Lamb @ The Nag’s Head, Reading 31/05/2015

Lamb @ The Nag’s Head, Reading 31/05/2015

I’d been living in Reading not far off 15 years before I went to The Nag’s Head for the first time.  Quite shameful for someone who consistently bemoans the blandness of the town centre chains.

So this is a little bit of payback for my earlier ignorance, for it is fairly unlikely that you are aware that they serve Sunday roasts.  The website doesn’t allude to it (it pretty much only tells you which the most recent Led Zeppelin track played was – not much use to a minimal techno fan), nor is there any board outside advertising food, there is certainly no mention of it on their Facebook page – and apart from pies, they don’t seem to do food during the week.

I was only made aware by a reader, some months ago.  I do listen to you.

In a town that can too often serve up pints of chemical in bland pubs, The Nag’s Head is a real pub, for real pub people.  The place has personality and a fantastic range of beers.

I really wanted to like this roast.    Though let’s face it, anything was going to be an improvement from last week.

The options were beef, lamb, chicken (and stuffing!) and nut roast.  For just £9.00.  I asked the barmaid for her recommendation, which was the lamb, and sat down to read about the last days of Gordon Brown’s government.  Apparently he used to use a very rude 4 letter word beginning with ‘c’ quite a lot.

15 minutes passed before it arrived, looking presentable in a homemade way.  By appearance, it reminded me of my mother’s roast dinners.

The sliced carrots tasted rather on the buttery side, and were very much on the soft side.

The broccoli was less soft (yes I needed the spell-checker again), just two florets that were perfectly edible.

Unusually for the area, there were 4 large roast potatoes, as opposed to the usual Berkshire 3.  Soft and fluffy on the inside, and a hint of crispiness on the very edges of the potatoes.  Far from perfect but a decent enough standard.

Next up was the lamb – three reasonably thick slices.  Very ordinary tasting lamb, but that isn’t a criticism at £9.00 a portion.  I’d expect something more elaborate from a restaurant – this fits my expectations of a local pub.  There was a hint of pink, and it was on the tender side, very easy to cut.

As an Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire pudding connoisseur, I’d suggest that these were as such.  There is nothing wrong with that – I occasionally use them myself when I am short on time or willpower.

The most pleasing aspect of the lunch was not only to get gravy, but to get a whole gravy boat’s worth of gravy.  So many roasts have been ruined by bad gravy or a disgusting red wine jus.

This may have just been Bisto but it was actual gravy with a fair consistency to it too.

Overall, though it is nothing to start a blog about, it is a decent roast dinner, just like my mother’s, and you could do far, far worse.

They got absolutely nothing wrong, yet will not be in contention for any Roast Dinner Around Reading end of year awards.

Worthy of a solid 6.8 out of 10.

Next Sunday (unless I change my mind) I shall be going to a venue that I’ve been told is highly recommended, and by someone else, really disappointing.  I look forward to being the judge.

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Chicken @ Back Of Beyond, Reading 24/05/2015

Chicken @ Back Of Beyond, Reading 24/05/2015

So this is the first roast review of mine that Get Reading will be posting.  Probably not in it’s entirety as I do tend to waffle on tangentially at times, not to mention the occasional pea-influenced obscenity.

I decided I should kick off in style, and what better way to do it than review a Wetherspoons?

I am sure this is exactly what Get Reading readers are looking to read about.

Forgive me but I am not going to review all 3 Wetherspoon’s pubs in the town centre.  I chose the one with less clientele that appear to live there.  Did I manage to come across not to snobby there?!

The choices were chicken, beef, turkey and a vegetarian option.  For just £6.99.  And I got a pint of Stowford Press cider for just £0.99.  Quite why other places sell it for £4.50 I don’t know.  Also worth mentioning that you could have a large for £1.50 extra.  I declined, which is not the sort of thing I normally do.

Slightly off-tangent, but I went to the Purple Turtle yesterday, and ordered a slightly unusual beer and the barmaid said, “it is £4.50, you know?” in a do you really want to spend £4.50 on a beer kind of way.  £4.50 sounds a good price to me nowadays.  I have to say I do like what the Turtle are doing in terms of trying to bring something different music-wise to the town.  But that is a story for someone else to tell.

Anyway, back on topic and the barman serving me was exceptionally unwelcoming and made me almost feel a tad uncomfortable in ordering.  Every response was grunted with a real unwillingness to want to serve or even be polite.  Quite awful.  I did ask what vegetables it came with, and he nonchalantly suggested carrots and broccoli whilst looking in the other direction.  I always have to correct broccoli in the spell-checker.

