Pork @ The Queen’s Oak, Finchampstead 20/03/2016

Sometimes I am the Peter Mandelson of creativity. That is not the case today.

Those of you with a keen memory that have travelled down the M40 may remember the graffiti “Why Do I Do This Every Day?”.

It was painted over, only to be replaced some time later with “Why Do I Still Do This Every Day?”.

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In the same way that I got up, had a shower, made my breakfast, went to work, etc etc this morning, yesterday I woke up and worked out how I was going to accomplish my roast dinner mission with an automation that would make the most autistic autoist autopilot automatically proud.

Why do I do this every week?

I was even more tired yesterday than I am today, after an initial hour-long burst of activity, I was ready to go back to bed by 11am. I soldiered on as I had booked a table at the Queen’s Oak in Finchampstead for midday.

Ahhhh – midday. That should then guarantee good roast potatoes shouldn’t it? Surely there was no chance that they would have been sitting there for hours?

The pub itself was odd and rather weathered – not in a hipster kind of way either. Partitioned into two, arguably beneficial given my fragile state yesterday and the Christening going on in the larger room – according to our table neighbour this would be so they could get into a good school. Yes it was cosy but space was at a premium and it was as if you were sat on the same table as your table neighbours – or at least it seemed that way to my socialist accomplice who kept trying to join in with their conversation. It isn’t the north, my friend.

Anyway, the chairs were plastic. Have you ever bought a plastic crown from Poundland, whilst dressing up as a king/queen? The chairs were something kind of along those lines, sat against walls of nicotine yellow and dark blood red. If I didn’t feel uncomfortable and ill beforehand, I did now.

This is all incidental though. Good food is what matters. There were no menus either online from the equally shabby-looking Wix website, or in the pub itself. There was a specials board but if you wanted to know what was on it, you’d have to go have a look at the board next door as they weren’t going to tell you.

We were miserably advised where our table was, so we toddled off to locate it. It took a good 10 minutes before we were asked what we wanted and offered the option of having a drink. I wasn’t in the slightest dehydrated after a heavy weekend, not at all. Options were pork, beef and lamb. I went for the pork at £11.50 – my accomplice went for the lamb at £12.50.

Things improved after the inauspicious start – the dinner looked decent despite my continually-bad photography.

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The vegetables came in a side-dish so we’ll start there. Both the broccoli and green beans were predictably ordinary. Softer than ideal – the green beans were unusually dark too.

There were a fair few full baby carrots – cooked with roots complete, crunchy and sweet. In fact they were actually a bit larger than baby carrots – I think they have a proper name. The pick of the vegetables by a long way.

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So how about the midday roast potatoes that I had high hopes would not have been sat around for hours turning into a car tyre? Well, they hadn’t been sat around for hours and they weren’t made of rubber either.

However, instead they were quite well-undercooked and not roasted either. The taste and texture was that of a deep-fried potato – they were closer to enlarged flat chips and certainly not what I would call a roast potato.

The Yorkshire pudding was quite bowl-like. Homemade and a touch too thin and crispy in places – a smidgen overdone and burnt on top but overall not too bad despite my unappealing description.

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There were four smallish slices of pork loin. It didn’t really stand out in any way so I blame the Tories because they promised me 5 slices by 2021 but instead they cut this to 4 slices instead of the usual 3 slices. My friend also said that the lamb was good. Then again he thought that the “roast” potatoes were really good too. Oh yeah and he votes Labour.

Thanks to Iain Duncan-Smith’s resignation, the cuts were reversed and stuffing was provided both with the pork and lamb dishes. This was a ball of joy – homemade, packed full of herbtastic taste.

I even had Steven Crabb crackling which was edible despite me having been attacked by the evil Tory dentist earlier in the week. A mixture of crunch and soft fat, this was quite delicious.

But not a patch on the pig in blanket which was just drool-worthy. I probably was dribbling. I am possibly still dribbling now. It was again homemade sausage meat – stumpy but fat – a bit like Eric Pickles. Sorry, Sir Eric Pickles MBE.

I appreciate that my review didn’t flow this week. I’m not even going to attempt to improve it apart from to check spelling/grammar mistakes of which there was a record amount.

Gosh I had forgotten about the gravy. My socialist friend said it was like a jus. It wasn’t. It was quite a thick, gloopy gravy. There was almost none on the plate but it came with a large gravy boat. Fairly ordinary but ordinary gravy is most acceptable. I’m really not firing on all cylinders today, am I?

