Venison @ The Butcher’s Arms

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Woohaaaaaaaaaaa! Wowzers! It’s time to stick 100 candles on a roast potato.

No I haven’t got laid – something even more unexpectedly glorious than that – Wetherspoons are no longer doing roast dinners.

Take your tops off and have a dance. Alas, they are still serving “food” and people still choose to go there over a well-run homely country pub, but bit by bit, we can change the world. I’m taking full credit for this wonderful achievement, which is almost as important to society as when dear Maggie took away that dreadful school milk that the communists tried to feed us. Though I guess you can have a bit of credit too, especially those who like, share, retweet and invite their friends (hint hint) to follow my literary masterpieces – if the first Harry Potter book only sold a few copies, there wouldn’t be a whole series of them nor hundreds of people milling around making King’s Cross train station even busier than it need be just to get a photo of some platform sign.

Speaking of well-run country pubs, this week the random number generator picked The Butcher’s Arms in Sonning Common. Not Sonning. It is not in Sonning. Until yesterday, I had assumed that Sonning Common was just another name for Sonning. It definitely is a different area.

Do you want to see my nipples?

I fancied an adventure and it sure was an adventure. Setting off from Bracknell at midday – no trains so I took the bus. Buses really are not very easy to code websites on. But they do have much better wi-fi than the shambolic South West Trains’ effort – and also have USB charging points. A bit different to the buses of fear that I used to catch in Hull as a child.

Back on track, I then had a near two-hour walk to the pub, in the pleasant late winter sunshine. The roast needed to be good. Is needed really a word?

The pub itself is set slightly off a country road, with a large garden area perfect for the summer, and also a children’s play area – thoughtfully separate from the nice garden.

A warm glow from the open fire permeated my cold hands upon arrival. The pub itself was split between a main bar area, quite rustic and old-looking, and a slightly more modern restaurant area, yet they didn’t feel distinct from each other like these pub/restaurant splits often can.

I was soon sat down with a menu – I could have got away without booking in advance but always quite risky to do so after a long journey. The options were venison, beef, pork and chicken – they all sounded good, particularly the pork and the chicken, yet there was only one option really open to someone who constantly bemoans the lack of creativity in Berkshire roast dinners.

Not only that, but the menu made a point of advising the freshly made roast potatoes, along with 7 different vegetables – a record that will not be beaten, and plenty of gravy.

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Prior to arriving, I’d had no expectations – I always try to resist the temptation of checking Trip Advisor. Now I had high expectations.

Right. Where to start?

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There were 4, maybe 5 thick slices of carrot, with a slight hint of butter and more crunchy than your average carrot. Not much to say about the broccoli, it was a standard steamed chunk.

After that the vegetables started to get more interesting. The swede and carrot mash was mushy.

The red cabbage was really good. Either I’m growing to like it or they had a special trick to make it more appealing, to add to the fruitiness of it – I’d suggest nutmeg but I’m really not sure.

There was a piece of cauliflower cheese, which as often happens, was more creamy than cheesy, and even seemed a tad neon.

The spring greens really worked with the gravy, but the pick of the bunch of vegetables was the leeks – soft, buttery and just gliding onto my tongue. Close to leeky perfection – why don’t more places do leeks?

So far, so good. But we all know what comes next. Roast potatoes.

Now they were freshly made, and soft on the inside. But only one of the three had elements of crispy edges. Good potatoes but not roasted enough.

The YP was homemade, it hadn’t risen much but I’m not overly fussed on that. Good texture, it held the gravy well and didn’t end up too soggy for it. Good.

Portion size was clearly not something they scrimped on, which is useful when you have a hungry northerner on your doorstep, and there were a good 3 large and thick slices of venison. Probably too much for some.

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Venison is not a meat that I often have – probably the first time I have reviewed it and I found it rather earthy at times. The taste seemed to vary depending on what part of the slice I ate, sometimes kind of a cross between rabbit and beef, other times close to liver – one little bit was somewhat unappealing but mostly it was very enjoyable. Also very tender and easy to pull apart.

