Pork @ Hind’s Head, Bray 17/04/2016

The Crown in Playhatch was one of the very first roast dinners that I reviewed. It hasn’t been topped. I’ve even gone back there to check that I didn’t over-rate it, and I did mark it a very slight fraction less the second time around, but like Bryan Adams, it still remains number one. Oh like a virgin, roasted for the very first time.

Oh that was Madonna wasn’t it? I went to Berlin once. More than once, actually, as it used to be the centre of minimal techno – my favourite music genre.  I’ve been twice.  Anyway, there were three of us, really into our underground music. We’d missed our flight on Saturday morning as my friends (now amicable ex-friends) were dicking around in the airport and they closed the gate, surprise surprise as I told them they would if we didn’t hurry up.

Warning – this story is quite long. We were re-booked onto a flight the next day and come the evening tried to go clubbing. The first place that we went to, we were told that we were way too sober – the people inside had been on it for several days.

Then we tried to get into Berghain – arguably the most famous of the Berlin clubs, certainly with the most famously impossible door-policy. The lights and music were on but we couldn’t even find a way to get rejected.

Running out of ideas, it was Sunday night, we headed towards this office block in the centre of Berlin which had a nightclub on the 11th floor. The doormen were welcoming, until they said it was €350 each to get in. Thankfully it was just their German sense of humour.

But then quite seriously he blocked our way and said “wait, wait, you do realise it is gay night, don’t you?”.

“Of course, the gays have the most fun,” my friend replied.

So yes, we had come to Berlin for minimal techno, and ended up watching trannies fake-suck-off guys whilst listening to Madonna’s “Like A Virgin”. Whilst high.

We didn’t invite anyone back to our apartment.

That was quite a tangent. You’ll have to give me a minute to stop thibking of the tranny’s cock and remember what I was talking about. I hope you have similar images right now.

Right. Nowwww then. Oh gosh I sound like Jimmy Savile now. In a dress. This really needs rescuing. How on earth did I get sacked by Get Reading?

Anyway. I really want to try to test The Crown before I am jailed for upsetting some middle eastern dictator and see if someone can take its crown. Was that better? I’m still relying on the random number generator for now but the Hind’s Head in Bray was somewhere that I thought had potential to beat it.

1. I have had several people recommend it.
2. It would be the most expensive roast dinner I’ve ever reviewed.
3. It has a Michelin Tyre thing.
4. The bloke on the table next to me said it was the best roast dinner he’d ever had, and apparently he was a tough man to please. Then again, he had an American accent so that might not be saying much.

Pork or beef were the two roast dinners available – I chose the pork at £23.50 (although it is advertised on the website at £20.99 – shoddy – insert totally smooth link to the fact that I do make decent websites should anyone want to hire me). The beef was £25.50 if I recall correctly, but I’d eaten it the previous weekend so pork was the only choice by my rules.

Service was proper throughout. The young lady on the greeting desk was very attractive, sorry, I mean courteous, my waitress had possibly the heaviest French accent I’ve ever encountered and was polite, helpful and…correct.

I was offered some water, so I asked for just a small glass. A whole jug arrived with some lemon slices, as did some bread and butter – being northern, my immediate thought was “this better be free”. I looked at it suspiciously before tentatively shoving large lumps into my gob.

It didn’t take too long for the roast to arrive, maybe just over 10 minutes, and my initial thoughts were “is that it”?

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No, I don’t know why I positioned the photos like that either.  I just fancied a change.

I’m not sure if it was that light at all on content, but it was missing a Yorkshire pudding. Apparently you don’t get them with pork at upmarket places.  I didn’t query their judgement.

There were 3 long strips (still thinking of the tranny?) of carrot, slightly soft, somewhat buttery and charred in a kind of diseased-looking way but oh these were wonderfully flavoursome carrots. Truly fabulous. If somewhere can do the carrots well, you know you are onto a good roast.

The handful of green beans were as close to perfection as possible. Quite heavily buttered, easy to cut but enough structure to give them some bite – I thought perhaps there was a tiny hint of garlic but I could have been imagining this.

On the plate there was a pile of something shredded that I couldn’t quite discern for definite. On looks I thought it was cabbage but on taste it was closer to onion. It didn’t add anything to the dinner.

