Beef @ The Stag, Ascot 06/12/2015

I do feel that this has become a little more like Roast Dinners Around Bracknell recently. Whilst I have had the good sense not to eat in Bracknell (I’m saving those for when I have a huge hangover), there do seem to have been quite a few places closer to Bracknell than Reading.

This is not an attempt to fix that. I think you will forgive me for this one, I was travelling back from the City Of Culture 2017, so after 4 hours of cars, trains and tubes, I was going somewhere on the London Waterloo to Bracknell line.

Of course, when I arrived at Vauxhall, I found out that all trains were stopping at Ascot and there was a rail replacement service to Bracknell. Oh the joys. So to minimise the pain, I decided to find somewhere in Ascot – somewhere more famed for coked-up tossers and horses, than decent pubs. I am not suggesting the horses are on drugs, just the post-chavs that go to Ascot races. I am sure that all aspects of horse racing are 100% legitimate, especially the betting. There is absolutely no fixing whatsoever.

The easy choice would have been to go to the Station Inn, right next to the train station and completely missing from the interweb. Sadly their kitchen was having a deep clean. So I dragged my Ryanair-approved suitcase to the high street and ended up in The Stag. Which is where I ended up last time I was in Ascot…after going to Ascot races.

The Stag is a fairly featureless, modern pub. Clean with sturdy furniture, a smallish bar area with extended seating area at the back. Really quite bland – just like the whole of Ascot High Street.

Two choices were on offer – chicken or beef, for £10.45. And considering that I had chicken last week, I could only choose the beef.

It took about 10 minutes to arrive and I wasn’t overfilled with joy. I do often get comments on Get Reading that the roast dinner looks awful – that is more down to my lack of photography skills normally. But even a professional photographer would have struggled with this.

Sigh.

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There were three vegetables provided. The broccoli was almost upon the point of being mushy broccoli for it was so soft. The carrots were just mass-produced batons. Both I assume were boiled – there was so much water leaking out of them that it totally discoloured the gravy in that area of the plate. On one side I had brown gravy, the other side near-clear gravy.

The kale was edgy. It felt like it was punishing me for something. There was little enjoyment to it, just sharp gravel-like leaves – quite the opposite to the delightful curly kale at The Fox & Hounds the other week.

I suspect that I end up with deep fried roast potatoes more than I realise, but these were category A deep fried. A fresh coating of oil, fluffy both inside and out. Bizarrely, I didn’t despise them as much as I should do. But they did seem like they were right out of a freezer bag.

Initially I had no hope for the beef. It looked limp and well-done, but it was actually quite rare on the inside. Sadly, my initial suspicion was correct and the whole meaty experience was very chewy and not slightly enjoyable. It certainly was not the highest-end cut of beef that I have ever experienced.

And then the Yorkshire pudding. I can sympathise when a YP goes into pancake format, but this went into pancake-sponge format. It almost seemed like a larger than usual Aunt Bessie that hadn’t been given long enough to rise. It was vaguely edible. Vaguely.

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Oooooh I was promised parsnips upon ordering but, sigh, they were invisible parsnips.

By the way, my grandma says hello. She used to make an amazingly tasty gravy when I were young. She has actually been reading this – or more accurately has been shown this, given that she still refuses to use a cash machine, let alone a computing device. She thinks I write a load of rubbish.

My grandma would have been ashamed by the lumpy effort but at least I got a beef-stock gravy. It could have been worse – just imagine how bad the meal was if I had been offered jus. It wasn’t good but at least it was gravy. Sigh.

I think that is called “taking one for the team”. We are a team, aren’t we?

Nothing was entirely dreadful about the roast dinner, but absolutely nothing was enjoyable either. It was punishment along the lines of being beaten by Leeds United and then the train home being rammed full of hoodlums and taking an extra hour to get back. As much as I may complain about South West Trains – Northern Rail are much, much worse.

I can only give the roast a 3.0 out of 10. I guess it simply is not possible to get a decent roast dinner in the centre of Ascot. Am I wrong?

The lowlight was probably the abysmal attempt at a Yorkshire pudding, the highlight was the deep fried roast potatoes. Yes, it was that bad. I’m going to give it a Tamworth on the Yorkshire-Surrey scale. I once dated a girl from Tamworth. She ended up being a stalker.

Next Sunday I will try my hardest to go either south, west or north of Reading. Booyakasha.

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Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder @ The Thatched Tavern, Ascot 03/05/2015

Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder @ The Thatched Tavern, Ascot 03/05/2015

Those of you that read my review last week may recall that the random number generator had picked a venue that I really didn’t want to go to.

Despite my northern upbringing, Ascot is not actually a place that strikes fear into my belly.  Yes, I usurped the random number generator.  How rebellious of me.