I actually have a friend who is a butcher. He offered me 8 legs of venison for £40.

Is that two deer?

Moving on quicker than Bambi, the gravy which was a very nice home-made meat stock affair, had a good consistency for southern standards, it wasn’t especially thick but enough to please, yet was simply very good gravy.  Saying there was plenty of gravy is like saying there is plenty of food in Zimbabwe, but a wink and a nod later (and maybe one or two threats from my Zanu-PF henchmen) I had a boat all to myself.  A gravy boat that is, not a proper boat.  Speaking of corrupt bastards in southern Africa, have you seen Zuma’s mansion?

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And that was that. Or it would have been had I not been tempted by a dessert. Normally I’m not fussed but there are one or two things that I find hard to resist, and strawberry white chocolate cheesecake is one. Homemade heaven. By far the best dessert I’ve had all year.  Ooooh crossing into Edible Reading’s territory – next thing you know I’ll be doing a monthly vegetarian roast.  A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha get in the cement mixer.

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So for £14.95, I’d had a very well portioned and tasty roast dinner. I’m going to give it a 7.9 out of 10. The highlight was the leeks – the lowlight was probably the carrots if I’m forced at gunpoint but nothing at all was bad about the roast. It was in fact, a very, very enjoyable hour I spent there – I wish I could have visited in the summer instead, and had a couple of pints in the sunshine.  On a Yorkshire-Surrey scale – it gets a Leek.

Go. Give it a try. You’ll be glad you took notice of me.

Next weekend is start of my retox, following 36 days without booze and crack.  I’m intending on getting absolutely smashed all weekend and the chance of there being anything to review next Sunday, is even more minimal than the music I play (minimal techno).  I’ll most likely be back the week after.

Do you think I should shave my chest hair off before I start showing off my nipples?

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Duck @ The Greyhound, Finchampstead 21/02/2016

Duck @ The Greyhound, Finchampstead 21/02/2016

I came up with a great introduction on Friday for this roast review. I have forgotten what it was.

I’m not feeling especially comedic today so maybe I’ll just get down to business. I can hear your collective sigh of relief.

I’d tried to book a table at The Greyhound a couple of weeks ago, despite there only being one train every two hours, and then a 50 minute walk from the station. Sadly they were fully booked. I took that as a good sign.

Travelling back from Hull yesterday, I had no intention of anything that involved a second mission – had I no accomplice, I doubt I would have bothered at all.

Thankfully, driver in place, we set off to our pre-booked table, despite the attempts of Hull Trains to delay me, albeit only by 35 minutes this time as opposed to 4 hours on Christmas Eve. And then I had to wait 8 minutes for a tube train. 8 minutes. Seriously. What are TFL playing at?

We were warmed greeted by our host, who even offered to take our jackets. My immediate thoughts were that this was a little more upmarket than the boy from ‘Ull is used to. I was confident of a well-presented roast dinner. But would it be any good?

Three roast dinners were on offer; Aberdeen Angus rump of beef, Hampshire pork loin and honey & orange glazed duck breast. It had to be the duck at £16.50. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the first ever Roast Dinners Around Reading duck review. I do try not to eat duck because I would like to be re-incarnated as a duck. Well, I’d like to be re-incarnated as a human ideally, maybe a Jamaican gangster, but a duck is my second choice.

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Oh I did say no talking crap didn’t I?

There was a fair wait for our roast dinners, maybe 20 minutes or so, I didn’t time it, as we watched dish after dish come out for what looked like quite an exquisite buffet. Certainly not the type of buffet you’d get in Hull.

Don’t forget – longer waits are a good sign.

Once the dinner arrived, it was immaculately presented, as I had expected.

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Firstly there was something I’d never even seen before – which looked like the vegetable equivalent of a dinosaur. Extra points not only for novelty but for introducing me to something new – I couldn’t work out if it was closer to cauliflower or broccoli. Taste-wise it was closer to cauliflower, albeit not so strong. Quite crunchy too.