What they did well at The Queens Oak pub (be careful if using your sat nav trying to locate this place) they did well – in particular my favourite being the pig in blanket. The deep fried potatoes were below par and not enjoyable. It was a pretty northern affair – I’d be tempted to rate it a Featherstone.

I’m going to give it a 7.4 out of 10. Were it not for the little extras, then it would have been around a 6.2.

Next weekend I’m up north again – the weekend after I’m clubbing so you might have to wait 3 weeks until the next review. But after the linguistic crapness of this review, I doubt that you will be crying into your gravy.

Oh yeah there was a parsnip too.  There was something not quite right about it – perhaps it was deep fried too.

Can I go back to bed?

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No I cannot be bothered to rotate it.

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Beef @ The Baskerville, Shiplake 13/03/2016

In years to come, I expect that you’ll look back on this period of your life as a rather special couple of years, thanks to my almost-weekly roast dinner reviews.

For what else can provide you with such joy, love and ecstasy on a Monday? This Monday being an exception, of course, assuming your partner realises that it is the 14th March (Google ‘14th March’ if you are not aware of what I’m on about). Given that I was completely unsuccessful with my offer of buying dinner for someone on Valentine’s Day, I have not attempted to find anyone to cook me steak tonight. I did, however once watch a dwarf give himself a blow job at Manumission in Ibiza.

Which leads me nicely onto yet another utterly grim experience that I put myself through this week for my beloved readers – a rail replacement bus.

I could have got the modern, Reading buses bus from next to my house but no, for the sake of saving £2.15 I walked 30 minutes to Bracknell train station to catch the rail replacement bus and was apparently the only one to buy a ticket. I sat upstairs and immediately was overcome with fart. Right behind me were a group of troublesome tossers, assumedly from the shithole that is Ascot.

The random number generator chose The Baskerville in Shiplake, which I had hoped would be provide a good roast dinner, as I had a guest in tow this week, not to mention it was on the pricey side at £18.00 for the beef, £17.00 for the lamb and £15.00 for the pork.

The Baskerville is split into a small bar area showing a non-existent sport, with a much larger restaurant area with sturdy tables and chairs, candles and weird stick things in small vases. For some reason it seemed as though the ceiling was much higher than it was.

A 10-15 minute wait ensued once we were seated, having arrived quite some time before our booking – the roast was supplied on a plate with a relatively small bowl of vegetables to be shared – though more was forthcoming upon request, for free.

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Starting with the more ordinary vegetables, the large clumps of cauliflower were quite on the crunchy side – the smaller bunches of broccoli being a little on the soft side. Both very ordinary but acceptable.

Then came the honey-roasted carrots and parsnips. Too strong a taste of honey for me, too strong a taste of thyme for my dining partner, yet I don’t want this to detract from the extra effort that had gone into this part of the dish. All too often carrots are served so boringly. Boring these were not.

Almost slightly complex in taste, I enjoyed them but couldn’t eat too many of them. The honey perhaps not complimenting the parsnips so much and they were also quite under-roasted – the carrots being close to perfection in that regard. I definitely appreciated the herbs – maybe my dining partner had simply enjoyed too many ‘herbs’ already during the weekend.

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I really am getting worse at photography.

Sadly the roast potatoes were of the “if only I had booked a table for midday” variety. Roasted, yes but not recently, and hence were rather rubbery in texture. Only 3 but I wouldn’t want any more.

Saviour came with the Yorkshire pudding which was the best I’ve had in well over a year. As close to perfect as they get down here, a fairly large size with a crispy enough texture on the edge, soft but not too soft on the bottom. And somehow the taste was just divine. I don’t know how they managed it – there was just something different about it.  Wow.

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And the beef was, thankfully, excellent too. My brows on fleek were raised somewhat when I saw that it was medium cooked rather than my preference of rare but this didn’t detract from 3 very pleasant slices of good-quality matured beef.

My accomplice originally requested the leg of lamb but they had run out – so had to replace it with lamb shank.  What a delightful disaster as the lamb shank was packed full of meat – a proper bone from a proper animal, pink and just delightful to taste.

Finally the gravy was fine.  A thin meat-stock affair that was totally inoffensive.  Us Northerners have to accept that you lot don’t like your gravy to resemble cement so as long as it is gravy, I’ll accept without much complaint.

So, a good roast dinner – poor roast potatoes, amazing Yorkshire pudding.  On the Yorkshire-Surrey scale it rates around a Stanton-On-The-Wolds.

In fact, the drug-ravaged beauty that accompanied me to dinner, even managed to finish all of her dinner.  If you can stomach a full roast dinner after a very fun weekend of nightclubs and after-parties, that is a sign of a good dinner.  I had no difficulties in stomaching mine after spending 80% of my waking time coding websites.  Which should be less fun but I seem to enjoy it a lot.