Perhaps he just took a dislike to my bright purple chinos.

So I sat down, opened Facebook (not to check in, may I hasten to add), had a sip of my £0.99 cider and the dinner arrived.  It took just 3 minutes.  3 minutes.  They clearly wanted rid of such an undesirable as oneself.

I know what you are thinking, at least my regular readers, not the 7 and a half new followers that Get Reading have kindly sent my way.

Peas.

Apologies to regular readers for repeating myself but I have a phobia of peas.  I just cannot have them on my plate.  It’s all down to the lack of discipline.

I dealt with it my pouring my gravy on the Yorkshire pudding and then scooping the peas into the gravy pot.  I did consider pouring all the peas onto the table or the floor but decided it was probably a tad immature.

So after spending longer removing the peas, then it took them to “cook” my roast dinner, I tucked into the carrots.  Well, I had three of them, for they were cool, rubbery and just tasted of water.

The broccoli (YES!  I spelt it without the spell-checker!), was vaguely better.  Soft, floppy but slightly less-watery.

If you look carefully at the mash, you can see the almost perfectly rectangular edges which suggest how it was packaged.  It was edible, but my disdain for it was almost on the level of the barman’s disdain for service.  I had one bite which was enough.

Onto the roast potatoes.  Which would be a trade descriptions act offence.  They more resembled potato croquettes,  There were 4, one of which was pretty much uncooked, the others were cooked but perhaps more likely put in a deep fat fryer 10 days ago, frozen then microwaved 10 seconds after Mr Miserable pressed the send button on the till.  They were awful.  I really do not see how they could have been worse.

The Yorkshire pudding was ok.  Think Aunt Bessies 4 minute in the oven job, and you are nearly there.  But not quite that “good”.

And penultimately onto the roast half chicken, seasoned with black pepper.  It was perhaps the driest chicken I have ever been served in my life.  Think back to Christmas 15 years ago, when your Grandma over-cooked the turkey, and you were still eating it a few days later.  That level of dryness.

It was quite abominable.

The gravy wasn’t too bad.  It was at least, gravy.  Though by time it was on my plate, it was very much of a watery-consistency.  In hindsight it may have been better to dip the food in the gravy whilst it was in the pot.  Then again, in hindsight, the Iraq War might have been better if we had sent more troops.

Or maybe, just maybe, in ultra magical hindsight, it was better just not to go in the first place.

Gosh, that was a good analogy.

Sometimes I say, please share just for my own vanity.  But this time, I ask that you share this review for the sake of your fellow human.

I am trying to think whether it is worse than The Pheasant Inn.  I think when it comes to the quality and taste of the food, it was marginally better than the totally abominable Pheasant Inn.  However the overall experience was generally heinous – at least The Pheasant Inn was hilariously bad, and had cute barmaids, this was just dreadful from minute one.

There is scope to be worse, but this was the worst roast dinner I have ever reviewed.  It gets a 0.8 out of 10.

There are so many better places to try – even if you have to go to a Wetherspoons for budgetary purposes, please just save a little extra money and go somewhere else, then go to Wetherspoons for a drink.

Next week will be somewhere town-centre based as I will be short on time again.

I  did quite like the design of the plate.  Oh and I did throw a few peas on the floor.

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Leg Of Lamb @ The Green Man, Hurst 17/05/2015

Leg Of Lamb @ The Green Man, Hurst 17/05/2015

I would like to start off with an apology to my UKIP readers.

I decided that I would take an immigrant to dinner on Sunday, to try to impress her enough to want to stay here for the rest of her life.

Firstly we went to Slough for a walk around, to show her the cultured side of the Thames Valley.  There was perhaps not as much to see as I expected, and apart from a Wetherspoons and a really dodgy pub named after the factory in The Office, there was nowhere to eat a roast dinner – plus Slough is perhaps slightly too far out for my readership.

So we headed back west, and after some careful research, I selected a place in the country – which had the magic g-word on the menu.

Plus it was somewhere highly recommended by a good friend last week.

Hidden in the countryside and rather on the quiet side, The Green Man in Hurst had plenty of olde-England charm, with modern touches, and it served food from midday until 9pm which was helpful given that we didn’t know how long we were going to be in Slough for (not long, you may not be surprised to read).

The options were beef, pork, chicken and leg of lamb, along with a nut roast.  Will I ever try a vegetarian roast?

No.

