ago, Allerton Hall e-mailed us saying they were opening soon and
would love to see us again. The e-mail included all the usual points about what they were doing to ensure the safety of their customers whilst we still live in this COVID-19 world.
As a family who pre-pandemic ate out A LOT – we had no hesitation on taking them up on their offer.
They were planning to re-open on Monday 6th July – sacrificing the 4th July date that many bars and restaurants opened on to ease the pressure on their staff who were still adjusting to this “new normal”. One of the new measures was pre-booking (we used to very often do this anyway so this wasn’t anything really different for us).
So we decided to give them a day to iron out any re-opening wrinkles and booked a table for 4 for Tuesday 7th July.
Almost immediately we received an acknowledgement of our booking and were encouraged to download their app as this would allow us to order and pay at our table and thus minimise the contact we would have with bar and serving staff.
Allerton Hall shares its car park with the rest of Clarke’s Gardens so it’s always difficult to determine how busy the pub will be based on the number of cars. As it was however, the car park was quite empty so we were expecting the pub to be quite quiet.
As we walked up the path towards the pub you could see there were 2 x very obvious A-frame type signs – one directing customers to the take-out pick-up point and the second detailing the measures Allerton Hall were taking as part of their “We Are A Pub Safe Pub” initiative.
The “usual suspects” of distancing, contactless payments, hand sanitising and enhanced cleaning protocols were present on this sign but the 5th measure stuck out for me … “LOOKING AFTER OUR TEAM”. I haven’t seen a reference like this anywhere else. For the most part, businesses seem to be focussing their measures on keeping their customers safe so it was really great to see Greene King acknowledging the fact that their teams need as much reassurance during these strange times as visitors to their establishments do.
The floor markings began outside with waiting lines. It was raining quite heavily when we arrived and with no shelter outside the pub, joining a queue would have been a very poor start to our experience. Thankfully the pub was quiet so we strolled straight in.
Allerton Hall has a small reception area immediately inside the pub – not much room for queueing here hence the floor markers outside.
Between us and the archway into the pub itself was a podium with more signage, hand sanitisers and a host …. complete with gloves and a face shield.
Our host welcomed us, checked our booking and then walked us to our table, following the floor markers along their one way system. He joked as he walked us to our table that it would give him time to talk us through “all the new rules” they had in place. As we walked past the bar, I noticed dedicated areas to stand and order/pay – in front of plastic screens – for those who didn’t want to use the app from their table.
We arrived in one of the two main dining rooms and hardly recognised it! Many of the old tables had been removed to make room for a large open space in the middle of the floor to give customers enough space to travel to and from the dining room without bumping into each other and whilst still following the one way arrows.
As expected, no cutlery or napkins were on the table when we arrived – it was bare but for a small sign reassuring us that it was clean.
Our host had picked up the menus at the welcome station and brought them with him – in his gloved hands – to the table and left them with us encouraging us to use the app for ordering and paying as per the e-mail we had received. On the back of the latter we had already downloaded the app so were going to use this method anyway.
The menu offerings were slightly reduced but not massively with many of the “pub favourites” still there.
In one corner of the menu we were AGAIN encouraged to use the tech whilst the opposite corner reiterated the 5 key Pub Safe measures we had seen on the signage outside.
The menu also reminded customers of the take away option – ideal for those not yet confident enough or ready to visit the pub.
The app was very easy to use. Once opened up, it asked you to confirm your location and then gave you a list of options including “View Menu, Order & Pay”.
Clicking on this gave you all the menus you would need including drinks, starters, kids, vegan, etc. Choosing your food was very easy and concluded with a review of your total order, a chance to input your table number and paying via Apple Pay, Paypal or debit/credit card. You then received a “thank you for your order” message and an opportunity to rate this part of the experience. In addition, an e-mail confirming our order was also sent to us.
Once we had ordered our meal – pleasingly finding that everything we wanted WAS available – we waited.
As I mentioned earlier, over the years (pre-Greene King and since) the service hasn’t always been great so I was really interested to see what “new normal service” would look like. I was very pleasantly surprised!
First thing to bear in mind though is that it was a wet Tuesday early evening, only a day after Allerton Hall had re-opened its doors to the public and hence the pub was quiet. Nevertheless, the speed of service was excellent with the timeline looking a little like this:
At total of 30 mins from completion of order on the app to mains arriving at the table … great service!
We were served by 3 different members of staff – each complete with gloves and face shield (just like our host) and a smile! It can’t be easy working in this industry after what has happened over the last few months and it can’t be nice wearing those full face shields for long portions of the day but none of this came through from the staff. They were all very pleasant, very friendly and very keen to help us through the experience in any way they could.
When our mains arrived, my wife was invited up to the carvery for her food. Following the one way system back into the heart of the pub she arrived at the carvery station to be greeted by another smiling server behind a plastic screen. He served everything up onto a plate for her before placing it onto a tray and “pushing” it through a gap in the screen to her.
The food was very enjoyable and in-keeping with the “pub grub” mantle.
Before leaving Allerton Hall, we checked out the facilities. Following the one way system arrows, I arrived at the toilet door and was face-to-face with the “Vacant/Occupied elbow sign” we’d seen on the recent Greene King video. It was very straight forward to use and as no-one entered the toilet while I was in there, I can only assume it works!
All urinals were working but only one toilet was open – the second including signage to explain why and thank customers for their co-operation.
Signage above the sink reinforced the sanitising protocol and also reminded you to use your elbow to return the toilet door sign to “Vacant” on exit.
In-keeping with the enhanced cleaning procedures, as soon as my daughter left her toilet, a member staff went straight in, “tooled-up” with numerous cleaning materials.
We left our table via the one way system, stopping at the hand sanitiser at the entrance of the room on the way.
Our host waved us goodbye, thanked us for our custom and added that he hoped he would see us again soon. And he will as our evening was indeed “TIME WELL SPENT”.
Overall, the dining experience was excellent. Nice food, great service, friendly and helpful staff at all points in the journey. The pub experience is different today but the staff we engaged with did everything they could to navigate us through this new world and reassure us of how safe this new pub environment is. They are strongly supported by a lot of signage reinforcing their 5 key measures – all of which you can see evidence of throughout the pub.
The only thing I didn’t see – that is detailed in the “LOOKING AFTER OUR TEAM” measure – was temperature checks. I’m not sure what Greene King’s policy is on this but of all the hospitality venues my family and I have visited over the last few days, only one Liverpool bar insisted on a temperature check prior to entrance. From my point of view, I feel reassured just knowing that staff at Allerton Hall have been trained on this procedure as and when it’s required.
In short, we all agreed it was great to be able to visit Allerton Hall again and we definitely got the feeling throughout our visit that we were in a “PUB SAFE PUB”.