Beef Topside @ The Horse And Groom, Harehatch 28/06/2015

So the controversy rumbles on. This blog has now been featured on Imgur. Which is apparently almost as popular as Reddit.

Yeah I’ve no idea, either.

All I wanted to do was talk about spuds and gravy. Apparently Imgur is quite popular although I haven’t got a clue why – I just checked out the front page and it is just full of really crap photographs which some 17-year old student in America probably thinks is hilarious.

I couldn’t even find a photo of a cat making a roast dinner.

I’m assuming that I had not heard of Imgur means I can no longer class myself in the category of “young”. A bit like many venues should not class their roast dinner liquid as “gravy”.

Thankfully given that the site was down last week, it added almost no visitors to my site. Do you like the new layout?  I’ve got some exciting things planned – I’m even going to use my Maths A-level education on one feature I have just dreamed up, ooooh! If there are any schoolchildren reading, which is unlikely due to the lack of crap Imgur photographs, then Maths is nearly as important as gravy. But seemingly less difficult.

Excitingly though I think you can say that this blog is finally “cool” – having been talked about on Shit Things To Do In Reading.  Can it get any better?

This is now the 8th paragraph (granted, a slightly ambitious description) so maybe it is time to get to the point of why you are here. Dinner. I had a lady from Yorkshire for company (don’t worry ladies, she is married, you still have a chance with me) and the random number generator picked the Horse & Groom in Harehatch, which is somewhere that had been recommended to me.

And then I walked through the door and my heart sank – I had been here before, a year or two ago, and it is was fairly disappointing.

I sighed internally.

The menu options were topside of beef, leg of pork, chicken breast or braised lamb shoulder. I did have an interesting question the other day about vegetarian roasts, and I did not see a vegetarian roast option. I never consider the vegetarian option but I will endeavour to take notice going forwards.

Roast

Beef was the one I hadn’t had for the longest, so that was my choice.

I enquired as to why the beef and pork came with just plain old vegetables, and the chicken and lamb came with seasonal vegetables. There is no difference. But they included peas! In fact, they included a generic pea, green bean and onion mixture, which did not rate highly at all by my accomplice – the peas were ‘mealy’, the green beans squeaky and the onions were pointless and tasteless.  My pea-phobia meant I did not get to enjoy any of them.

So I only ended up with two vegetables – the nicest was the red cabbage, which is never a favourite of mine and it was quite notably sweet and floppy.

The swede was very soft and irrelevant. There was certainly a hint of butter but it just seemed really pointlessly plonked upon the plate.

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Game number 1.  Guess how many roast potatoes there were?  3!  One was very large, and definitely not cooked enough inside. The second more of the size you would expect, and as such, not so hard inside. The final roastie was rather deformed but that one did at least come closer to the description of roasted – the other potatoes had absolutely no evidence of a crispy outer.

I’ve had worse roast potatoes but these were very disappointing.

Thankfully the remainder of the dish was much improved.

The Yorkshire pudding was large, soft-bottomed and crispy on the edges.

I clearly made a good call on the beef – two reasonably large and reasonably thickly sliced slices of topside, just a tiny little bit of fat on the outside and reasonably pink on the inside.

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I have to say that I am very glad I did not choose the chicken as one that went past me did look rather over-done – though it was only a glancing look which is clearly difficult to judge properly from.

And the gravy? Proper meat stock gravy! Woohoo! Let’s pop out the champagne. Actually I think champagne is rubbish. I much prefer beer. The gravy had a fair consistency to it too. It could have been better but it was definitely the best gravy for some time.

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I was particularly impressed with the little gravy jug.

They had done 3 out of the 4 most important parts very well. The roast potatoes were bad but that has not exactly been unusual on my mission so far.  Also I feel that you can get better value for money at £14.00 and the lamb was particularly on the pricey side.

The service was pleasant enough though I sat there for a good 10-15 minutes with the receipt, waiting to pay, until I was advised that I had to go to the bar to pay.

I’m going to give it a 7.4 out of 10 – the same score as the Malmaison received though a vastly different experience.

Next week, hopefully no further controversy, and a visit to a place I have been told is amazing, with my amazing best friend as my treat for me being amazing.

The only problem is, there are two pubs with the same name – and I cannot remember which one was the one recommended.

And finally I will leave you with game number 2.  Which of these photographs was taken by a professional photographer?

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Welcome To My WordPress Site

Hello

You may have noticed that the site has been down this week whilst I worked on migrating it over to the cleaner, far more customisable WordPress.

Hopefully you like the new style – though I do have more work to do.

