Pork Belly @ The Golden Retriever, Bracknell 24/01/2016

I woke up yesterday with my last hangover for at least a month. I was in no mood to go on a mission. But neither was I in the mood to cook. So I did a quick search for “pubs” on Google Maps, and set out to The Golden Retriever, within walking distance of the total dump I live in, albeit it wouldn’t be too bad if all of my housemates knew how to empty and load a dishwasher. It was so memorable that I just had to load up Google Maps again, to find out what it was called.

On the way there, I realised two things:

Firstly, it is Valentine’s Day soon. Secondly, I do not make enough of an idiot of myself on this blog.

Therefore I am offering a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go on a date with me.

You must match some limited criteria. Female. Definitely single and not a whore. Ideally not the size of a whale. A vague touch of feminity would be appreciated – at least more feminine than me, anyway. You must be able to hold a conversation – not a monologue. Having something to talk about other than the latest Celebrity Big Brother would be useful. Spelling, grammar and punctuation must be of a reasonable standard – bonus points if you are foreign and can still write English to a good level. A sense of humour would help…especially if you are going to cope with me. No older than mid-30’s. A sense of style (not fashion but your own style) is always appreciated. I do particularly like Spanish, Northern, Eastern European and Iranian women, but that isn’t a deal breaker. Not having an aversion to Romanian minimal techno would help.

Am I too fussy? Hmmm, I’ll let regular readers decide.

About me. Well, you’ll have a vague grasp of my personality from reading this, and you’ll know I have a sense of humour…or I try to. Looks-wise, without giving the game away too much to the mafia, I am of average height, I do have a bit of a beer belly but this is in reverse. I have my own sense of style and a penchant for interesting footwear. I have a very unique hairstyle. I am relatively well-read and of reasonable intelligence. I have various interests and lots to say…except on a Monday morning. I am just as happy watching Shakespeare, as watching football. I like roast dinners. I am not going to send you a picture of my nob, no matter how often you ask me – this is not Tinder.

As I expect dozens of applications, or at least dozens of young ladies after a free lunch (yes men should always pay for the first date, I am a tad traditional, being northern), there is one qualifying question that you must answer:

How are your gravy-making skills, and what type of gravy would you make if you wanted to impress me?

Answers and applications on a postcard, or a Facebook message.

Right, now I’ve made a tit out of myself, I’ll get on with writing a load of shit about a roast dinner.

Outside, the pub looked quite elegant with the fake-thatched roof. Then again, so did the Cunning Man. Upon entering The Golden Retriever, however, it reminded me more of a Toby Carvery. Or even the Cunning Man. Kind of dark, clonish and miserable. They are about to close for a refit, though.

I went to the bar and the barman said, “What can I get you, love”. Fearing I may have had a sex change overnight, I rooted through my handbag to try to find a mirror, but to no avail. He then proceeded as gruffly as possible to inform me that “you need to see front-of-house if you want grub, mate”. Quite.

Front-of-house was probably the more slovenly of the staff, and it seemed like an hour before I was seated. It wasn’t, but I was hanging and every minute stood up, hungry, was as painful as catching a train into London in rush hour. Realistically it was probably a good 15 minutes before I was seated despite there actually being tables available, including the one I was seated at.

There were many roasting options, including standard and “vintage” options. The waiter suggested that I avoid the beef, upon my request for advice, as it was often chewy. I went for the pork belly. No option particularly appealed. 1% extra for honesty, if nothing else.

I don’t even really want to write about the roast. I’m almost tempted not to write anything further, and I should definitely delete the introduction. The meal was plonked down on my table and before I could mutter the words “more gravy, please”, the waiter was gone. He did just about acknowledge my request.

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The carrots were _________________________________.

Mixed in with the carrots was some cabbage. It was fairly feature-less but relatively enjoyable.

There was a whole parsnip, cut horizontally. It was particularly chewy and difficult to cut with a fairly awful near butter knife, rather stringy yet still had a sweet and pleasant-enough taste to it.

Peas were also offered but thankfully I had the brain to check in advance.

A standand 3 roast potatoes were supplied, all relatively crispy and cooked in duck fat. Gosh. But they were also suspiciously hot, painfully so for the first one as my eyes watered more than when I sorted than line of salt that I had bought for £40 the night before.

I guess the vintage element was the stuffing and pig in blanket. Neither of which I recall being alluded to on the menu, neither of which were memorable. The stuffing was lukewarm and flaccid. The pig in blanket was surprisingly tasteless.

The pork belly was devoid of joy. I’ve had worse, but it was a touch on the dry side and also quite stringy. I could not determine any layer of fat, nor was there any crackling offered. It seemed very mass-produced.

I like to accompany my meat with a Yorkshire pudding, they kind of complement each other, but there was no improving the meat with a standard Yorkie. It was fine, slightly fluffy but slightly chewy too.

They promise proper gravy on the website but it was more of a jus, albeit with some level of consistency. My extra requested gravy was not forthcoming, and despite the slight dryness of elements of the dinner, I didn’t feel that I missed it.

Overall it was fairly miserable and mass-produced, yet I wouldn’t say that it was a bad roast dinner. Just bland. And quite bad. I’m going to give it a 5.3 out of 10. I’ve definitely had worse.

The blandness means that I struggle to pick out either a highlight or a lowlight. Leaving, was probably the highlight. The scatty, disinterested and slow service was the lowlight. On the Yorkshire-Surrey scale, it rates a Luton.

Next Sunday, if I can be bothered, I will go to one of the places that the random number generator recently picked that I could not be bothered to go to in recent weeks.  Maybe.

In other news, I just ate pizza from Pizza Hut. It was as regrettable as expected. I should have eaten my shoe instead.

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