I’m going to give the roast dinner a 7.6 out of 10 – a notch higher too due to the excellent service that we had throughout.  It was a very enjoyable dinner, with imperfections, but a super host from Tadcaster.  Now that is a proper town.

And then I got a rail replacement bus back which was built in the 1960’s, probably by British Rail and stank of damp (well British Leyland made trains so why not the other way around?).  Apparently people want the return of British Rail.  One assumes these people never travelled by train or bus before privatisation.  Before I go I would like to leave you with a tourist tip – the city of the future is Hull.  Make sure you get your holiday booked.  They still have these buses in Hull.  It still smells of fish in places.  And occasionally, chemicals.

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This may or may not be the bus that I caught back to Bracknell.

Next weekend is my turn to be a drug-ravaged beauty.  The random number generator has picked somewhere quite abominable but I think I might over-rule it.  Or maybe just stay in bed smoking viagra so I can…no that is a step too far even for me.

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On Tour Episode 1 of Probably 1

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but not only has Edible Reading declined to provide you with a local restaurant review, I also were otherwise engaged this weekend – on retox. Not even Get Reading managed to accidentally bump into the managing director of an establishment to co-incidentally bring you yet another unsurprisingly gushing review of the local chicken shop. And Shit Things doesn’t eat out, except for the occasional bag of pork scratching.

That said, I did eat out quite a few times this weekend and I like to bore people more than a friendly game between England and San Marino so here are some words about eating out elsewhere.

First up on Friday night was a trip to Cau, in Reading, paid for by those people who fund my crystal meth addiction in return for me sitting at a desk 37.5 hours a week and not a minute longer, looking pretty and occasionally having an argument with a customer. It was the first half of our reward for achieving our year-end cash collection target. The second half of our reward being getting sacked.

In case you don’t know, this is a proper Argentinian restaurant in the Oracle, which despite being a chain, I had very high hopes for. If they can do a roast dinner in the 8’s, then they had to know their steak. Despite it being a steak restaurant, they do other meals too though I didn’t even bother looking. If I’m not paying then I’m having the most expensive steak feasible, which was the Asado De Chorizo steak. There was a feast option at around £85 but I decided that proper surpassed any feasibility study, unless Tony Page decided to take another long and expensive look at changing the IDR to a one-way system.

We sensibly decided that a starter would be too ambitious, but had some bread with humous which I don’t care to spell correctly – I actually have some in my fridge for reason that I am unaware of and probably should delete the sentence for. It was glorious, with some herbs and possibly mushrooms mixed in. If I wasn’t already a convert to glorified mushy chick-peas, I now was.

Then after a more-than-palatable 30 minute wait, a big lump of meat arrived. The waiter advised me against rare, as due to the size of it, the centre would be uncooked, and he was right, as the centre was pretty close to uncooked on a medium rare.

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The chorizo glaze was just magnificent and the steak was melt-in-your-mouth kind of fantastic. I did have a bit of a tough fatty side in places, but this was just a minor demeanour to a monstrous 500g steak. There were thick-cut chips too though I do not actually remember anything about them. Maybe it was the house Malbec – gloriously fruity such as it was, maybe they were just utterly unimportant.

A sensible person would have hoisted their imaginary white flag at this point (unfortunately my imagination was too slow to buy a Falklands flag from Ebay though I did look into it) – dessert was being paid for so dessert was being eaten. I had the cheesecake which was very nice, though again I’m struggling to remember much about it. I also tried the churros which were either poor, or everyone I’ve spoken to has talked up churros and they are not that great a dessert (or breakfast, as mi compañero Español insistes) – these were quite dry and seemingly not freshly made.

Service was exceptional throughout, very attentive and spirited – almost seemingly as excited to be there as we were.

I’ve had few better dining experiences in my life (though obviously most dining experiences are very average roast dinners) and I so highly recommend this place at a 9.2 out of 10.

Next up was a stinkingly striking contrast at the National Dining Rooms in the National Gallery.

Believe it or not, I have actually been to a couple of art galleries in my life. I tend to look at a painting for 2 seconds, decide it is nice, and look at the next one for 2 seconds, decide it is nice, then look at the next one for 2 seconds, decide it is nice and look at the next one for 2 seconds, decide it is nice and look at the next one for 2 seconds, decide it is nice and look at the next one for 2 seconds, decide it is nice and then wait 10 minutes for my friend to finish looking at them so we can move into the next room and repeat the process, then move into the next room and repeat the process, then move into the next room and repeat the process, then move into the next room and repeat the process. Feel like you are watching England vs San Marino yet?