We both went for the lamb, and chose medium-rare.  I’m not massively funny when it comes to roasts, except for wanting gravy instead of jus, but there is one vegetable that really disturbs me and that is the pea.

Those that have followed me for some time, and those that are my real-life friends, will understand that I do have a phobia of peas, and in particular their lack of discipline.  So I asked for an explanation as to what their “mixed vegetables” were, the waitress was uncertain but would ensure that there were no peas.

I counted six fucking peas on my plate.  Sorry to use the f-word but I could not have made it more clear how much they disturb me without disturbing the waitress when ordering.  As I was accompanied by a young lady, I had to look manly and battle to overcome my fear, so I stringently searched my whole plate for any further little critters before placing them in the empty glass on my table.

Panic over, my heart-rate subsided and I felt able to start my dinner, after yet another quick safety check under all of the food for any more pesky peas.

It wasn’t the most generous portion ever.  But it was priced at a lean £12.50.

Yes I ate the sugar snap peas.  They don’t have a lack of discipline.  They were rather on the sweet side – different but would much have preferred mange tout.  I don’t actually mind the taste of peas.

There was also some sprouting broccoli, which was surprisingly tasteless and on the floppy side.  A wasted opportunity.

The baby carrots were excellent.  Perfectly cooked, with enough crunch but yet still tender, this scattering of carrots was very impressive.

Also on the impressive side were…drumroll…the roast potatoes.  Only 3, of course, but sizable efforts and just about as close to perfection that I have come across.  So crispy on the outside, yet so fluffy on the inside, and cooked in goose fat.  Oh yes oh yes.  So, so good.

However, the lamb gets more of a slow clap than a drum roll.  I’m not quite sure why my dining partner received fresh-looking nearly medium-rare lamb, whilst I had dry medium-well done lamb, despite both ordering medium-rare.

Had it been the soft, succulent lamb I was hoping for, then I’m sure it would have had a much higher rating.  Sadly it was disappointing.  I did want to give a good rating to this place, given the look and feel it had, and that it wasn’t overly busy so perhaps all 8 readers would be inspired.  The community-minded Tory in me wants to share the knowledge of lesser-known venues that do a really good job.

There was, at least, plenty of lamb.  Unlike the Yorkshire pudding which just simply didn’t exist.  Us northerners have Yorkshire puddings with any meat.  I even had one with fish once.

The gravy tasted like gravy but it was exceptionally thin and almost jus-like.  Almost.  Certainly on taste, it gets the thumbs up.

I’m going to give the roast dinner a 6.5 out of 10.

Don’t worry UKIP readers, this wasn’t good enough to persuade my immigrant friend to stay forever.  Likewise, I’m not about to emigrate in horror either.

There were clearly some highly commendable parts such as the roast potatoes and carrots.  But had I turned up 30 minutes later, I suspect that I may have struck lamb-gold, and instead I was stuck with lamb-coal.

Not sure if I will get time for a roast this Sunday as it is the last day of the football season and I’m going clubbing in London straight after so I might not fit it in.

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Beef Rib-Eye @ The Spring Inn, Sulhamstead 10/05/2015

Beef Rib-Eye @ The Spring Inn, Sulhamstead 10/05/2015

I was getting my hair cut the other morning, and my new hairdresser told me that he is aware of my work.  Word is getting around.

Word is going to spread even more soon as Get Reading have discovered my eloquent writing talents/are desperate for content (delete as appropriate) and are keen on publishing shortened versions of my reviews, assumedly without any descriptions of vegetables tasting like arse.

I did think about it for an evening, but it is a no-brainer really.  Nothing will change except more people will read it.  They did ask whether I wanted to publish in my own name, or stay relatively anonymous, and I think I am going to go for the second option.  Your thoughts are welcomed.  The only reason to go fully public would be to make it easy for a future book publisher/film company to employ me to review roast dinners around the world.

How cool would that be?  To go around the world and get paid to eat roast dinners.  Gravy Oliver eat your heart out.

For now, I shall have to contend with local fame, remaining relatively anonymous.  I am considering the pen name of The Earl Of Gravy.

For a second week in a row, I have usurped the random number generator by using the random number generator.  The place of doom can wait – Get Reading deserve a special treat for their first review.

This week, I headed to The Spring Inn, in Sulhamstead (west of Theale).  I wasn’t sure what I would get.  The menu clearly advertised jus, and you know what I think when I get that abomination.  However when I called to book that morning, the earliest they could get a table for me was 4pm, so clearly they are very popular.