Gosh I’m going into a second paragraph for a vegetable. Wikipedia doesn’t help me understand what to classify this as. To quote, “Romanesco broccoli, also known as Roman cauliflower, Broccolo Romanesco, Romanesque cauliflower or simply Romanesco”. So I shall call it Dinosaur Cauliflower. So happy to have had something inventive on the roast. Hint, hint chefs.

And a third paragraph. Even better than that, the number of spirals on the head of the Dinosaur Cauliflower is a Fibonacci number. You do know what a Fibonacci number is, don’t you?

Accompanying this was a collection of “roots”. Initially I was expecting that, just some plant roots, or maybe tree roots. Until I “twigged”. Sorry.

There were only a few of each, all roasted, all succulent, all bordering on excellent. The carrots were the pick, sliced lengthways and wonderfully buttery. Or maybe the parsnips were the pick with their sweetness. The swede wasn’t the pick but it was good, nonetheless. If I were being picky, then maybe the parsnips could have done with a few more minutes roasting.

I nearly forgot to mention it but there were a few leaves of spinach – deliciously buttery. Why wasn’t there more spinach?!

So far, so very good. But could they pass the roast potato test?

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Just about. The potatoes were roasted properly and tasted good. Perhaps roasted in duck fat – there was a hint of having been cooked in something nicer, but not strong. That said, they were on the cold side – had I gone for the roast a few hours before, I’d probably have been very impressed with them. Fairly crispy on the outside, fairly soft on the inside, with just a hint of rosemary and cracked pepper. Good but not perfect.

The Yorkshire pudding was disappointing. Though it had risen some way, it was dry, overcooked, a little chewy and ultimately pointless.

Alas, the gravy was also uninspiring. That said, these more upmarket places can ruin gravy by doing wanky jus, and this wasn’t a jus, just justifiably a thin, watery inoffensive gravy. Fine but given the quality on offer elsewhere on the plate, my expectations were not met.

Did you know Donald Duck used to smoke?

I’m going to struggle to describe how good the duck was. It was sliced into 6mm pieces, cooked close to a medium-rare with enough pink showing. The meat itself was tender, juicy, with a slight layer of fat and skin on the top which just added to the joy. The flavouring was evident throughout but never too much.

Everything about the duck was top notch. I have indeed struggled to explain just how good it was.

I did also swap a slice of duck for a slice of beef, and can confirm that was excellent too, a hint of pepper on the edge, and very red throughout.

Ahhhh. And relax. I’ve had a very good roast dinner. If the YP and gravy had impressed, it would have been challenging for a top 3 position. Again, if I were being picky then I’d have liked a little more quantity – I was still quite hungry afterwards and ended up having a dessert. Though I guess that is a sign of a good restaurant.

The service really was excellent throughout, from greeting to goodbye, the staff earned their tip and our (cute) waitress had brows on fleek. I really hope you do not understand that last comment.

So much of the meal was enjoyable, but the duck was just a level above. The YP was the disappointment. On the Yorkshire-Surrey scale it rates a Windsor.

And numbers? A nice round 8.0 out of 10.

Next weekend’s location depends on whether I have guests. I have found myself a nice little walk to do, as I fancy a walk in the countryside but only if I’m by myself.

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“Chicken” at Running Horse, Bracknell 14/02/2016

He went where on Valentine’s Day?  A Hungry Horse pub? At the very least, I know Edible Reading is mouthing those exact words. And maybe you are too.

Bad times: My last review had the lowest amount of readers during its first week than any other review in recent months.

Bad bad times: I didn’t even get one application to join me for the Valentine’s Roast Dinner. Which is to be expected, as half of my readers are either male or happily married females, the other half are homosexual.

They are now, anyway, as I seem to be getting reposted on Reading’s premier LGBT website. I could be part of the gang – I’d be very happy to represent the “L” in LGBT.

So much so that in desperation on Saturday night, I tried to open an account on Brenda, but the photograph of my manboobs was rejected for being too male. Do women not have copious volumes of chest hair down south? I then tried uploading a picture of Margaret instead, but again it was rejected for being too male.

