WANDERING away from the festive markets and Sunday crowds while doing a bit of Christmas shopping, I saw the Sir Daniel Arms looming in the distance.

The Fleet Street favourite seemed like a good place to refuel so I scurried inside as the heavens opened. Most of the tables were full but calling the pub busy would have been a stretch.

Some were occupied by just one person sipping a pint while admiring – well, looking at – the view outside, or working on a laptop. Or staring absent-mindedly at the property programme on one of the pub’s many TVs.

Others had a few older gents getting a round in early and catching up with friends, a couple keeping their baby entertained while waiting for their food, and a large happy family loudly celebrating a young girl’s birthday.

This is part of the humble pleasure of a Wetherspoon's – the variety of customers that the franchise attracts offers a small snapshot of society and, even if eating or drinking alone, it feels like you’re being sociable just by proximity.

If I’d really wanted to cut human interaction down to an absolute minimum, I could have used an app to order everything to my table, which was tucked away in a corner that gave a good view of the whole ground floor.

Instead, I ventured over to the bar and was immediately warned about having to wait 40 minutes for food because of an issue in the kitchen.

Undaunted, I picked the Sunday Brunch option, which caught my eye from the menu’s front page because I assumed it was the Spoons version of a Sunday dinner.

The bar staff politely pointed out that it’s actually a cheaper version of their all-day breakfast that’s only available on Sundays (I thought the £6.75 drink-inclusive price seemed too good to be true!) so, with some embarrassment, I hastily changed my order to a mixed grill.

While waiting for my gammon, pork loin, rump steak, lamb and sausage (£10.75) and pondering if I should have had the large option with an extra sausage, egg and six onion rings for £12.35, other pub classics like ham, egg and chips (£4.35) arrived at other tables.

There was a low murmur of background chatter, occasionally interrupted by outbursts of Happy Birthday and mostly drowned out by the heating system above me. Also above me, I noticed, was a glitterball and lights system. I was sat on the dancefloor. All things considered, the floor was remarkably un-sticky.

Settling in for the aforementioned long wait, I began making notes for this review and was caught off-guard by the sudden arrival of my meal.

That kitchen issue must have been sorted out sharp-ish because my piled-high plate was ready in just 15 minutes.

The lump of rump was cooked rather rare, to my surprise, and took some effort to chew. The lamb was tasty and not too fatty, the lone sausage was well-cooked and the pork was, well, fine (it’s hard to find anything noteworthy to say about the taste of pork but it did the job).

This was the first time in a long time that I’d ordered gammon – the last occasion was probably prior to it becoming internet shorthand for ‘angry Question Time audience member’ – but this made me realise what I had been missing, it was delicious.

After much gentle persuasion - knocking it against every hard surface within reach - the almost-empty ketchup bottle coughed out a couple of pathetic puddles before I admitted defeat.

I left satisfied and full of good old-fashioned pub grub.


WHERE: The Sir Daniel Arms, Fleet Street, Swindon, SN1 1RQ

TEL: 01793 509270



FOOD: 7/10

PARKING: Several pay-and-display options nearby