THE Bystander, in Wootton near Abingdon, could be one of two things.

It could either be a complete disaster – or a shining example of how to run a business that customers only ever visit once.

Perhaps the worst thing about the Hungry Horse pub is its distinct lack of any redeeming qualities.

Yes, the food was bad and the organisation was poor – but surely the staff were friendly or even apologetic?

No. The staff, for the most part, resided in the limbo between incompetence and rudeness.

And so, instead of absolving its other sins, something excellent customer service can have the capacity to do, the attitude of the staff served as a final slap in the face – the only thing leaving a worse taste in the mouth than the food.

To start, my girlfriend and I ordered hot chicken wings (£4.29) and bacon popcorn (£3.39), ‘crispy breaded bacon nuggets served with oozy boozy cheese sauce and BBQ sauce’.

It was, however, our mains that arrived first: a chicken and rib combo (£9.99) and a ‘big plate’ chicken korma (£7.99) – ordered because chicken tikka masala wasn’t available. They were returned to the kitchen to sit on the hot plate.

There isn’t much point in dwelling on the food. It was universally terrible and we didn’t eat most of it. In fact, the mains were so bad we got a refund – and we weren’t the only ones.

A family near us finally managed to complete an order after being knocked back repeatedly due to the pub running out of basics like chips and draught beer.

Their order remained incomplete, however, and the temporary manager, a woman who spent most of the time with her head in her hands, came and told them yet another dish was unavailable. The family decided to go elsewhere. When refunding their money, the manager walked over, dropped it in the man’s hand and walked away without a word.

Over the course of this review I have changed my mind about the Bystander’s worst quality. It is not, after all, its lack of redeeming qualities. It is, rather, its complete and utter lack of respect for the important service it was established to provide.

Making and serving food to people should be an honour. Pubs and restaurants are endowed with the power to bring people together, to serve, for example, a pint for somebody after a hard day at work, or a family meal at the conclusion of a gruelling week.

With its distinct lack of concern for the importance of its own role, and for the value of everybody who walks through its doors, the Bystander is a failure.