Pork @ The Green Man, Bracknell 23/08/2015

To celebrate moving to Bracknell, I decided to go to court for the first time in my life on Friday.  Can you believe it – a Northerner that has never been to court? It also seemed appropriate that I should have my first ever roast dinner in Bracknell on the Sunday, at my local pub.

Well, I say it is my local, however more accurately it is the pub closest to my house, that I know about, that looks safe to go in. The pub nearest my house is The William Twigg. It looks like the kind of place that up north would have its tables and chair bolted to the ground. Not to avoid theft, but so you don’t smash them over each other. Even the locals have told me not to go in there, albeit they are middle class. Middle class for Bracknell, anyway.

So says the common boy from up north.

The Green Man has been newly renovated throughout although the amount of tiling did remind me of a public toilet. I went clubbing once in a public toilet in Shoreditch. It was after the royal wedding, and it just seemed appropriate to go dance to some techno in a disused public toilet. It was actually a toilet converted into a nightclub. Bizarre place. Seems to have closed down now – not entirely sure if it was a voluntary closure.

Anyway, so the pub was newly decorated, with a very inexpensive menu – roast dinners were either £8.29 or £8.49. The choices were beef, pork, or chicken. I ordered the chicken, and they didn’t have any. So I have pork.  You can download the menu here (opens as pdf).

We sat down, football in background. Yes – we. My regular readers will have noted that I was getting a little fed up of reviewing roast dinners, so I am endeavouring to make sure that there is at least one companion each time from now on.

After 15 minutes the food arrived, and it appeared as an endearingly home-made effort. Albeit with quite a noticeable disaster on the plate. I assume you can spot it. I will start with the vegetables.

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Carrots. Fine. Broccoli. Fine. Both very standard, assumedly steamed. Yes I have totally run out of ways to describe them.

The cabbage seemed over-cooked. I cannot say that I am a cabbage aficionado, but it appeared to have lost quite a bit of its colour, and was very soft – to me, it really should have some crunch in it.

We each received a shocking 5 roast potatoes. Of varying sizes though I’m really not sure what they did to them as I had never had such soggy roast potatoes. They had clearly been roasted at some point earlier in the day then I guess they must have been put in a pan of water for they were inexplicably soft and soggy. They tasted normal though.

Oddly there was mashed potato too. Again just very standard with no imagination, but fluffy and fine.

Then came the real abomination – the Yorkshire pudding. Or Yorkshire pancake. A total disaster. Flat and spongey, albeit edible. Something went horrendously wrong here and surely this is the point that you reach for the emergency Aunt Bessie’s and stick them in the oven for 4 minutes? No…they still served it. I haven’t quite seen anything like it.  I’ve messed up Yorkshire puddings in the past, there are many ways to get it wrong, but never as wrong as that.

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On the bright side, the pork was a few slices of tasty loin, with a little fat on the edges. Possibly 3 or 4 slices and unlike my review last week, was on the generous side, especially considering the low price.

The icing on the cherry, was the stuffing for the pork. A stuffing ball was included (and with my friend’s beef dinner – unusual but appreciated). It doesn’t quite have the status of caviar, but it is a rare treat and fully deserved.

Then the gravy. An attempt at a meat stock gravy, with a reasonably thick consistency but overwhelmingly salty. It being so salty made the whole dinner on the salty side. Too much so.

I am struggling to judge this one as clearly quite a few things went wrong. But there was charm and endeavour – and a low price too at just £8.29. I want to rate it higher and I feel that I may have either got unlucky, or that once the pub is in the swing of things.  And look at that plate – that is probably the best piece of crockery so far entrusted to me.

I am probably stretching my generosity at a 6.2 out of 10. I should also add that the service was pretty good too, for a pub.

I suspect if I go back in a couple of months, it will be much improved.  Don’t let this review put you off going.

No review next week as I am up north, eating proper roast dinners. The week after I will not be eating a proper roast dinner as, subject to my friend’s health, I shall be visiting the chain pub that I threatened to a while back.  If not then Cookham is on the cards.

By the way, I wasn’t the defendant.

