Readers of this column will know that poor service is one of my particular bugbears. I usually report back on the service levels I’ve experienced on my regular holiday jaunts to Cornwall and Norfolk with the family, with the odd golfing trip thrown in for good measure. This year I decided to start off a little closer to home by turning the spotlight on some of my local pubs in Surrey.

The two closest – both part of chains - are truly charming buildings set in beautiful surroundings. One is a 16th century pub close to Surrey’s borders with West Sussex and Kent. It is, we are told, a “dog-friendly country pub brim-full of charm, character and traditional features with original flagstones and beams”.

And its F&B offer? Think classic ales and a menu of G&Ts with Fever-Tree mixers, open fires and sun-kissed gardens. And, of course, a food offer with traditional dishes like fish and chips, bangers and mash and a Sunday roast.

The other pub not too far from my house is, if anything, located in an even more charming location and is even older than its rival. The pub, which dates back to the 15th century, is more of an inn, than a pub, with half a dozen extremely well appointed letting bedrooms.

In the interests of balance and fairness, I have to confirm that I have had perfectly acceptable meals at both hostelries over the 12 years I have lived in this part of the country. Equally, I have had some perfectly dreadful experiences. While I still go to the first pub for the occasional drink – it has an excellent range and is a delightful venue, both indoors and out – I have stopped eating there. There have been simply too many disappointments (and it’s not cheap).

As for the second venue, as of last week the Walsh family will no longer be going there - not even for a drink. My wife and a friend went for dinner but hadn’t been there long when they phoned and asked me to pick them up. The food was dreadful and the attitude of the manager had done little to improve the situation. All of which was all the more extraordinary as my wife is normally reluctant to complain.

The evening kicked off badly when the ladies sat on the charming terrace, which is enclosed and has heaters so is as good as part of the indoor dining room. Until recently the pub ran table service to the terrace, but when my wife tried to attract a waiter to take their drinks order she was told she had to order at the bar, and as they didn’t run tabs, every time she wanted to order anything she had to pay at the bar for what she was ordering. No table service, no tab and no ordering app. The result: four trips to the bar to order and pay for things.

Unfortunately, additional visits to the bar were required to make complaints about the quality of the food. Both had the seared salmon dish with crushed new potatoes, seasonal vegetables and hollandaise sauce – and both were dreadfully disappointed. The salmon was cold and unpleasant, the new potatoes had gone a horrible grey colour, the other vegetables had turned to mash and the hollandaise was tasteless (and almost certainly not made in the kitchen).

The manager explained (in an ever so slightly condescending way) that as the hostelry was a pub, not a restaurant, the service on the terrace was being brought into line with the rest of the company’s portfolio and converted to bar ordering only. So in other words, never mind the comfort and convenience of our customers, let’s make it all as easy as possible for us.

The irony was that my wife had only chosen to go the place after being given two vouchers for £20 to apologise for the pub’s cancellation of a previous booking a couple of months earlier when it was forced to shut unexpectedly for a few days. As a matter of fact, that issue was very well dealt with by the member of staff and the vouchers made us feel better about it. What’s more, my last visit, for a business lunch, was also remarkably good, with decent food and excellent service.

You might argue that the manager’s agreement to refund the whole of the food expenditure was worthy of praise, but honestly the food was so poor that my wife and her friend got barely a fraction of the way through it before giving up. I would argue, having thereby had their entire meal ruined, that the whole cost of the meal should have been reimbursed.

Anyhow, I rescued them from their ordeal and took them to another pub where they had a very enjoyable meal – the latest in a series of good experiences at this venue. Nothing fancy, just good honest fare served by nice people in pleasant surroundings.

So what does all this tell us? It probably tells us that too many pubs think they’re gastropubs, when they don’t have the necessary kitchen skills. That charming surroundings and beautiful buildings are not, on their own, sufficient to provide an excellent customer experience. That simplicity, when combined with a suitably attractive price, is likely to attract more customers than a faux-gastropub. That service is just as important a part of the offer as the food and drink. And finally, it tells us that despite hundreds of years of providing hospitality, the Great British Pub still has some way to go to get it right.