Chicken & Lamb @ The White Horse, Wokingham 20/09/2015

Sunday gone I was halfway through a 3-day hangover, at least I hope that is what it is as I am still suffering today, though maybe I should admit that I am coming down with the dreaded devil flu/cold/sniffles.

Anyway, I had a headache and absolutely no concentration span. There were no trains out of Bracknell, I didn’t fancy a rail replacement bus – or any kind of bus for that matter so I decided to get Google Maps out of my online glove compartment (I do actually have a scarf compartment), and had a scan for pubs within a walkable distance.

Walkable distance for me is normally up to 2 hours, maybe 3 hours on a good day (as long as there is public transport on the way back) – but this was not a good day, my brain and body were both in limited form (and still are) but I was pleasantly surprised to realise that I could walk to not far from Wokingham in just 45 minutes.

In fact, just 10-15 minutes walk from my house in the not entirely glamorous Great Holland’s estate in Bracknell is some gorgeous countryside. There was a very nice sounding pub called the Crooked Billet within walking distance, but I called 5 times to eventually find out they didn’t have any spare tables until 8pm (one assumed this means that it is rather good…definitely going on my to-do list), so then I picked the aptly named White Horse.

I couldn’t be bothered to book, I wanted to get out of the house into some fresh air to hopefully enliven myself. And of course have some beer, and some gravy. Actually I had wanted a cider but forgot about that idea until sat down with a not exactly divine pint of San Miguel. Lo siento. They only served Strongbow anyway.

Anyway, I’m rambling as usual which is maybe why Get Reading didn’t publish my last review (or maybe they’ve simply had enough of me…I get fed up of my drivel too sometimes) so I shall ramble on a bit more to try to put off my few remaining readers. I think Edible Reading is probably my only regular reader now. Some of my friends say they love my reviews but I’m sure they are being kind in a no your bum doesn’t look big in that dress kind of way.

By the way, I’ve recently discovered who Kim Kardashian is. Yeah I’m not massively up to date on popular culture. Do guys actually find her attractive? A good friend of mine said she wanted a body like hers. Yeah and all I wanted for Christmas is a big vat of jus. Gosh that sounds dodgy. Each to their own I guess. Does she eat roast dinners? I doubt it.

Anyway, I keep using the same words to start half of my paragraphs, and keeping in the style of repetition, I put on some minimal techno, with minimal volume – enough to drown out outer sounds but low enough for my delicate head to cope with and set off on a very pleasant walk through the countryside and arrived at a charming and homely pub – The White Horse.

You can criticise Bracknell, and I do, but I don’t recall anywhere within 45 minutes of my home in Reading that had such a unique and rustic kind of charm. I don’t mean rustic in an Oakford Social Club kind of way. And a warm welcome too, albeit the person serving me was clearly very new, and not quite to grips with things yet.

The pub seemed to be mainly serving the retired (probably much fitter and healthier than I was yesterday), and offered beef, lamb or chicken as the main home-cooked meals. Each roast was either £10.50 or £11.00, which is pleasingly less painful on the wallet than last week’s adventure. A menu is here for the curious. And possibly for the bi-curious too.

Amongst my many personality defects yesterday (on top of the daily ones), was indicivity (apparently not an actual word), as I could not choose between lamb or chicken. So they offered both for £12.00 and I gratefully accepted.

I was advised to expect a 20 minute wait, which I was more than fine with, and sat in the wasp-less and fly-free garden for enough time to check my one solitary Facebook notification before dinner arrived. Much sooner than I had been advised to expect.

All good so far but how did it taste? It was presented pleasingly enough – concentrically around the centre Yorkshire pudding, albeit it didn’t look to deserve the centre-billing. And of course, nowhere near enough gravy…or jus…so I had to ask for more.

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The dinner came with a whole 5 different types of vegetables – probably a record.

Starting with the greens – the broccoli was particularly fresh and juicy, the mange tout slightly crunchy and had that slight kick that a non-overcooked tout de mange has. The green beans were cooked precisely too – easy to eat and fresh to taste. All steamed.

Then there was some odd-looking and slightly odd-tasting swede puree. I am not massively keen on my food being pureed. I may one day end up at the point where it is necessary but that isn’t now. Edible but not pleasing. I assume it was swede.

On the other hand, the small handful of carrots had been roasted. Why don’t more places do this? Really excellent carrots, almost with a pepper-like texture and close to a divine taste. As far as carrots go. Excellent.

The usual Berkshire 3 roast potatoes were provided – all large, and cooked in tasty duck fat too. Not only that, they were roasted with thyme, and perhaps a very slight hint of rosemary too. Why don’t more places do this? Herbs are not hard. Sadly somewhat let down by the total lack of crispy edges – were it not then they would have been in danger of being as good as my roast potatoes.

I cannot really judge the lamb easily as there was just one thin slice. I had asked for rare, it was perhaps just medium-rare. I didn’t receive enough to make a judgement upon.

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I did however receive plentiful chicken – chicken breast with the skin on! And a proper sized chicken too, none of this Nando’s nano-chicken. Plump and succulent, cooked through with 4 or 5 thick slices – you could call them sliced chunks.

The roast dinner did come some way from perfection. Firstly the Yorkshire pudding was small, burnt and crispy. I’m on a run of bad luck when it comes to Yorkshire puddings at the moment and this continues.

And the jus. When the extra jus arrived I was charged £2.00. Stop riding the white horse. So you are charging me £2.00 for failing to put enough jus on in the first place. Only a dribble was originally supplied. And then I managed to dribble some down my leg – ouch. It was hot.

You know my thoughts on jus by now – it was very thin, watery with bits inside. It wasn’t bad but did become tiring. And £2.00. Seriously?

It left a bad taste, in more ways than one.

As this could have scored in the 8’s. That said, it does still make it into my top 10 roast dinners (admittedly this is not difficult such if the repetition of average elsewhere).

It had a lot going for it, value for money (or southern value for money…forgetting the jus incident), a really nice setting and gorgeous little sun-trap of a garden. Great carrots – nearly great roast potatoes, really good chicken, a warm welcome. With a few let-downs – the Yorkshire pudding, the jus, the yucky San Miguel.

I’m going to give it a very respectable 7.7 out of 10. It is certainly recommended. Although it is the first time I have eaten somewhere with a food hygiene rating of just 2 out of 5. I cannot say I care.

I then made a very slow and painful walk back, although I did find a really secret romantic spot in which I will endeavour to take my future Kim Kardashian too. As long as she makes a good gravy. By that I mean thick gravy.

Next weekend I’m going clubbing in London on the Saturday so the chance of me going for a roast dinner on Sunday is slim, unless one of my friends drives me somewhere and can cope with conversation as minimal as my music taste. But I’ll try as the weekend after there is even less chance of a review, and the weekend after zero chance.

I actually feel better for writing that.

Quality of food: 8/10

Service: 7/10

Atmosphere/surroundings: 9/10

Value for money: 7/10

Food hygiene rating: 2/5 – rated 11th September 2014

Dinner brag factor* : 4/5

Total: 37/50

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