I had two options to travel – either get the number 1 bus straight down the A4, or get a train and a 30-40 minute walk.  I like a walk but decided the bus was probably the easier option given all the housework I had to do yesterday.  My life isn’t all gravy, you know.  I thought it might be more pricey than the standard £3.70 return within Reading but there was no information to get on the rather cluttered Reading Buses website.

Anyway, I was rather shocked by the £6.40 charge when I boarded – I only had 40p more change on me, and that was after emptying my silver jar.  Reading Buses, please accept my Soggy Roast Potato In Jus award for your opaque pricing structure and cluttered website.  Twice the price of the train.  Get out of here.

So 419 words later, I guess it is time to get talking about the food.  Get it?

The offering was rib-eye of beef at £13.95, or pork something at £12.95.  Quite reasonably priced.

The food took 11 minutes to get from the kitchen, which always seems on the speedy side to me.

Starting, as is traditional, with the vegetables, and the carrots in particular, which were orange.  Forgive me, I really am struggling to find new ways to describe carrots.  And new placed to sneak in the word “get”.  There were a small sprinkling, and fairly soft and juicy, with a hint of honey which they had been ‘roasted’ in.  They certainly were not roasted like I roast carrots though.

We also had parsnip, which is a nice touch as it seems rarely attempted.  Again fairly soft with the hint of honey.

Then there was cabbage.  Cabbage isn’t something I have worked out how to cook well myself – I can do amazing carrots, but cabbage I fail on.  This was pretty nice and tender, with more of a hint of butter to my simple Northern taste buds.

Only now have I realised that I could have got some very interesting side orders, including chilli tender stem broccoli; French beans, shallots and crème fraiche (I really want to write fresh) and the not so interesting cauliflower cheese.  Doh.

For some bizarre reason, the roast potatoes came out afterwards in a large bowl of freshly-heated roast potatoes.  Was this to excite me as to just how many there was?  Could I have more than the standard Berkshire 3?  Am I the only one that expects 6 roast potatoes on a roast dinner?

Of course, there were just 3 roast potatoes plonked down, soggy, non-crispy and very much like what you would get at the Toby Carvery.  Hmmm.

My talented chef friend, who is a plumber, surprised me once by advising that he thought Yorkshire puddings were a waste of time.  Just needless filler instead of real food.  Well, this one small effort was just filler – quite tough sponge and totally pointless.  Unlike a good yorkie.

I think I chose the beef because it came with a Yorkshire pudding.  Despite the previously described aberration, the ribeye of beef was a good choice.

I asked for it rare, and it definitely was not rare.  Somewhere between medium-rare and medium.  Which is still fine to me.  It was exceptionally generous in volume, with two very large slices of good quality beef – more than twice the amount that I had at the far more expensive Miller of Mansfield.  There was a little fat but that just adds to the taste in my eyes.  And mouth.

By some measure the highlight of the whole dinner.

On the flipside, by far the lowlight of the whole dinner was the jus.  To me, there is no excuse at attempting some shoddy red wine jus.  It had a particularly horrid taste, which disfigured all that was eaten, as I just could not get the taste out of my mouth.  I wanted gravy so I kept putting jus on, thinking it would be ok, but bite after bite I was just getting disappointed.

It wasn’t disgusting, it was edible.  But just plain wrong.  I hardly even touched the extra jus I had ordered (and received at the second time of asking).  I don’t even know why I asked it.

Apart from the excellent beef, the dinner was pretty average but the jus was so disappointing.

A 5.5 out of 10 seems a reasonable score.

It is a popular venue with an interesting menu , yet in the middle of nowhere, so it must be doing something right.

Next week, ooooh 3rd time unlucky perhaps?  Do ya get meh?

By the way if anyone needs a really old monitor, there is one in the hedgerow on the bus stop 5 minutes or so walk from The Spring Inn.

There wasn’t much else to photograph.

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Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder @ The Thatched Tavern, Ascot 03/05/2015

Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder @ The Thatched Tavern, Ascot 03/05/2015

Those of you that read my review last week may recall that the random number generator had picked a venue that I really didn’t want to go to.

Despite my northern upbringing, Ascot is not actually a place that strikes fear into my belly.  Yes, I usurped the random number generator.  How rebellious of me.

It was a fine day, and I fancied a walk, finished off with a spot of outdoor dining in a beer garden, perhaps I was inspired by the ever-excellent Edible Reading.  The place that the random number generator had picked does have a beer garden, but I wouldn’t prefix the word ‘nice’ to it.

