The problem started only after I installed Wine. Wine install a whole load of fonts so this was definitely where to look for the problem.
I found out that if I remove the fonts-unfonts-core package my menus go back to normal. to remove the package run the following
|sudo apt-get remove fonts-unfonts-core|
I still had a smaller problem in that the menus don't have a border and when they are drawn over a busy development screen it takes me longer to find the item I am looking for.
I found the following tip when trying to fix the bold menu issue and have now made all my netbeans installations look the same. I think this is a much cleaner theme for netbeans. It makes it far easier for me to use netbeans at least.
You need to run netbeans with the following switch "
So your command to launch will look as follows
|"/home/whatever/netbeans-7.4/bin/netbeans" --laf Nimbus|