Hmmm. Roast potatoes. Could they buck the trend and make good roast potatoes?

Yes. Four fairly small roast potatoes, cleverly so, perfectly soft and fluffy on the inside – freshly roasted and quite crispy on the outside. They actually looked like they had been deep-fried, but I’m presuming not, they certainly didn’t taste so – I expect the chef actually knew how to make crispy outsides. Not only that, they had a hint of rosemary too.

The Yorkshire pudding, oh, wasn’t. However I was supplied with both stuffing and crackling.

Both were decent, the stuffing being of bacon and herbs…I suspect sage more than any other, and came in a perfectly cylindrical tube, albeit much smaller than a tranny’s…erm. Did I mention it was herby? Moving on.

The crackling was crunchy, but edibly so. Just.

Three slices of pork loin were supplied and despite the decorative menu description and high price, I didn’t especially discern this to be especially distinguishable from any other pork loin that I’ve had. Yes it was tender, yes it was succulent and a good piece of pork loin, but I thought it might have been a bit special. It wasn’t. It was simply very good. I suspect that I may have been far more impressed had I chosen the beef – bad planning on my part.

Finally the gravy. It was a rich meat-stock affair, very thin and watery, and came in a tiny jug. Unusually for me, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to ask for more. I didn’t even take the opportunity to take my top off, fart and snort a line of white powder just to say I had done so in a Michelin Tyre establishment.

Mostly a minor issue, but something that surprised me from such a place, was that I found the gravy running down the knife onto the bottom of my hand and my wrist. Whether this was the design of the knife, the watery nature of the gravy or whether I have simply never been taught to hold a knife in an upper class way, I am entirely unsure of.

I did feel a bit out of place there. I’m not the common oik I used to be, hell, I vote Tory, but I really did feel that I was expected to spend more money than I did. The waitress seemed surprised that I didn’t want a starter, I chose the cheapest beer at £4.95 even though I didn’t actually want a beer and just felt a bit awkward. Maybe it was because I was eating alone.

I decided to leave as quickly as possible so I could walk through the rugby pitches on the way back to Maidenhead station and shout “poofter” at them, though the waitress was not too keen on collecting my money and I had to go up to the bar to pay which seemed totally incorrect but, hell, I’m a Tory and I do what I want.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a gorgeous pub with excellent service and very flavoursome food. But in the same kind of way as when I go to a Wetherspoons, I just didn’t feel like I belonged there. Same ish anyway. I belonged much more in that gay club.  And I really, really love boobs.

So summing it up for those who were too scared to read the above:

Highlight – the exquisite vegetables.
Lowlight – the nice but totally un-special pork.
On the Yorkshire-Surrey scale it was practically in the sea – so I’ll give it a Worthing.

In terms of a score, this is probably the most difficult rating I’ve ever had to consider. Some people would give it a 9. And it was excellent food but a high-scoring roast dinner isn’t just about flavour. And it was very expensive at £23.50 – I should have reviewed this place when Get Reading used to pay for it.

I’m really not convinced about my score but I’m going to give it an 7.8 out of 10. Part of me thinks I’m being unfair, part of me thinks I’m being generous. I’d be especially interested in your thoughts and scores if you have had a roast dinner there.

Next weekend I am going to the new centre of minimal techno – Bucharest. I do get back on the Sunday evening but I’m more likely to put on a dress and give you a lap dance than be able to eat a roast dinner.

Don’t worry though – I do have a super special special feature lined up for you.

By the way I didn’t even get a look from the tranny, let alone a dance.

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Beef @ The Royal Stag, Datchet 10/04/2016

This is for you.

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Yes, it is a toilet. But not just any toilet. It is a toilet in the Houses Of Parliament. I took this photograph especially for you, my dear readers.

Sadly they don’t seem to do roast dinners but they do offer excellent tours.

Speaking of toilets, I went to Datchet for the first time ever on Sunday. Actually it isn’t a toilet but they do seem to have an obsession with weddings, with two wedding dress shops, one formal clothing shop for men and a cake shop which seemed to specialise in wedding cakes, all on my 2 minute walk from the train station to The Royal Stag. And weddings are crap. Although the last time I was forced to go to a wedding, we were served a roast dinner. Yes, it was in Hull.