Case dismissed.

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Beef Rib-Eye @ Bird In Hand, Reading 16/08/2015

I was busy cleaning my old house on Sunday and wasn’t particularly planning on going for a roast – but then a friend messaged me asking if I was up for a roast, and that he had access to a car. The random number generator had picked somewhere in Cookham but they didn’t do late afternoon roasts so my friend suggested the Bird in Hand.

Approaching Maidenhead we realised that there wasn’t a Bird in Hand in Cookham, and Google instead directed us down the A4 back towards Reading.

The Bird In Hand is mainly a hotel, with a very over-sized and slightly dark bar, along with a small paved area out front for a4-fresco dining.

I thought that the menu was promising given that each type of roast had a different vegetable offering, and perhaps there was going to be more effort made than your average roast. Perhaps.

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I placed an order of rib-eye of beef with the very pretty young Greek lady (this bit is so getting removed when Get Reading publish it!), though I decided against trying to impress her with my knowledge of the Greek bail-out. Given that we were the only one of two sets of customers there, she will remember me, and not just for my unique beauty. Certainly the barman that took our payment at the end will remember me – apparently I told him the funniest thing that a customer had said all year. There is absolutely no way I can put it in writing though. Sorry.

Around 15 or so minutes passed before the dinner arrived and my first thoughts were about the lack of quantity. For £14.95 I really expected something more substantial.

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Anyway, on with the food. The carrots were in the form of rectangular batons – the type you find in mixed vegetable bags in the supermarket. They were fairly soft. There is nothing else to say about them.

The green beans were squeaky – personally I would have preferred them a touch softer though I know many seem to prefer them this way.

I didn’t try the little corns, nor the celeriac paste (I had assumed it was horse radish) – mainly because I was so over-burdened with food already on the plate, that I had no idea how I was going to fit them. Oh and also I don’t like the little corns. I know I should have at least tried one for editorial reasons but a general feeling of “meh” had pervaded me ever since the plate had arrived.

Somewhat taking the piss (or somewhat taking the biscuit for my Get Reading readers), were the roast potatoes. Whist they were acceptably cooked (read deep fried, or something similar), not only were they not roasted, but they were small. And of course, just 3 of them.

The Yorkshire pudding was overcooked – far too dark a brown and needed a bit of tearing. Once I had enough gravy inside, the bottom did at least go nicely soggy.

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Thankfully the beef was at least up to standard. Two slices of rib-eye, keeping with the ungenerous theme, and it was on the well-done side but still it was somewhat succulent, with enough little bits of fat to mix up the taste. Decent but certainly nothing more.

You won’t be surprised to hear that it came with just a dribble of gravy. More was forthcoming after I requested. It was fairly average basic Bisto kind of gravy , albeit rather on the oily side.

Nothing was particularly bad about the quality of food and if you have a small appetite then you would be reasonably pleased. The service was friendly and chatty – though they were not exactly over-burdened with customers, and our plates were still there when we left.

But roast dinners are not supposed to be micro-meals – they are supposed to be full-hearted beasts and in every step this roast was lacking in quantity.

Thereby I am only giving it a 5.6 out of 10 – and that is significantly down-rated due to portion size.

On the way home, we realised that we probably actually meant to go to The Bird In Hand, in Sonning. It is after all, on my to-do list. Google doesn’t always help.

Next week, as I am now a proud resident of Bracknell, I will be dining in my new home town. Suggestions welcome, as always.

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Pork Leg @ The Three Tuns, Henley 09/08/2015

A couple of weeks ago, I started to get the feeling that I had had enough of average roast dinners. I enjoy my adventures and I really enjoy the writing. But time after time, the roast dinner itself makes me question why I am doing this.

Last week at Cau was an exception but the week before when I started to question the meaning of life, sorry, the reason for roasts, I was at The Little Angel in Henley. This week the random number generator picked another place in Henley, The Three Tons, which is also a Brakspear pub. I was not amused. I really was not amused.