Also, my housemate seems to think that the dungeon of doom will surprise me and wants to go with me, alas he wasn’t around this weekend.  Another reason to put it off.

But most importantly, this is election week.  And I realised that I had to do an election special.  So the only pub of choice was one probably not named after one of our most famous Prime Ministers ever – The Thatched Tavern.

Apart from once briefly visiting the high street, I had never really had a look around Ascot and I have to say that it has a lot of trees.

The pub was a rather old-fashioned and traditional venue, a bit like Jacob Rees-Mogg.  It also has a pleasantly sculptured outdoor area, quite resplendent like Ann Widdicome’s shoes.

A quick check on their website and you can see how shockingly outdated it is.  Dennis Skinner would shouting be in admiration.

The choice of roast was a bit like all the party manifestos – they all look appealing on the outside, though whether they would be able to deliver upon their promises was another matter.  I think it was rib-eye of beef, slow-cooked lamb shoulder or corn-fed chicken, forgive my Miliband-like lapse in memory, at least I have only forgotten the menu choices, not the deficit.

Dinner arrived surprisingly quickly, in less than 10 minutes, which reminded me of how quickly the coalition agreement was arrived at back in 2010, and I wondered how long they had spent preparing it before-hand.

It was presented with plenty of Blairite style, though I did have to give some education, education, education beforehand on my pea-phobia – otherwise I would have had a nasty surprise like a post-election VAT-rise.

Cauliflower, carrots and swede were the vegetables supplied.

The cauliflower was very much on the tough side, like Theresa May.  Crunchy and not the easiest to eat – some people’s ideal but not mine.  They do seem to store more taste that way though.

The baby carrots were again minimally cooked and very much on the tough side.  They were rather pugnacious in character and reminded me of little Ed Balls’.  Again, however, the minimal cooking seemed to bring out the taste in the carrots.

I said last week that I wasn’t a fan of swede and I remain so.  This was soft and fairly tasteless – kind of a unique combination of Natalie Bennett and Godfrey Bloom.

Onto the potatoes and finally I get the chance to compare to a Liberal Democrat.  4 roast potatoes were more liberal than the usual standard, though they were rather on the soft side and there was no detectable crunch to them.  Necessary and decent enough, yes, they reminded me of Nick Clegg.

The Yorkshire Pudding wasn’t the best.  A homemade affair, at least, but more of a lightly-filled sponge than a traditional yorkie.  Danny Alexander?

So far, not especially overly convincing.  However the lamb was pretty gorgeous.  Succulent and tasty, the slow-cooked nature meant that it pulled apart easily, and at 16oz pre-cooked, there was a lot of lamb.  In fact, it went on and on like the pretty gorgeous Margaret Thatcher did.  Easily the highlight of the rather pricey roast.

Annoyingly, jus was supplied.  Like the top-down NHS re-organisation, I was not expecting this.  Though I probably should not have been surprised about such in upmarket Ascot.  It was thin, watery with oily blobs scattered all over, a bit like Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood.  It looked presentable but it not the sort of idea a northerner can accept.

Special mention must go to the exceptional home-made mince sauce.  Like the Green Party, it is normally something I avoid but it was quite divine.  Had I had gravy I would not have bothered.

The service was good at first, though I did have to go back inside to order my dessert and get a second drink.  I must have been forgotten about.

The clientele were mostly Tories, though Nigel Farage would have been pleased about the ethnic mix, without a non-white face in sight.  However I did hear two people speaking a foreign language.  Probably Nigel’s wife.  Does anyone remember Nigel from Eastenders?  Yes I didn’t have a life in the 90’s.  Though I was far more racist back then than Nigel Farage could ever dream of.  This is prior to meeting anyone from a foreign land, from ooooh somewhere like Leeds.  And prior to getting an education.  And prior to moving down south.  My cousin has a British Bulldog tattoo on his arm.

Hull wass definitely different to Ascot.  And still is.

At £21.95 for two courses, it was on the pricey side and a bit like Labour’s health and education spending binge, I didn’t get value for money.

Overall it was high on style, but not always high on substance.  In some areas rather tough, but in other areas very pleasing.  It was on the upmarket side, but not everything was suitable for a northerner.  You can guess this one surely?  My roast dinner most reminded me of…

David Cameron.

I’m going to give it a 7.5 out of 10.  It should have been better but like the coalition government, they certainty got some things right.

Aptly, I saw this rather resplendent car on the way home.  Sex on wheels.

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