Even Margaret wasn’t having any of it. Stiffer and more wooden than ever, she sulkily refused to even talk to me yesterday, let alone go out to dinner with me.

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Thankfully, my favourite homosexual socialist rescued me from the ignominy of eating alone on Valentine’s Day, and as I was determined to treat Valentine’s Day with the respect it deserves, the Hungry Horse in Bracknell was the only sensible choice – despite my accomplice’s pleas to go to a Wetherspoons instead.

We pulled up to what looked like a miserable pub, in a miserable area of a miserable town. I really wanted to photograph the exceptionally fat young woman smoking on the steps outside to greet us, but public humiliation of anyone other than myself, isn’t really my style. Unless they cook shit roast dinners.

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Inside we were immediately surrounded by screaming children running around in circles. Unbelievably (or maybe not), some people were actually here on a date. And occasionally there where yelps of joy from beyond the bar area – but that was due to London Spurs beating Manchester Hunter in the soccerball game, as opposed to any romantic moments.

The options on the menu were gammon steaks, chicken breasts, lamb shank, beef topside or butternut squash and sage bake. I figured that chicken was the option they could fuck up the least. You could either have a classic version – 2 for £10, or a big plate. I went large which was £7.69…not sure if there was a special offer on that or not, as my bill did seem a couple of quid lower than it should have been. Different meats were slightly differently priced – the gammon being the cheapest at just short of 7 of your earth pounds.

It took less than 10 minutes to arrive and it looked as miserable as expected.

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Firstly, carrots. Now I do actually have something constructive to say this week. They were very thinly sliced and fell apart as soon as they came into contact with the fork. Sadly no spoon was provided.

The cauliflower was also close to mush and absolutely free of taste.

At least the green beans had some kind of structure to them, though again had been in water far too long and were rather soft, not to mention a kind of dirty green colour.

Eeeeeuurrrggh. Worse was to come as despite having asked for no peas, I discovered two little green devils hidden away in the treasure-trove of delights.

At this point, I was wondering if there was a reason this had been served with a selection of condiments in the dirty silver cutlery bucket – were they recommending the ketchup, mayonnaise, etc?

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There were 5 roast potatoes. All best described as anaemic, plastic and rubbery, with minimal microwaved warmth, not to mention being on the dry side.

Speaking of dry – the chicken. I have never, ever been served, seen or tasted such dry chicken in my life. They might not have been originally cooked this year. They didn’t even taste of chicken – though there was some kind of vaguely sweet chargrill taste to them – like a poor man’s Bird’s Eye Chargrilled Chicken breasts. I really struggled to eat the second one. I have absolutely no idea why I bothered, other than that northern stubbornness to not waste food. Was it actually food?

With all of the above stated, I still had high hopes for the giant Yorkshire Pudding. Why would you accept a small yorkie when you can have a giant yorkie? Sadly, the outer edges were difficult to tear, and the base had soaked up all the brown water, becoming a soft yet stodgy layer of batter. And yes – I ate all of it. I am mincing as I re-read this. Or should that be wincing?

As you may have worked out, the brown water was the gravy. It was water. It happened to be coloured brown – hopefully from some addition of Bisto. Like the rest of the meal, I garnered little or no taste from it. I had also asked for extra gravy and it was served to me in a soup bowl. A soup bowl.

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Nobody asked me how my meal was. And yes, I would have told them.

There were so many highlights to choose from. Leaving was one. That it wasn’t quite as bad as the Wetherspoons is another. I’m not lacking in lowlights either – I’m going to choose the food as the main disappointment of the experience. It was quite a northern affair – I’ll give it a River Humber geolocation tag.

If you have little money, don’t care about taste and are happy to get fat, then give it a whirl. A 1.4 out of 10 seems most appropriate for this Valentine’s vaginaplasty of rot.

My disappointment was further fulfilled as I hoped for a toilet door to kick down but someone had beaten me to it. I did try to steal one of the fake metal horses on the way out but sadly they were screwed down.

