Derbyshire is home to a dozen Wetherspoon pubs, which all have either good or respectable ratings on TripAdvisor. But out of the 12 venues, including three in Derby city center and nine in the wider county, The Sir Nigel Gresley, in Swadlincote, has the joint-lowest ranking.

The Market Street pub scores an average rating of 3.0, which is the same ranking as The Red Lion, in Ripley. And with the other Wetherspoon venues across the county scoring mainly 3.5, and The Portland Hotel, in Chesterfield, scoring 4.5 out of 5, we took a trip into Swadlincote to see if the rating was unfair.

We went along with an open mind, especially given The Sir Nigel Gresley is one of the more popular pubs in the town and busy most of the time. So, here’s what our secret diner found as he took in the food, drink and experienced the atmosphere, Staffordshire Live reports.

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I was looking forward to my first visit to the Sir Nigel Gresley and intrigued that it was named after the railway engineer. He was raised in South Derbyshire and became one of Britain’s most famous steam locomotive engineers, designing world famous trains such as The Flying Scotsman, which was the first steam locomotive officially recorded over 100 mph in passenger service.

When arriving at the centrally-located Wetherspoon, I was amazed to see the pub so busy, however with it being a weekend day, the sun shining and the start of the school Easter holidays, I can now understand why. After initially struggling to find a table, I sat down just to the right of the entrance. Once I was comfortable, I ordered my food and drink via the handy Wetherspoon’s app, and began observing the pleasant mixture of people sitting in the pub and seemingly having a great time. Atmosphere good then.

The waiter who served me my drink and food was very friendly, taking the time to have a chat and asking what I thought the score of the Burton Albion game was going to be, which was really nice and made me relax knowing I was in good hands with a fellow football fan. The food arrived around 15 minutes after I ordered, which was fast given how busy the place was. Good so far.

How was the food?

I ordered a number of different plates to try and taste the full range of the menu that is on offer at The Sir Nigel Gresley. My order consisted of 10 chicken wings, which came with chilli and blue cheese dips.

I also ordered loaded fries, which is chips topped with melted cheese, maple-cured bacon and accompanied by sour cream. My final food order was the halloumi-style fries, which come with sweet chilli sauce on the side.

To go with my food, I ordered a pint of Pepsi with no ice, as I was driving. So, how was the food? Overall, I was really impressed with the meal I ordered. The chicken wings were all beautifully crispy and full of flavor, and the sauce compliments the chicken skin so well.

The 10 chicken wings with hot sauce ordered by our Secret Service spy at Swadlincote’s Wetherspoon pub

The halloumi-style fries were my top pick from the visit, with the texture exactly how haloumi-style fries should be, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The sweet flavor of the chilli sauce was also a great addition to the halloumi-style fries, as without it I imagine they could get a bit too plain.

The only offering that I was largely disappointed with was loaded fries. The chips were undercooked and almost soggy in texture, with the bacon sitting on top being cold and the cheese, which was supposed to be melted, hardened and covering the plate far too much.

Having ordered so much just for one person, I did struggle to eat it all, but with help from a friend or colleague then the food would have been finished, so do not take the fact that food was left as a bad sign. As a secret diner I need to try a few different things to be fair in my review.

The loaded fries consisted of chips, maple-cured bacon and melted cheese, but our spy was left 'largely disappointed' by them
The loaded fries consisted of chips, maple-cured bacon and melted cheese, but our spy was left ‘largely disappointed’ by them

The Wetherspoon offers lots of different food, while also catering to dietary requirements of people who are vegetarian or vegan. People can order burgers, wraps, paninis, pizzas, steaks and classic pub food. So the menu offering is varied enough I felt.

How was the interior and feel of The Sir Nigel Gresley?

As the pub was rated one of the worst in Derbyshire, I was expecting the place to be a bit of a mess and unclean. However, the pub was well looked after and cleaned regularly from my observations.

The staff came around and clear tables that were finished with quickly, again while having a chat and being super friendly. Most importantly, the toilets upstairs were spotless, which is always a good sign.

I was also a fan of the conservatory that extends the pub to the left on entrance. On a sunny day like the day I visited, it would be a lovely place to spend social time with friends, while enjoying the natural light, unfortunately it was full when I arrived. Maybe next time then.

The toilets at The Sir Nigel Gresley were spotless and impressed our visiting Secret Service spy
The toilets at The Sir Nigel Gresley were spotless and impressed our visiting Secret Service spy

Would I go again?

I would definitely visit The Sir Nigel Gresley in Swadlincote again. It’s not The Ritz but a trusty Wetherspoon’s. This one was clean and tidy despite being busy. The staff were friendly and the food on the whole good. So I don’t think the Sir Nigel Gresley deserves that low rating.


The total bill came to £ 14.55 for one person. This included 10 chicken wings, loaded fries, halloumi-style fries and a pint of Pepsi. Bargain.

* Derbyshire Live and Staffordshire Live make undercover visits to restaurants, takeaways and cafés with a view to providing a fair, balanced and accurate report on customer service and the food on offer. Our hope is that, for the sake of both the business owner and the customer, we can report positively about the places we visit. However, if our experience is not 100 per cent positive, then we are duty-bound to report on exactly what we find.


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