Slow-Cooked Pork Belly @ The George, Winnersh Triangle 22/02/2015

Slow-Cooked Pork Belly @ The George, Winnersh Triangle 22/02/2015

This week’s roast location was chosen as it is within walking distance of a couple of good friends that I hadn’t seen for a while – just a short train journey from Reading to Winnersh Triangle.

Pedants amongst us (I include myself) will note that this is a Chef & Brewer pub – and has pretty much the same food offering as The Griffin, which I reviewed last year.  If not identical.  Pedant I might be but I have not checked each menu to see if they are exactly the same.

Upon arrival I advised that I had booked a table for 3, using the online booking form that morning.  This seemed to cause some confusion at first but I was seated soon enough.

And I remained seated for around 15 minutes before my friends arrived.  Nobody thought to ask if I wanted a drink, or to offer me the menu to take a look at.  I did consider drinking the water from the small vase that a rose was perched in, to make a point, but the sobriety that my month-long detox has impaled upon me meant that I just continued to sit there quietly and read an article in the Economist about the recovery in the manufacturing sector in London – did you know that the manufacturing sector in London grew by 15% last year?  Manufacturing is growing faster in London than any other region in the UK.  Albeit from a low base.

I think I may have digressed.  But if I have to wait for a drink, then you have to wait for me to manufacture the review.

So when my friends arrived, we continued to wait a bit for some attention but it was not forthcoming.  If only my teleportation device was as successful as my invisibility cloak.  We went to the bar to order to be advised, “You know you can order from your table”.

I do like having something to moan about.

Now the roast at The Griffin was distinctly average, however I had ordered from the standard menu without realising that they had a Sunday Best menu – I allow myself to repeat reviewed pubs if there is a reason, but I do not allow repeat mistakes.

The Sunday Best options were slow-cooked pork belly, slow-cooked rib of beef or slow-cooked lamb shoulder – which unnervingly we were advised was taken off the menu due to not being of the required standard.  Did that mean that they had high standards for their customers, or does that mean that their supplier was crap?

I ordered the pork belly with sage & onion stuffing, along with a side of cauliflower cheese.

Dinner arrived, sans cauliflower cheese after a reasonable wait of around 15 minutes, and the dinner looked reasonable.

Vegetables first and they were a mix of cauliflower, carrots and broccoli.  All were your fairly standard mass-manufactured vegetables, though I was a little confused as to some of the carrots being warm and others cold.  A decent standard, there really isn’t much to say about them.  No cauliflower cheese yet though.

Let’s talk Yorkshire next.  The Yorkshire pudding was a kind of medium-large size though seemed more like a slightly larger Aunt Bessie’s affair – it wasn’t much to write home about.  Still no cauliflower cheese.

The pig in blanket was good.  A chunky pork sausage with one thin rasher of bacon around it.  A far larger sausage than the Malmaison managed.  Perhaps I should have ordered a few of them as side-dishes rather than the cauliflower cheese.

Now the pork belly.  Upon first tasting I was impressed – it just glided onto my fork and melted in my mouth.  It seemed that I had struck meat-gold.

But this was not repeated.  Perhaps I had struck oil instead as most of the pork belly was fat.  I guess that is the risk that you take with pork belly as it is a fatty joint but this was not enjoyable.  And what should have been crackling on top was just soft, squidgy and fatty too.  I was actually a tiny bit queasy afterwards which is very unusual for me.

How about the sage and onion stuffing?  Well how about it indeed.  Apparently it borrowed my invisibility cloak.  Unless it was infused into the pork belly?

The gravy was non-distinct.  It didn’t really have a particular taste and was a slightly runny consistency.  Averagely average and I don’t have many words for average.  I did ask for extra and was brought some fairly quickly – in one of those tiny cups that they bring the milk out in with a cup of tea.  Clearly lost in translation once again.

Do I need to spell out that I am from up north when I ask for extra gravy?

Next Sunday I am kind of expecting to receive my extra gravy in a thimble.

I can finish on a high though.  And a surprising one at that.  My regular readers will know that I consistently complain about “roast” potatoes.  Well, these were roasted.  They had crispy edges.  They were actual roast potatoes like I would make at home (without the herbs and pepper than I cook with).  Not warm but I don’t want to be too critical, after all, somehow they managed to do what almost every place so far has failed to do and make actual roast potatoes.  Possibly the best roast potatoes I have reviewed.

Oh wait a minute, I forgot something.  And I wasn’t the only person to forget.  Do you know what I am talking about?

I hope you are liking this interactive review.  Or should I say, are you enjoying this interactive review?

The answer is cauliflower cheese.  It arrived when I had eaten around two thirds of my dinner.  It wasn’t worth waiting for – creamy but not cheesy.  If only it was a pig in blanket.

So there you go.  I guess you have worked out that it isn’t going to be challenging for roast of the year come December.  It was hugely let down by the poor piece of pork, and the service issues.  However it was also partly my fault as I tried some of the beef too and that was really excellent – a very smoky tasting rib and a furlong better than the pork.  In fact, it was a mile better.  Had I chosen the beef and had extra pigs in blankets, rather than the cauliflower cheese, then I would have been talking a rating of at least 7.0.