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Next Sunday depends on whether I have some company. If I don’t, then I might just make myself a salad.

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Lamb Shank @ Waggon & Horses, Twyford 07/02/2016

I haven’t reviewed anywhere in Twyford to this point so I was excited to be planning to go to The Golden Cross – home of legendary parties called Sticky Wicket that neither you or I were ever cool enough to know about.

Until we called (yes “we”, I do occasionally manage to drag someone out with me) in advance and found out that they are no longer doing food.

Not to worry, we set upon the Waggon & Horses instead. Three options on the menu – beef or pork for £10.95, or a lamb shank for £12.95. I love a good shank so I plumped for that. And I don’t mean the Urban Dictionary definition of shank. Not the one about stabbing people, or golf, but the one about, erm, how do I putt this…erm about slipping out and accidentally going up the back passage.

Erm. Yeah. Anyone putting gravy on their pancakes this week?

Oooh that’s a thought, and an excellent way to change the subject. Lent starts this week. What are you going to give up?

I welcome your suggestions as to what I give up. In previous years, I have given up paper clips, zebra crossings and French swear words. All more difficult that you would expect.

The only thing I can think of right now is black socks. The detox means that I haven’t been smoking drugs recently so I’m really struggling for my usual creative inspiration.

Hi Dad, happy birthday!

So after a 10 or so minute wait with Rick Astley’s radio show in our ears, the dinner arrived.

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Carrots. Carrots. Carrots. Carrots.
Carrots. Carrots.
Carrots. Carrots. Carrots. Carrots.
Carrots. Carrots.
Carrots. Carrots. Carrots. Carrots. Carrots. Carrots. Carrots. Carrots. Carrots. Carrots. Carrots. Carrots. I must smoke some acid. Hi mum.

That is all I have to say on that subject. There wasn’t much to say about the broccoli either – it was fine. Don’t worry, my mum doesn’t read this. Though my dad occasionally reads it out to my grandma.

There was a little pile of cabbage which was seemingly blanched enough. It was again fairly bland but edible.

It wasn’t all this uninspiring though. There was also a yellowish mashed pile of something, I think swede, although I’m used to it being orange, which was quite succulently buttery. Best swede ever?

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A whole four roast potatoes accompanied dinner, and they were on the large size too. And, guess what? They were crispy on some of the sides. These could have been the best roast potatoes that I’ve been served for a while but sadly they were somewhat uncooked on the inside.

The YP was just one of those standard manufactured affairs bought in the thousands and stuck in the oven for 4 minutes.

As I suspect, was the lamb shank. Firstly, it was suspiciously hot. You don’t get it that hot from having freshly oven-cooked it. It had been in the microwave. And I wonder if it was one of those pre-prepared affairs that simply need microwaving? Secondly, it tasted odd, too. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but it really was not what I was expecting.

At least the gravy was a reasonable home-made affair with enough consistency to be acceptable.

Am I done? I think so. Actually, I swapped some lamb for some beef with my accomplice, and the beef was much nicer than the lamb. Tender, juicy and quite pink in the middle.

Now I’m done. The highlight was, oddly, the swede. The lowlight was the odd lamb shank. It gets an Aberystwyth. Oooh just one letter out from spelling it without the spellchecker.

Overall another so-so affair that leaves me questioning why I bother. I’m going to give it a 5.9 out of 10. Had I had the beef instead, it would have scored a bit higher – I really wasn’t keen on the lamb. It just seemed so factory. And I’m not talking The Hit Factory.


Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down,
Never gonna change the blog and eat desserts, you,
Never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye,
But I might have to stop reviewing roast dinners.

Next week is my romantic Valentine’s roast dinner. Or I might just shank myself due to overwhelming misery.

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Beef @ Plough And Harrow, Warfield 31/01/2016

Another week, another roast. This week I was quite looking forward to the random number generator’s choice, however I called in the morning to book a table – and it was fully booked. I guess it must be good.