There is more to life than roast dinners – and more to eating out than roast dinners and as such I would like to highly commend Kyrenia in Caversham. I had a really excellent dining experience there on Friday night, a gorgeous Kleftika (it’s a lamb dish), with brilliant service – this is an example of what a restaurant should be – yet too many people will just fill the Oracle clones every weekend.

Had it been a roast dinner – it would have scored 8.6 out of 10. It wasn’t far off being one with the vegetables, new potatoes and jus.

Anyway, Henley. It gave me chance to walk into Henley, along the high street, which was a pleasant and quaint English experience, complete with builder-types topless sunbathing on the high street benches. How upper class.

The pub itself was split into three sections – a small bar at the front, a smallish dining area further back, and a real sun-trap of a garden out back. I chose the garden – the whole place was almost entirely empty. I was tempted to judge this ominously but Kyrenia was quiet too on Friday night (hence me mentioning it!).

On the menu, as far as roasts were concerned were beef, pork and chicken – different to what was advertised on their website, though the website is out of date in more ways than one. I had planned to have the pork belly that the website suggested – I settled instead for leg of pork. And no wi-fi.

It took just over 10 minutes to arrive, one could hear the clanging of pots and pans in the kitchen close by. And as soon as it arrived, humans were soon outnumbered by flies. Last week I was battling docile wasps, this week I was flapping my arms around manically trying to get rid of a good 5-6 flies.

Perhaps I should have sat inside but it was too beautiful a day to waste.

My dining experience arrived on two dishes – a well-presented main plate of hidden roast potatoes, covered with ample pork and two pieces of crackling, and a side dish of carrots and broccoli.

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The carrots and broccoli were nothing special, but nothing bad either. Seemingly steamed, the carrots were long, diagonally-cut affairs with a hint of butter, and the broccoli were…just a few florets of broccoli.

There were four roast potatoes – as usual they were suffering from the roasted some time ago affliction. No real sign of crispy edges, but at least they were cooked inside.

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I was really happy with the amount of pork served – perhaps they were being kind given their lack of customers and still had a lot left to use. There were around 4 centimetre-think slabs of pork leg, all tender and pork-tastic.

The highlight of the meal was the crackling – or at least one of the two pieces was, as it had that crispy, salty texture but melted in my mouth. The other piece was tougher but still good.

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Sadly the gravy wasn’t so appealing. There was only a dribble on the plate (presentation, one assumes) – plenty more was forthcoming but it became really tiring and the gravy monster actually wish he hadn’t put so much on his plate. It was a red wine affair and it just felt heavy with a slightly burnt taste. It wasn’t bad, but it’s a shame the simplicity of the vegetables couldn’t have been matched on the gravy.

It was a decently average roast. It was more effort than enjoyment for me, and I will rate it 6.4 out of 10.

I’m not making my roast dinner adventures easier by moving to Bracknell, though I am not ready to give up yet. And as such I will be celebrating my upcoming move with a review of a Bracknell establishment very soon.

There might not be a roast dinner review next week due to my house move – I’m not sure how much spare time I will have next weekend.

Oh if only I wasn’t just reviewing roast dinners.

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Beef @ Cau, Reading 02/08/2015

You’ll have worked out something is different this week, as I am posting this on a Friday. At 11:30am. At exactly the same time as Edible Reading posts.

Edible also went to Cau too this week – we thought that it might be interesting for our respective readers to read two opinions on the same restaurant.

I’d wanted to go to Cau long before it opened, when it was just a planning application. Yeah I read those kind of things sometimes. Kind of like I want to go to Grillstock if/when that opens.

I also imagined going with a sizeable group of friends. As it was, I just went by myself. If I’m out on my adventures in the countryside somewhere, I am very happy sat there by myself, having a pint and reading the Economist. For some reason, if I’m dining in Reading town centre by myself, I feel a bit odd.

Not even Edible would go with me, due to the anonymity protection. I did suggest going in costume – I was thinking maybe Zippy and George (I wouldn’t mind being George), but despite their wide mouths, I’m not sure how easy it would have been to eat. The comfort factor maybe not have been ideal on a very warm sunny day either.