Especially that Google won’t let me import my old posts from Blogger, as Google no longer supports OAuth 1.0.  Yep, I don’t know what that means either, and I am yet to find a work-around.

So until that time, my old reviews are still available on http://roastdinnersinreading.blogspot.co.uk/

Spuds.

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Chicken @ The Swan, Pangbourne 21/06/2015

Chicken @ The Swan, Pangbourne 21/06/2015

Before I go on, I am looking to move the page from Blogger to WordPress over the coming week, so there may be a short period where the website is unavailable.  Wordpress gives me more options in terms of design and also plug-ins, with a bit of luck and work, I should be able to add some interesting features for you in the coming months.

So for the first time in these reviews, the random number generator took me to Pangbourne.  Is there anywhere else near Pangbourne that should (or shouldn’t!) be on my to-do list?

I’d heard mixed reviews about The Swan – some are highly in praise, others in disdain.  From what I gather, it seems to switch periodically between joy and pain, depending upon pub management, so my expectations were confused.

Having a glance at other tables as I came in, I was struck by the amount of people eating almost irrationally perfectly round burgers – with just a couple tempted by the roast dinners.

Ominous?

Some of the comments I’d heard about The Swan were that the service was poor – I remember many years ago going for drinks and it taking forever to get served, however the young lady that greeted me was very pleasant and helpful – she was enthusiastic about the chicken in particular, along with trying to upsell to me – though upselling to a Yorkshireman is close to mission impossible.

Upon her advice, I ordered the chicken.  The only other option was the beef, and a wise man once told me only to order beef if you are confident the venue will know how to cook it.  And I wasn’t confident.

So 15 minutes later, it arrived.  And my initial thoughts were that it was well-presented.

But it was jus, not gravy as advertised by the menu.

I’m going to start with the “gravy” for a change.  As you can see it was very thin and watery – some of it delightfully splashed onto my decade-old misshapen t-shirt to add to my slightly shabby look of the day.  It was however inoffensive, adding nothing in the way of taste of substance – which given the distasteful jus’ served in some other wannabe venues, was a relief.

I did order more and it came in a very inconvenient milk thimble, which wasn’t the easiest to pour, or hold given how hot the liquid was.

The vegetables were a mixed medley, in more ways than one.

First up was the swede, which came in baby-bite sized chunks, and was very much on the soft side, with a slightly bitter, yet slightly nutty taste.  Not bitter in a bad way, may I add.

Then there were some fine green beans which were slightly less cooked than my personal preferences – they had that slightly squeaky rubbery texture to them.

And definite points for the roasted peppers – an unusual inclusion on a roast, I hadn’t even considered roasted peppers on my own roast dinners previously, and it kind of worked.  Slightly sweeter than a pepper assumes normally to be.

Next up were the roast potatoes.  And they were actually roasted.  But the big question is – when were they roasted?  As it certainly wasn’t any time close to been presented.  They very much had that cooked 6 hours ago and microwaved feel to them.  On the bright side, there were 4 of them.  Ooooh the generosity.

I was a little disappointed about the amount of chicken served, especially given it was one of my more expensive roasts of late – just a chicken breast.  Albeit a nice-sized chicken breast – not one of the under-developed chickens that a certain chicken-franchise seems peri much to specialise in.

It was tender and there was surprisingly enough of it.  By the end of the meal, my somewhat over-sized belly was full, despite not having eaten since breakfast, 8 hours ago.

I didn’t quite understand the stuffing.  Served in thin-burger form, I was a little confused.  Stuffing should come in home-made lumps, like at The Shoulder Of Mutton.  Not in flat burger form.  It didn’t add anything to the meal, I didn’t even taste any particular herb.  It was just kind of there.  I wonder if they put it on top of their burgers?

Finally, the Yorkshire pudding.  It was fairly large, soft on the bottom (post-jus) and crispy on the edges – cooked just right.  A really good yorkie.

My closing thoughts after eating matched my thoughts upon the roast arriving – more style than substance.

But this has to be taken into context of very good presentation.  There are points gained for an excellent Yorkshire pudding, and creativity on the vegetable side, though points lost for assumedly-microwaved roast potatoes and the drearily-thin but inoffensive jus.

Also it was a touch on the pricey side for what it was – £14.00 plus a 10% service charge.  If I had realised that there was a 10% service charge I would have walked to the bar to get my beer – £4.50 for a pint of Estrella plus 10% is almost London prices.  Given that I had two drinks, I could have saved myself 90p.

Generally I don’t stray away from my immediate rating too much, I allow a little time for my thoughts to settle, and the more I think about this dinner, the more contented I am with it.

I shall give it a score of 7.1 out of 10.