I span again and was chosen a place in Warfield – the Plough And Harrow. I called and booked a table for one – he laughed when I said for one. Is it that weird to eat in a pub by oneself?

The pub is a short walk north of Bracknell, just off Osborne Lane – assumedly renamed in celebration of our great chancellor – who by the way, will not be the next Conservative leader. Not a chance.

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Anyway, back to Roast Dinners Around Bracknell.

Talking about doing weird things in a pub, I ordered a J2O. I am on detox until early March – no booze, no caffeine, no bacon – not even any crack cocaine. It does feel quite weird sitting in a pub by oneself drinking a non-alcoholic drink. It wasn’t helped by the drink being warm either – until I had the brilliant idea of asking for some ice. Genius.

Nearly as brilliant an idea as offering the chance to go on a date with me on Valentine’s Day. I have about as many applications as I expected so far – there is definitely room for more. If you need a reminder of the application criteria – check last week’s review.

After a short wait at an unoccupied bar, the assumed landlady warmly greeted me, offered me a choice of pork or beef, darling – it had to be the beef given how often I’ve had pork of late, darling. Yes, everything was darling, darling. I do like the warmth of darling. I’m guessing the meal was around £12.50 but I forgot to check the price, darling.

The pub itself, darling, was quite small and cosy, though with annoyingly light blue pastel walls. It looked a tad naff in places – the toilets reminding me of an old football ground toilets, but nothing was amiss – although why I used a pub toilet on detox is another matter – I guess I could have snorted some gravy powder. Darling.

It did seem to be a locals pub – though delightfully, they advertise on their website that they had parking for horses. How do you park a horse?

Sadly I am too horseless to be able to test that.

10-15 minutes passed and my roast dinner arrived. It looked decent enough, and came with a side bowl of gravy without me even needing to ask.

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There were a generous four vegetable offerings. Three of them were fairly innocuous – the standard carrot batons were ordinary – the large head of broccoli was pleasant yet undistinct.

The sizeable dollop of mashed swede was fairly pointless, like Bill Turnbull on BBC Breakfast. It was somewhat fruity, slightly nutty – it didn’t have the strongest taste to it, though I’m not generally keen anyway. Swedish ladies on the other hand…

Finally, for vegetables (unless you count potatoes), there was a little cauliflower cheese. More cream than cheese – in fact no evidence of cheese at all, from what I could taste. The cauliflower itself was on the soft side, as was the broccoli, but not too much so – it held its shape without having any crunch.

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Moving on to the roast potatoes, and I was hopeful from looking at them as they looked roasted. They had crispy outsides, albeit finely bobbled – though inside was slightly more solid than one would expect. Not overly so, but enough to detract slightly. They also tasted and felt like they had been in a deep fat fryer – I hope I am not being unfair as these were reasonable roast potatoes. Regular readers will know how much difficulty there is in finding good roast potatoes.

Oh wait a minute – a fifth vegetable! I nearly forgot the parsnips. They were small, sweet and succulent – and roasted too.

There were two slices of beef, around 3mm thick, and 12cm in diameter. Whilst the beef was good quality topside, it was overcooked with just an inkling of pink in the middle. A shame but still a nice piece of beef.

Then there was a proper homemade Yorkshire pudding, verging on a medium size and in terms of texture and taste, it was pretty close to perfect.

The gravy was an average meat-stock based affair – rather on the watery side too.

Overall it was a decent enough roast dinner. Nothing particularly to complain about – but likewise nothing especially stood out, bar the excellent Yorkshire pudding, which was my highlight. I guess the watery gravy was the lowlight, but as I said, nothing was overly bad. Bingham.

A solid unspectacular roast that gets a solid 6.7 out of 10. Definitely nothing weird about it at all, except that guy in the corner by himself.

Next Sunday there is a plan to go to a pub which used to have a bit of a reputation for parties around 10 years ago. I don’t have high expectations. But that plan could change, especially if there is nowhere to park my horse, darling.

Neeeeeeiiiiiiggggghhhhh. Roast me up, darling.

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