It was a fine day, and I fancied a walk, finished off with a spot of outdoor dining in a beer garden, perhaps I was inspired by the ever-excellent Edible Reading.  The place that the random number generator had picked does have a beer garden, but I wouldn’t prefix the word ‘nice’ to it.

Also, my housemate seems to think that the dungeon of doom will surprise me and wants to go with me, alas he wasn’t around this weekend.  Another reason to put it off.

But most importantly, this is election week.  And I realised that I had to do an election special.  So the only pub of choice was one probably not named after one of our most famous Prime Ministers ever – The Thatched Tavern.

Apart from once briefly visiting the high street, I had never really had a look around Ascot and I have to say that it has a lot of trees.

The pub was a rather old-fashioned and traditional venue, a bit like Jacob Rees-Mogg.  It also has a pleasantly sculptured outdoor area, quite resplendent like Ann Widdicome’s shoes.

A quick check on their website and you can see how shockingly outdated it is.  Dennis Skinner would shouting be in admiration.

The choice of roast was a bit like all the party manifestos – they all look appealing on the outside, though whether they would be able to deliver upon their promises was another matter.  I think it was rib-eye of beef, slow-cooked lamb shoulder or corn-fed chicken, forgive my Miliband-like lapse in memory, at least I have only forgotten the menu choices, not the deficit.

Dinner arrived surprisingly quickly, in less than 10 minutes, which reminded me of how quickly the coalition agreement was arrived at back in 2010, and I wondered how long they had spent preparing it before-hand.

It was presented with plenty of Blairite style, though I did have to give some education, education, education beforehand on my pea-phobia – otherwise I would have had a nasty surprise like a post-election VAT-rise.

Cauliflower, carrots and swede were the vegetables supplied.

The cauliflower was very much on the tough side, like Theresa May.  Crunchy and not the easiest to eat – some people’s ideal but not mine.  They do seem to store more taste that way though.

The baby carrots were again minimally cooked and very much on the tough side.  They were rather pugnacious in character and reminded me of little Ed Balls’.  Again, however, the minimal cooking seemed to bring out the taste in the carrots.

I said last week that I wasn’t a fan of swede and I remain so.  This was soft and fairly tasteless – kind of a unique combination of Natalie Bennett and Godfrey Bloom.

Onto the potatoes and finally I get the chance to compare to a Liberal Democrat.  4 roast potatoes were more liberal than the usual standard, though they were rather on the soft side and there was no detectable crunch to them.  Necessary and decent enough, yes, they reminded me of Nick Clegg.

The Yorkshire Pudding wasn’t the best.  A homemade affair, at least, but more of a lightly-filled sponge than a traditional yorkie.  Danny Alexander?

So far, not especially overly convincing.  However the lamb was pretty gorgeous.  Succulent and tasty, the slow-cooked nature meant that it pulled apart easily, and at 16oz pre-cooked, there was a lot of lamb.  In fact, it went on and on like the pretty gorgeous Margaret Thatcher did.  Easily the highlight of the rather pricey roast.

Annoyingly, jus was supplied.  Like the top-down NHS re-organisation, I was not expecting this.  Though I probably should not have been surprised about such in upmarket Ascot.  It was thin, watery with oily blobs scattered all over, a bit like Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood.  It looked presentable but it not the sort of idea a northerner can accept.

Special mention must go to the exceptional home-made mince sauce.  Like the Green Party, it is normally something I avoid but it was quite divine.  Had I had gravy I would not have bothered.

The service was good at first, though I did have to go back inside to order my dessert and get a second drink.  I must have been forgotten about.

The clientele were mostly Tories, though Nigel Farage would have been pleased about the ethnic mix, without a non-white face in sight.  However I did hear two people speaking a foreign language.  Probably Nigel’s wife.  Does anyone remember Nigel from Eastenders?  Yes I didn’t have a life in the 90’s.  Though I was far more racist back then than Nigel Farage could ever dream of.  This is prior to meeting anyone from a foreign land, from ooooh somewhere like Leeds.  And prior to getting an education.  And prior to moving down south.  My cousin has a British Bulldog tattoo on his arm.

Hull wass definitely different to Ascot.  And still is.

At £21.95 for two courses, it was on the pricey side and a bit like Labour’s health and education spending binge, I didn’t get value for money.

Overall it was high on style, but not always high on substance.  In some areas rather tough, but in other areas very pleasing.  It was on the upmarket side, but not everything was suitable for a northerner.  You can guess this one surely?  My roast dinner most reminded me of…

David Cameron.

I’m going to give it a 7.5 out of 10.  It should have been better but like the coalition government, they certainty got some things right.

Aptly, I saw this rather resplendent car on the way home.  Sex on wheels.

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