As it is, I feel that a 5.8 out of 10 is fair for an £11.99 roast.

Next Sunday I am heading out into the sticks.

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Corn-Fed Chicken @ Malmaison 15/02/2015

Corn-Fed Chicken @ Malmaison 15/02/2015

It being Valentine’s weekend, I had planned on going to the most miserable venue imaginable.  But as happened last week, my original plan was subverted and I had a romantic offer that I could not refuse for five guys.

No, not the burger chain in the Oracle, but five of us guys decided upon a romantic Sunday roast in the Malmaison.

Upon initial inspection, it isn’t the cheapest at £19.95.  However this includes unlimited starter, the roast itself and dessert.

This is a roast dinners review page so I will not go into detail on the starter and the dessert, however they have to be taken into consideration as it is a full 3-course meal on offer – there was no option to pay less and just have the roast dinner.

The starter was a buffet spread, with bread, olives, cured meats, posh sausage rolls, smoked salmon – even a whole blimmin’ salmon.  The chef was also on hand to prepare a salad, if one so desired.  Unlimited starter is dangerous.  I wouldn’t say it was especially special.  It wasn’t anything I couldn’t have prepared myself by opening a packet of sliced cured meats from Sainsburys.

What was special was the dessert.  There were several options, none of which massively appealed until I heard about the dessert de jour – until then I was about to select the cheese and biscuits as default, which did include a gravestone biscuit.

The dessert de jour was…drum roll…chocolate cheesecake.  Did I build up the suspense enough?  It was pretty immense in taste, with 3 distinct sections, though a rather tough biscuit to cut with a spoon.  It was the icing on the…cake.  It was also an impressively generous-sized slice too.

What wasn’t so impressive in size was the roast dinner.

I had the choice of beef with Yorkshire pudding or corn-fed chicken with stuffing and a sausage wrapped in bacon, but no Yorkshire pudding.  WTF?  I requested the chicken dish but with a Yorkshire pudding to be included as my Valentine’s gift.  She was clearly charmed by my beauty as I was successful in my request.

When the main course arrived (we waited a reasonable length of time between courses if you are reading dear Edible – at least 15 minutes between taking away our starter plates and bringing the main course), the main plate consisted of a piece of chicken, one smallish Yorkshire pudding, two small round slices of stuffing and one small chipolata wrapped in bacon.  With just two vegetable medleys between five guys.

And just the tiniest drizzle of gravy.  Can you see it?

My granddad taught me to save the best until last, so let’s start with the mixed medley of vegetables, as is traditional, which really were a mixed bunch.

The carrots were sensational.  The tastiest ordinary carrots I have reviewed so far.  The green beans were good too – slightly flexible but still crunchy, and tasted superb with the gravy.  I never get mine that good.

The parsnips were not so impressive – parsnips really should be roasted.

And speaking of what should be roasted – potatoes.  Why can nowhere do decent roast potatoes?  They were average, at best.  The kind of deep-fried efforts that fall apart – with a solid outside as opposed to roasty-crispy goodness.

Thankfull you cannot really go wrong with pigs in blankets, and this was a high-grade chipolata wrapped properly in some tasty bacon.

The stuffing wasn’t so high-grade – it was how I would imagine a £5 coin to be, in terms of thickness and a consistent circumference.  It seemed factory-made and a little out of place – though it worked well when mixed with the Yorkshire pudding and chicken.

The Yorkshire pudding was a little anaemic, and a little little too.  Too strong a taste of vegetable oil and really not one of the best offerings I have had.

I had always kind of assumed in an I’m from up north what’s wrong with burning coal to heat your house kind of way that corn-fed chicken was something that only rich yummy-mummy vegetarian lesbians had.  Why feed corn to a chicken?

Well it turns out that average-income childless carnivorous non-lesbian blokes really appreciate corn-fed chicken too.  It was so plump and succulent – it tasted like chicken is actually supposed to taste like.  There was ‘only’ a chicken breast but aforementioned plumpness usurped any desire for more.  An excellent piece of chicken.

I did have a bite of the beef too – it looked amazing, though it only tasted very good.

And finally, the dribble of gravy.  All five of us requested extra gravy.  We received one miniature gravy boat’s worth.  So we requested extra gravy again.  And received one miniature gravy boat’s worth.  Either they weren’t getting us, or we weren’t getting it.

It was however a really good gravy, chicken-stock based with a reasonably thick consistency.  Good work.

Overall it was a good roast but it is a difficult one to rate.  Do I take into unlimited starter and the dessert?  Due to them being included in the price, I feel that I have to, to some extent as £19.95 for just that roast dinner would have been extortionate.

Plus service charge.  Which four of us thought was reasonable though far from spectacular service, however the Canadian amongst us was unimpressed.  Apparently you get far better service over the pond.  But do you get good gravy?

This is a roast dinners in Reading blog and therefore the rating is focused on the roast dinner part.  Had I been reviewing the whole 3 courses in that context, it would receive a slightly higher rating.

As it was, I feel that a 7.4 out of 10 is appropriate.  Full marks for meat and carrots, low marks for ‘roast’ potatoes and yorkies.

Next Sunday I am heading east.

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