The Royal Stag was recommended to me so I was expecting a good roast dinner. Despite it being some years after the invention of the telegraph, there was no website – when I called (second time around as the first time they hung up and when I dialled back I just received the engaged tone – the kind of thing I do at work when I don’t want to speak to customers), they advised that they do roast dinners until roughly 7pm, however they also added that the roast dinners often run out, so I reserved a beef.

When I arrived at 4pm, the roast dinners had indeed run out – but mine was happily awaiting my arrival – hopefully not literally sat there waiting.

The other choices available were chicken, pork and lamb – all priced between £10.95 and £13.95.

Having initially been directed to the wrong table, I had a cosy table for one in a corner. I like corners, especially at after-parties. Nothing quite like sitting in a corner and inhaling nitrous oxide. Or gravy. The pub itself was quite cosy, though in places probably could do with a little care and attention. It seemed like a pub for locals – and I suspected that they had good reasons for repeated visits.

Dinner took somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes to arrive.

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A vegetable medley was supplied, with green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, chanteys carrots and mange tout.

There wasn’t enough of each of them to make it worthy of a sentence for each – just one lump of cauliflower and broccoli for example – all were on the crunchy side but not too much so and all had taste. If you like your chocolate on a biscuit vegetables crunchy, you’d be impressed.

The Chantilly carrots still had their skin on to give them that edge – and the inclusion of 6 mange tout (yes I counted) provided a bonus fraction of a point as mange tout put all other beans to shame.

Totally unsurprisingly there were 3 roast potatoes, though they were large – you could even call them very large. And they were fluffy on the inside. Totally unsurprisingly you couldn’t call them crispy on the outside – they did have a touch of having been laid around for a while but not disastrously so. I was at least content with them.

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I was more than content with the Yorkshire pudding which was close to perfection. The size of a babies face to quote my recommender (whom I randomly bumped into outside), it was soft on the bottom, yet held the gravy without going soggy and had crispy edges. Hats off to the chef for one of the best yorkies for some time.

For the beef there were two 2mm slices – folded to make it look like there was more than there actually was. You may have noticed an almost complete lack of complaints, for my standards anyway, but for £13.95 I’d expect at least a third slice of beef – it did seem a tad stingy.

Thankfully the beef was very nice, quite pink so on the medium-rare shelf, and particularly juicy too.

And guess what else happened? I received thick gravy. Well – not as thick as cement, as I prefer, but thick gravy as more normal people would enjoy. There was a very slight hint of something about it, perhaps red wine, I’m not entirely sure, but a good THICK meat-stock gravy. I was happy.

But. Oh yeah there’s a but. Quite a big but too – bigger than mine after all the roast dinners I’ve had. Now, I asked for extra gravy. I probably could have survived without as there was just about enough on the plate, but I’m northern and we like our food to be swimming in gravy. In fact, I dream of a swimming pool of gravy. Can you swim in gravy?

More was forthcoming but when I received the bill at the end I’d been charged £1 for what to a northerner is a basic human right. At no point had I been advised of this.

It does have to be taken into context of what was good gravy on a good roast dinner. But it stops me giving them an 8 out of 10 – an 8 probably being harder to achieve than a Michelin Star and they were so close.

Butt I enjoyed my visit. It was a very good roast. The Yorkshire pudding was my favourite part – the lowlights are relatively minor gripes, particularly just two slices of beef.

I’m going to give it a 7.9 out of 10. If you go and I hope that you do, don’t forget to order in advance if you want to guarantee a roast! Oh yeah – it’s a Macclesfield on the Yorkshire-Surrey scale.

I considered staying for dessert, but no dessert menu was offered to me – maybe they didn’t proffer any sweets. But I suspect that like their lack of website, they are simply missing their opportunities.

I enjoyed my visit, so hopefully this review will raise awareness of a good little pub.

Next Sunday I’m going up in the world. In theory it should be the best roast dinner I’ve ever had. In practice it may just be some overpriced poncey crap with jus.

By the way, I do think myself more suitable for the House Of Lords than the House Of Commons. Lord Gravy of Bracknell. I am normal.

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