Chicken @ The Lyndhurst 28/12/2014

Chicken @ The Lyndhurst 28/12/2014
The Lyndhurst used to be my local.  It always had a warm, welcoming feel to it, a
good range of beers and good food. 
Always.
So it was a surprise when it closed earlier this year.
Thankfully it has been re-opened, the kitchen has been
refitted and roast dinners are back on. 
Served until 6pm so as not to compete with the pub quiz at 8pm and at an
efficient price of £9.95 – the cheapest roast I have reviewed to date.
The welcome was voluminously complaisant – warmth and humour
exuded from the host and hostess, invigorating my slightly fragile mind and
body, which was immediately endearing and I dearly wished to be able to give a review as
warm as their welcome.
Beef and chicken were the options, I had reviewed lots of
beef recently so it had to be chicken. 
But wait a minute, there is a lamb shank available – oh yes please.
Actually, oh no there isn’t.
It is still panto season isn’t it?
When the roast arrived, my immediate impressions were of a
home-cooked roast dinner, it looked similar to something my mother would make.
Sadly there was only one vegetable – peas were also due to
be served however as they are the anti-Christ of the vegetable world due to
their lack of discipline, I was left with just one rooty delight – carrots.  And they were fine.  Nothing more, nothing less.
The potatoes were real home-cooked roast potatoes, sadly no
crispiness but these were an improvement on most of the offerings in recent
reviews.
Two Yorkshire puddings were served – small in size and soft
throughout.  They really should be
soft-bottomed only with a somewhat crispy outer shell.  Far from perfection but better than the over-cooked
offering from London Street Brasserie.
There were several generously sized slices of roast chicken,
along with two wings.  It was definitely
from a real chicken, it was tender, nicely cooked – however I felt it was a
little ordinary in taste – some lemon infusion or some herbs would have greatly
increased the score.
It being a chicken roast, I was disappointed that there was
no stuffing offered.
Finally, the gravy.  Good
marks for consistency, it was actually gravy-like consistency, however there was that tinge of
something like tomato that a lot of places seem to feel necessary to spice up a roast dinner
and ends up making the gravy, and hence the roast dinner, a touch tiresome.
I still asked for extra.
 
It’s a tricky one to give a rating to.  My heart wants to give a higher rating than
my belly does, due to the very warm friendly welcome, and general excellent
service – it seemed as though nothing was too much effort.
There was nothing wrong with the food and the home-cooked
feel was particularly endearing, however there is plenty of room for
improvement.
6.3 is my rating.  I do
recommend a roast dinner here.
And I have a feeling that if I go back in a few months,
which is inevitable, there will be a higher score.
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Turkey Christmas Dinner @ Hilton Hotel, Bracknell

Turkey Christmas Dinner @ Hilton Hotel, Bracknell
Welcome to my unexpected Christmas special.
I didn’t intend to review my work Christmas dinner – it doesn’t
really count as a Sunday roast despite having most of the ingredients, however
this was something else.
Generally I loathe these types of gatherings – they seem
like something a cruel government would inflict on its citizens as punishment,
however I actually like a couple of my colleagues, there was gravy on offer, it
was free and included some free drinks. 
It being a Hilton, I was expecting the lovely Paris to be DJing, sadly
there was not even a hologram of her DJing.  Perhaps
our Christmas party budget does not stretch to £500,000 for the DJ.
Anyway, I straightened my hair, filled up my new hip flask
with vodka and I was reddehtegurrrr, as we say in ‘Ull.  By the way, it is a city in the north of
England.  No, it isn’t near Newcastle.
The starter was pate. 
I have to gurrrr back up north in 10 days so I thought best to reduce my
risk of being beaten up and declined to eat it. 
Otherwise I’ll be accused of being a Cockney again.  Urrrrgh yuv lost yurrr akkscent,
yurrahCockneh.
The main meal arrived. 
This I can eat.  Though whether I
should have done is another question.
 