I really do wonder why so many people were having the burger though.  Touching upon something that the indelibly descriptive Edible Reading tweeted about the other day, perhaps there is need for someone to find the best burger around Reading?  If I had the time and money, I would be onto it.

There really should be more than 2 food blogs for the local area.  Best sandwich, best fish and chips, best kebab, best breakfast, best salad, a vegetarian-only blog.  Maybe one day my mission will be complete and I can tackle another subject.  But until then, I shall just sit here and hope for someone else to grab a keyboard.

Next Sunday I’m going to somewhere that has been highly recommended to me by several people.  It is two months since I’ve had an excellent roast dinner.  It feels overdue.

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Pork Loin @ The Bird In Hand, Sandhurst, 14/06/2015

Pork Loin @ The Bird In Hand, Sandhurst, 14/06/2015

Hello, it’s your favourite Trip Advisor critic that Get Reading are taking too seriously, with another roast dinner review.

You may have seen the hoo-hah over the weekend – yes just 3 of my reviews have kindly been published by Get Reading so far, and they have already had a complaint to the editor.  Hopefully they don’t have a Putin-esque outlook, and my roast reviews will continue to reach a wider audience.

Nothing here changes.  I’m from Yorkshire – if a roast potato is crap, then I’ll tell you it’s crap.  This blog continues until one of the following conditions is met:

1. There are no more roast dinners to review.
2. Every venue makes perfect roast potatoes and thick gravy.
3. I move away from Reading.
4. I give a bad review to a mafia-run establishment and am gunned down.

I think the complainant is warming to me now.  I can see us being good friends soon.  I think she is married so a date is out of the question.

Gosh, what a great idea that is.  Roast Dinner Dating.  Maybe The Shoulder Of Mutton would host a Roast Dinner Dating event?

How do I trademark this?  I could probably build my own dating website – every other person seems to run a dating website nowadays.

I am really going off course here, thankfully I don’t have many followers.

The plan this week was to go to a chain – however my friend could not make it so out came the random number generator and it chose The Shoulder Of Mutton.  Touché, random number generator.  So I removed the ones that I’d already visited and it gave me The Bird In Hand, in Sandhurst.

Somebody had recommended it to me, I cannot remember if it was a reader or someone from work.  I’ve never been to Sandhurst before – it seems quite well-off, plenty of good-sized housing – though not on the posh side.

The pub itself was split into a restaurant which was fully-booked but did look upmarket, and a pub half showing the darts with a pool table.  We sat outside and awaited our roasts.

The choices were beef, pork and turkey – I was very tempted by the turkey but I went for pork.  The out-of-date website suggested that it was £9.99 though I think I was charged £11.00.  They didn’t charge my friend for his dinner.

We had a 10-15 minute wait whilst we discussed our expectations and neither of us came to a conclusion – the signals were mixed but I did suspect another unspectacular but decent roast was ahead.

There were lots of carrots – sliced into rings and halved again, with a little black pepper on top.  I really don’t know what else to say – I’m obviously not that good at reviewing.

The swede came in a unceremonious lump – it had a rather buttery taste.

We were granted some tenderstem broccoli which is a rarity on a roast and was a nice treat.

However the cauliflower cheese was distinctly non-cheesy and had a slight alien-like neon-green glow in patches.  Acceptable and edible but I cannot profess any admiration, despite it being a particular favourite of mine.

We were predictably granted three roast potatoes – each of them very large.  However they seemed distinctly deep-fat-fried in texture, colour and especially taste.  There was still something bizarrely charming about them – not bazaar like my personal profile apparently is.

The Yorkshire pudding was fairly large which is pleasing – I never understand just giving someone one small yorkie – on the now-rare occasion I make a roast, I ensure there are at least 2 though often 4 of the little beasts (probably why I am losing weight).  Then again, I’m just a pratt who cannot cook beans on toast (I actually don’t know how to cook beans – toast I can manage).

Apart from the size being redeeming, the yorkie provided no further joy as I found it overcooked, dry and brittle.  I hope that is enough adjectives.

Three fairly thin slices of pork loin were provided – it was tender enough though I thought that the portion size was on the small side.  It did come with over-cooked crackling – though once the crackling was doused in gravy, it did become edible without causing me any dentist fees.

And the gravy.  It was either Bisto, or a very good copy of Bisto.  And very watery too.  Which is acceptable.  Much preferable to a dodgy red wine jus – I’m looking at you Cunning Man.

Overall I am going to give it a 6.4.  Nothing stood out as a taste sensation, it was another decent roast with areas of improvement – especially the yorkie.