I do wish that I had the detailed knowledge of food that Edible has, and the ability to describe so eloquently – but as I’ve pointed out before, there are only so many ways to describe carrots. Except this time – this time was different.

I sat on my swivel chair and got straight down to ordering – there is only one choice, and that is beef. I didn’t look at the rest of the menu as I had a job to do – and I knew full well just how tempting the rest of the menu would have been for a steak-lover.

Also I ordered a side-dish of cauliflower cheese, or more accurately, a side-pot.

The meal arrived after around 15 minutes, on a sharing platter. And it was 15 uncomfortable, terrifying minutes for I had a docile wasp on the window right next to my head. Waiting. Should I use my Economist to kill it? Would I be making a scene?

I got straight into moving the meal from the sharing platter to my plate, a waste of my time but never mind.

The cauliflower cheese was perfectly done in terms of cooking length – keeping it’s legitimacy despite a hint of softness. It wasn’t particularly cheesy which is something I have learnt to live with, it was rather creamy though.

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Now the wasp was on my table, to the left, and inching ever so slowly towards my hand, and the plate. I froze and considered my options. I decided to entice the wasp onto a packet of sugar, and flicked it away from me.

For the carrots, it was one long carrot cut in half and roasted. I shall repeat – it was roasted. Why don’t more places roast their carrots? This is by far the tastiest way to cook carrots – and Cau went overboard in how exceptional the carrots were – covered with chives, perhaps a very slight hint of chilli. They also seemed to have been roasted in honey. This was a really excellent carrot. The standard has been set.

Sadly the roast potatoes didn’t meet expectations. Well, they did meet expectations as they were not that good and most places fail. I’ve had worse though. It was one potato, say 10cm in length, cut in half and seemingly deep-fried rather than roasted, at least that was how it tasted. It also didn’t seem to be cooked inside enough – they were biteable, not fluffy as they should have been inside.

Then the wasp came back. This time just an inch or two from my right hand and not quite as slowly this time. I repeated my aforementioned trick and tried to put it in the empty cauliflower cheese pot. I failed, it landed on the floor and I squashed it. Sorry. I try not to kill things but I had a situation to manage.

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Onion rings. I’m all for creativity on a roast dinner. Did it make sense? No. Did I enjoy them? Yes. They were freshly prepared and freshly battered rings of delight. Soft yet crispy with a ring of onion inside – but they didn’t work brilliantly well with gravy. I was tempted to ask for a little ketchup. They were excellent onion rings.

The Yorkshire pudding was on the large side – soft on the inside, with well-risen crispy edges. Good work.

Then out of the corner of my eye, on the window, I saw another wasp.

And onto what Cau prides itself on – the beef. Thankfully it was delectable. There were 4 slices, each around 3mm thick – I’d say slightly more generous than the average. It was pink – not overly so and there wasn’t the option to choose otherwise, or at least it wasn’t offered to me. It was very tender and juicy – and it came close to melting in my mouth. Very, very good beef.

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I shall finish on the gravy, and it was a red wine endeavour – this can so easily end up disgusting but they clearly know what they are doing at Cau, it was reasonably thick – only the tiniest pots was provided but extra was forthcoming upon request.

I haven’t moaned much have I? The service was good – unspectacular but good.

But it wasn’t the most comfortable of experiences thanks to the wasps and also the dreadful music being played.

I don’t often mention the music, as generally it is just background music but here it was on rather loud for a restaurant – perhaps to give it an upbeat feel, however the music being played switched backwards and forwards between indie-pop guff and that Spanish-muzak that they play at Las Iguanas. Play me crap music if you want (sorry, I mean music I do not appreciate) but why protrude my dining experience so much?

Overall this was an excellent experience and I cannot wait to go back to try the steak. Hopefully with a friend or two.

Last week, the more I thought about the roast dinner experience, the lower the score went. This time it has increased the more I thought about it – and I’m going to give it a very healthy 8.1 out of 10. By the way, my guess is that Edible Reading will rate it a 7.9.

It is the best roast dinner in Reading town centre by some way.

Next Sunday the random number generator is sending me back to the scene of a recent disaster. I am not amused.

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