The sprouts were anaemic-looking green balls which one
imagines could have been excreted by Dale Winton after a particularly long
greens-only diet.
Carrots.  It is hard
to do carrots wrong and they were mass-cooked and microwaved in standard format.
Parsnips.  Uncooked.  At least they were defrosted.
Was there any chance perhaps of some nice, crispy roast
potatoes?  Ho Ho Ho.  3 small soggy items with a rough edge, kind of like a fine sandpaper.
And finally, the piece de resistance – the turkey.  Now turkey can be dry when cooked but this
was extra dry.  I didn’t taste any turkey
and can only assume that it was some recycled cardboard reformed and injected
with turkey stem cells.  MacDonalds
chicken nuggets have a closer resemblance to meat than this turkey did.
You may also have noticed some gooey thing on top of the
processed things.  I couldn’t quite
decide what this was – imagine stuffing, but in a jelly texture that tastes of
bacon.
The gravy, sorry, I mean shiny brown water, was invisible when my
dinner arrived.  However they had a gravy
boat especially for me so I could drown my reformed manufactures.  Interestingly, the remaining gravy in said
gravy boat actually had some consistency to it an hour later.
Now I have had a worse meal before.  A group of us went to Island Bar many years
ago and some food was actually still frozen upon arrival.  At least this dinner was defrosted and
microwaved.  Not sure when it was
microwaved as I do not recall any particular warmth.
When I was at university, I did once just complete the name
section on an exam paper to see if I got a mark for it.  I didn’t.
In a similar kind of way, I feel that the Hilton hotel does
deserve at least some credit for not serving frozen food and also not giving me
food poisoning.  Not quite a whole point
though.
So I give it a 0.8 out of 10.
I did enjoy the bread roll. 
And yes I did get chucked out of university.  Voluntarily.
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Beef @ London Street Brasserie 07/12/2014

Beef @ London Street Brasserie 07/12/2014
It’s probably my last roast dinner review before
Christmas.  Next Sunday I am cooking the
house Christmas roast dinner and the weekend after I am away.
So I decided to treat myself to one of the more expensive
options on my to-do list, London Street Brasserie.
I forgot about the idea of booking ahead and we were lucky
to get a table in the bar area – otherwise it would have been a 2 hour
wait.  It is a popular restaurant for a
good reason or two.
It was a slightly confusing pricing structure.  Having looked at it online, I had concluded
that it was £16.50 for two courses, with a surcharge of £3.95 if you wanted
cauliflower cheese.
However on closer inspection, it was actually £16.50 for two
courses and a £3.95 surcharge if the main course you desired was the roast
dinner.  Or £12.80 plus a £3.95 surcharge
if you just wanted a roast dinner.  My
friend asked the waitress for an explanation of the pricing structure and was
given a rather curt “how many bloody times do I have to explain this” kind of
response, a rather inauspicious start.
Apologies for the repetition but I had to review roast beef
again – it was the only roast on offer.  As
far as I can tell they only offer one option each week.  It was my intention not to repeat meats but I’m
not the first person from Hull to break a rule.
Our roasts arrives in a timely manner after a 15 or so
minute wait, along with the apparently slightly ungenerous medley of vegetables
to share between 3 of us, though this notion was dispelled when the cauliflower
cheese arrived 2 minutes later, with an apology for it being late.  Definitely enough vegetables overall.
 
The medley of vegetables contained carrots, green beans and
mange tout (appropriately-named vegetable considering the DJ “Eats Everything”
played in our town on Friday night), topped with parsley.  My
imagination seems to recall some broccoli in the mix but the photographic
evidence does not concur.  The vegetables
were on the right side of crunchy, the mange tout perhaps a little much so.  Personally I cook my vegetables a little
softer, but…carrots for courses, as the saying goes.  A real food critic would probably appreciate
the crunch more than myself.
There were just two potatoes.  Decent size, cooked through but without a hint
of crispiness.  If you are only going to
give us two roast potatoes then surely they could be on the crispy side?  It isn’t too difficult – Jamie Oliver taught
me – just chuff them up (his words, not mine innit pukka bruv).  I
am however content with the quantity as the plate didn’t lack depth – especially with
the size of the Yorkshire pudding.
Controversially ignoring my usual order and skipping back to
the vegetables – the cauliflower cheese was really nice.  Soft cauliflower with a creamy mild cheese – I
cannot tell you which cheese – I can tell the difference between Red Leicester
and Cheddar but that is about my limitation.
 
It does look quite superb doesn’t it?
The Yorkshire pudding, however, was not so impressive.  It looks impressive but so does Blackpool
Tower.  It was overcooked – more crunchy
than the vegetables and not even soft-bottomed given the lack of gravy.
  