Next weekend the random number generator has picked a pub in a very nice location – but one that seemingly has as many excellent reviews as poor.  Although I reserve the right to be dishonest and unprofessional, and go somewhere else.

Yours pompously.
Roast Dinners Around Reading

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Gammon @ The Shoulder Of Mutton, Playhatch 07/06/2015

Gammon @ The Shoulder Of Mutton, Playhatch 07/06/2015

So the random number generator decided that I should go back to Playhatch, the scene of the greatest ever roast dinner (except those I’ve cooked myself, of course).  Until I realised that England had a friendly against Ireland at 1pm.  And I don’t usually miss England games.  And according to the website, The Shoulder Of Mutton only serves roast dinners until 2pm.

What was I going to do?  Roast dinner in the gorgeous sunshine, or watch the football?

And apart from the fact that the last time England and Ireland played in Ireland, there was a riot, why exactly was the game kicking off at 1pm?

I chose gravy over football.  Was it a wise decision?

Confusingly when I called in advance, they seemed to suggest that they served roast dinners until 7:30pm.  Contradictory to their website.  Dear businesses – people do actually use the internet.  And then when I arrived, they didn’t have a record of my booking.  Not to worry, as there were plenty of free tables.

Now let’s be Frank Spencer about this.  A pub serving a roast dinner within 100 metres of The Crown, is going to end up being compared to The Crown.

I’ve been told both that they do really good roasts, and also really disappointing roasts.

I was initially very encouraged as the menu had slightly unusual choices – gammon, turkey and mutton are not often offered, and I really like trying different foods – on a slight tangent I went to a Moroccan restaurant in Windsor on Saturday night, and their spicy sausages would have gone down a treat on a roast dinner.

Anyway I chose the beef.

Only joking.  I plumped for the gammon, and after a 10-15 minute wait in the gorgeous sunshine, the food arrived, looking on the home-cooked side – with the vegetables on a side dish, and extra gravy upon request arriving in a gravy boat.

I’m never really sure about vegetables being in a side-dish.  I feel that it is just for presentational purposes, however it really worked here as the cream from the creamed leeks somewhat infused the carrots, and to a very minor extent, the broccoli.  Damn, I spelt it wrong again.

Carrots were flat and fairly thin.  They tasted like carrots.  Did you know that carrots in Spanish, are zanahorias?  I really am scraping the barrel on how to describe carrots.

Likewise the broccoli was broccoli.  Both the zanahorias and the brócoli (it’s not spelt wrong – it’s Spanish) seem to have been steamed, and had the added complexion of the cream from the creamed leeks, which was a nice touch.

I don’t ever recall having creamed leeks on my adventures, so again marks for doing something different.  As I have demonstrated above, there are only so many ways I can make carrots interesting now I am on review number 27.  Although they were creamy, there was something missing, as creamed leeks really should be a taste sensation.  But they were good.

Now onto the not-so-good parts.

The roast potatoes did taste like they were out of a bag and put in a deep fat fryer.  There were 4 potatoes, all small.  Two slightly crispy, one of which was fairly uncooked inside.  The other two not at all crispy and not cooked enough inside.  Oh Betty.

The Yorkshire pudding was one of those small sponge-like ventures, and over-cooked.  Not good at all.  Ohhh Betty.

But we got stuffing.  Yes there was stuffing, and it was home-made with both sage and orange evident on my tastebuds.  I was quite impressed.  All roast dinners should come with stuffing.  Perhaps not beef and lamb, but all others should.

Onto the gammon – the reason why I was rather excited.  It was a tiny bit overcooked for my preferences, giving it a slightly dry complexion.  Average at best – the last time I had gammon was at The World Turned Upside Down, and it wasn’t as good as that.  Albeit that was the only thing I enjoyed at The World Turned Upside Down.

There was plenty of gravy, and it was real gravy.  Well, except in consistency where it more resembled a jus, especially with the many oil spots.

One day I will go on a photography course.

Overall it definitely gets extra marks for trying to do something different, the pub is nice, the garden was really nice in the sunshine, the service was good and the price of the roast was a pleasing £11.50.  And I can go into celebratory mode – they forgot to charge me for my second cider.

But there is much room for improvement, especially for the more crucial components.

And the question will always be asked – why are you going to The Shoulder Of Mutton when The Crown is just 100 metres away?  Unless The Crown is fully booked, then you should always go to The Crown.

I’m going to give it a 6.1 out of 10.

Next Sunday I’m going to another chain.  My expectations are higher than they were for the Wetherspoons, and hopefully it beats the Toby Carvery.  But it certainly has the potential to be dreadful.  Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Betty.

So how was the football?

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