I also went to the Tate Modern once and that was bewilderingly boring.

Minor hangover in place, there was no requirement to grow a beard and pretend to be cultured, so I just met my family at the restaurant. With much alcohol ahead of me, a main meal was required, though the menu was limited in that respect. I chose the fish pie.

Bad move. Those with nut allergies are generally advised on the menu which dishes have nuts included. Vegan and vegetarians are catered for as are those with gluten-intolerances. But what about those of us with pea phobias? And it isn’t just me with a pea phobia.

Yes the fish pie came packed full of peas. Not just one or two – but dozens of the bastards. I fished out the bits of haddock, and rare miniscule flakes of salmon, but sadly this was mostly inedible. I doubt I would have been impressed had it been pea-free either. Once finished, I sat there, desperate for a pea, sorry, pee, for a good 20 minutes, waiting for my opportunity to tell the waiter of my disappointment. I finally went to empty my bladder at which point they collected the plates.  Oh and I should mention the green beans, which was actually exceptionally soggy cabbage – holding more water than the Mosul Dam.

Despite my moderate incandescence, I soldiered onto dessert. I had a scone which was dry and slightly over-baked, though somewhat tempered by a tiny triangle of clotted cream and a large pot of strawberry jam.

The service took longer than some of the paintings, and throughout was exceptionally slow – drinks sat waiting on the bar for collection 10+ minutes each time. I might have forgiven had the really hot waitress been serving us – thankfully my sister had the gumption to refuse the 10% service charge…and nearly even collected our drinks from the bar.

A really disappointing experience, and we should have gone to a Wetherspoons – 2.5 out of 10.

In the evening I headed north-east to The Clapton Hart. This is an Oakford Social Club kind of place but a couple of notches up on the quality – a pub for a younger but chav-free crowd, with a suspiciously permanent queue for the cubicles and hardly anyone using the urinals, disco music farting out of the small, incapable 1940’s speakers with more tables than mis-matched school teacher’s room chairs. Oh but you do get served at the bar efficiently.

I originally had no intention of eating here, but a few flakes of haddock and a crap scone was not going to get me through to the after-party to spend hours watching people drunkenly mistake ketamine for cocaine, so I ordered burger and chips. The chips were the triple-cooked kind that all hipster places do – I was expecting them stacked neatly jenga-style but instead they were slovenly piled up. Nice chips though. The burger was in what I imagine a brioche bun to be without ever having had one – the burger itself fell apart ingloriously half-way through yet was a decent homemade effort, replete with cheap vinegar-based ketchup.

Decent but you probably read about it with as much interest as I ate it. 6.5 out of 10.

Last but not least was the Human Traffic experience – Sunday Lunch with the parents after a heavy night out – albeit I had had not gone clubbing or done any ecstasy.

The location was The Three Stags close to Lambeth – a small diamond of a boozer in a suitably rough location.

It wasn’t easy to find somewhere unpretentious to book in advance on Mother’s Day – many places we tried were fully booked. If only there was a roast dinner blogger in London. Maybe there will be one day, maybe there will. I’ve only been threatening to move there for 12 years now.

For £21.00 I had the roast lamb (I’ll also need a significant pay rise if I’m to review roast dinners in London!). It was well presented – sadly with too slightly crunchy vegetables, anaemic white roast potatoes (though actually roasted), a large yet slightly dry and rubbery Yorkie (a bit like the insides of my mouth), along with a slightly odd tasting gravy.

Of which, of course there was not enough.

On the bright side, the portions were plentiful, the cauliflower cheese very good, as was the meat – both the lamb and the beef were very nice – particularly the peppered beef – another ordering misteak from me as I clearly should have had the beef.

A 6.2 out of 10.

And then it was time for a walk in the hail to go catch a train to bed.

Hopefully you made it through my first and probably only episode of RDAR On Tour.

Next weekend I am back on duty and going to lunch with two boner fide hotties – no I’m not getting a threesome before you ask – two very good friends. And hopefully if Reading’s number one weather forecaster is right, we might even get sat outside in some pleasant sunshine for the first time this year.

More importantly, Edible Reading is back too – with a review of Cosmo. I have a sneaky suspicion that he won’t find it quite as abominable as she is expecting. I haven’t been invited to join he/she for what is the local culinary occasion of 2016.

I should finish by clarifying that I have not been sacked. Yet.

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Test number 2

This is a second test – sorry – trying something new!

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