Now is probably a good time to talk gravy.  It was that discoloured water-based
concoction which foodies probably salivate over but confuses us northerners.  It tasted nice, but there was very little of
it and had a viscosity possibly lower than superfluid helium.  We asked for more gravy but it still didn’t
satisfy requirements – however the little flat hipster-style gravy pan was pretty
funky.
Thankfully I am finishing on a high.  The sirloin of beef consisted of two large
slices, around 4-5mm thick, cooked perfect to my tastes – quite rare on the
inside, medium on the outside with a slight crisp to the edge.  It really was excellent beef.
What else?  Apart from
the initial curt response, the service was good, the staff all smartly dressed
in black – there did seem to be an abundance of fairly young good-looking
girls, which kind of reminds me of Waitrose in Bracknell where all the staff
are fresh-faced and good-looking.
I like the restaurant, there is a good feel in there or ‘ambience’
as my posh southern friends from Bracknell might say.  At £16.95 it was the most expensive roast
that I have reviewed so far and not the best.
Expectations can be problematic in life.  Like when you pay a load of money to go see a
really good DJ/band/opera in London (or whatever your thing) that you are
really excited about – and coming back with a slightly flat feeling for you may
have had a better night out than the night before down your local when you went
out for one beer and had a ton of fun but it doesn’t seem like it because you
expected so much more.  So trying to tie
in the slightly unexpectedly disappointing analogy, I had high expectations and
these were not met.
But it wasn’t a bad roast.
I have had really good meals in there in the past – a quite
exquisite lamb shank particularly sticks in the memory.  Really, really good.
If you are going to go on a Sunday then I would suggest
choosing another option – £16.50 for two courses at lunch is a good deal for
what is a very good dining experience.
It scored a respectable 6.6 out of 10.  I dearly wish I could have rated it higher and I will definitely be back to eat there.  But not for a roast.
Oh gosh I forgot to mention the Watercress.  How could I?!  It had a rather tangy taste to it.  Or maybe it wasn’t watercress?  Forgive me if I’m wrong, we don’t eat salad
where I come from.  It was less pointless
than the side-salad at Sweeney & Todd but I still didn’t understand it.  Maybe I should just be quiet and appreciate
something different?
All being well, I will be back in 3 weeks.  I wish all my readers and enjoyable festive period.
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Scores & Schedule

I’ve had a couple of requests for a league table – I have also included my to-do list.

1. The Crown (Playhatch) – 8.7                            £13.00
2. The Bull (Wargrave) – 8.5                                £13.95
3. The Packhorse -8.5                                           £16.49
4. The Black Boy – 8.2                                          £13.95
5. Castle Inn (Hurst) – 8.1                                     £18.95 (2 courses)
6. The Plowden Arms – 8.0                                   £16.00
7. The Miller Of Mansfield (Goring) – 7.5           £19.00
8. The Thatched Tavern (Ascot) – 7.5                   £21.95 (2 courses)
9. Malmaison – 7.4                                                 £19.95 + SC (3 courses)
10. The Swan (Pangbourne) – 7.1                          £14.00 + SC
11. Fox & Hounds (Theale) – 7.0                           £10.95
12. The Nag’s Head (Reading) – 6.8                      £9.00
13. London Street Brasserie – 6.6                           £16.95
14. The Green Man (Hurst) – 6.5                           £12.50
15. The Bird In Hand (Sandhurst) – 6.4                 £11.00
16. The Lyndhurst – 6.3                                          £9.95
17. The Jolly Farmer (Hurst) – 6.1                         £8.95 
18. The Shoulder Of Mutton (Playhatch) – 6.1     £11.50
19. The Griffin (Caversham) – 6.0                        £10.50
20. The George (Winnersh Triangle) – 5.8            £11.99
21. The Spring Inn (Sulhamstead) – 5.5                £13.95
22. The Cunning Man (Burghfield) – 5.4              £11.50
23. The Moderation (Reading/Caversham) – 5.2  £10.00
24. The World Turned Upside Down – 4.4           £8.99
25. Toby Carvery (Reading/Caversham) – 3.5      £10.99
26. The St George & Dragon (Wargrave) – 3.4    £15.95
27. Oakford Social Club – 2.8                               £10.00
28. The Pheasant Hotel – 1.2                                 £11.00
29. Back Of Beyond, Reading – 0.8                      £6.99

I’m only including those from 2014 onwards.

The to-do list, in no particular order, is as follows:

Barts Restaurant, Reading
Bel & Dragon, Reading
Munchies, Reading
Nags Head, Reading
The Butler, Reading
The Gateway, Reading
The Three Tons, Reading
The Elm Tree, Beech Hill
The Admiral Cunningham, Bracknell
The Hinds Head, Bray
Six Bells, Burghfield
Pack Saddle, Caversham
Fox & Hounds, Caversham
The Horns, Crazies Hill
The Catherine Wheel, Goring
Horse & Groom, Harehatch
The Anchor, Henley
The Bull On Bell Street, Henley
The Little Angel, Henley
The Three Tons, Henley
The Elephant & Castle, Hurst
The Coach, Marlow
The Cross Keys, Pangbourne
The Elephant, Pangbourne
The Farriers Arms, Shinfield
Bell & Bottle, Shinfield
The Baskerville, Shiplake
The Bull, Sonning
The Swan, Streatley
The Crown, Swallowfield
The George & Dragon, Swallowfield
The Millhouse, Swallowfield
Woody Nook, Woodcote
The Rowbarge, Woolhampton
Orwells
The Five Horse Shoes (drive only)
The Wellington Arms (drive only)

Suggestions welcome.

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Beef @ The Fox & Hounds (Theale) 30/11/2014

Beef @ The Fox & Hounds (Theale) 30/11/2014
It’s been a while since the last review.  Weekends away along with rather special
hangovers on other occasions have denied my ability to review a roast dinner –
and it isn’t exactly as if I can go for a Sunday roast on a Thursday evening
instead.
Sunday came and a very noisy house meant that I was awake
several hours before I desired, though also before my hangover had kicked in so
I span my imaginary compass and headed west towards Theale.  Or is it Burghfield?
A 6.5 mile walk being enough to work up a hunger.  I called the Fox & Hounds in advance to
book a table – it was fairly busy though I am sure they would have been able to
seat me without the advance reservation.
The pub itself is a country-ish pub – out in the sticks but
close enough to local villages of Theale and Burghfield to keep it busy.  Clean and tidy inside, with slightly-rustic
tables – plenty of outdoor seating and free Wi-Fi – important when one is
dining by oneself (I was hesitant to arrange to meet anyone for a roast in case
given the anticipated hangover).  Plenty
of seating outside too for pleasant summer drinking.
The final point before I get onto the real subject matter is
the drinks – little is more disappointing than turning up to a pub and finding
out that they sell nothing more adventurous than Carling/Strongbow, etc.  This wasn’t the case – the drinks available
were of good quality – I had a very nice country cider which I had not had
before – I cannot recall the brand but let’s face it, the only liquid of real
interest here is gravy.
Beef or turkey were the choices – the cows I passed on the
way had turned my mind to beef so that was an easy choice.  I waited 15-20 minutes for it to arrive which
is what one would prefer – it is always wondrously concerning when a roast
dinner arrives just 5 minutes after ordering, like it did at The Cunning Man.
The vegetables were presented in a separate dish to the real
part of the roast – the vegetable bowls being larger the more populated your
table was.  Overall the presentation was
good – not enough gravy for my northern-tastes but this was soon resolved with
a request for extra gravy.  And I approved of the carrots standing up.  And if the Moderation chef is reading – more than 2 carrots!
 
Cabbage isn’t my favourite vegetable – especially not the
red variety.  It was quite crunchy and
made an acceptable accomplice.  The baby
carrots were good – perfectly cooked if a tad uninteresting.  The final root-based offering was mashed parsnip.  A pleasant taste but I would have much rather
have had whole roasted parsnips.  Overall
not my favourite medley of vegetables but I did appreciate the effort to
differentiate.
3 roast potatoes seemed a bit stingy.  At least they were sizable and cooked well –
albeit with soggy rather than crispy outsides.
The Yorkshire pudding was excellent.  Close to perfection – a soft base, crispy
outsides and delightfully large – probably the best Yorkshire pudding in the
reviews so far.
An excellent fork-friend to the decent standard beef – which
was two pleasingly large slices of an average depth – one assumes topside of
beef.  It had an outer rim of fat
alongside one edge – not to everyone’s liking but always to mine.  It was good but nothing special.
And onto the item which can really make or break a roast –
the gravy.  It was normal beef
gravy.  No strange taste.  Like the rest of the roast dinner it was
decent but unremarkable.  Nowhere near as
thick as I would prefer but one has to remember that I was having a roast in
Burghfield – not Bradford.
Given that the last two reviews have featured bad gravy –
unremarkable was most welcome.
The price was £10.95 which down here is reasonable.  Up north and one would be moaning.  The service was sufficiently pleasant enough
for a Yorkshire man to leave a tip.
Definitely worth noting is that they only serve roasts until
2:30pm.  They advised booking in advance but as I mentioned, I am not sure it is necessary.
It was certainly a commendable roast dinner overall.  The best I have had since early this year at
The Crown in Playhatch – which really still stands out as the best in the local
area and is clearly going to take some beating.
In numbers The Fox & Hounds roast gets a reasonably decent 7.0 out of me.
Recommended – you will enjoy it but you probably won’t write
about it.
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