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.



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.


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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Beef @ The Bull, Sonning 01/11/2015

This week I was really looking for somewhere that would go off with a bang, perhaps where I could roast my hands around a bonfire…I wanted a good roast dinner…if it wasn’t sparkling then there would be fireworks. Sigh.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to put you through a pun-laden themed review again. There I was last Monday thinking how brilliantly-written my Halloween roast dinner review was, but what did I get in return? Nothing. Not a “thank you that was hilarious”, no job-offers, no date-offers, not even a new follower.

So this week, I just went for a roast dinner. Chosen by random number generator. Paid for by my tax credits that the Lords kindly let me keep last week. Well, it was either spend it on a roast, or get a pedicure.

Oh damn, I said no theme.

The pub in question was The Bull in Sonning. Not the easiest to get to without a car – I ended up walking to and from the town centre which is around an hour or so each way – plus with the time to get to and from Bracknell and some shopping in the town centre, meant this was a 5 hour round mission. I need more friends with cars.

I was surprised when I arrived to find that it wasn’t actually the pub I thought it was – I thought it was The Great House with its river views. The Bull I found around a few corners, in a secluded spot next to a church.

Inside was charming, and dark. Low ceilings and black wooden beams gave it an authentic and aged feel, I can imagine that it might be a nice place to take a young lady on a first date. Assuming she liked walking or had a car. For it did have a romantic feel to it too.

The roast dinners on offer were beef, lamb and pork. I dearly wished I could have had a special as they just read beautifully, but you know, public service and all that. I asked the waitress for her recommendation, and she convinced me that beef was the way forward. In fact she was the epitome of good pub service, welcoming, friendly and knowledgeable about the menu. On the off-chance that management are reading, give her a gold star (short, thin young lady with light brown hair). Granted, I should have left a gold coin, it totally slipped my mind to tip. Doh.

It did take a while to arrive, perhaps just over 20 minutes, but this is absolutely no problem for me – if I wanted quick food I would have gone to Wetherspoons. I am always happy to sit there, wait and let them take their time over the dinner.

And when it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much food there was. Especially with the size of the Yorkshire pudding.

I’ll start with the side-dish. Half of it was red cabbage, it is was elegantly fruity, soft but with a bite to it. It did seem to go on forever though, there was so much of it to eat for just one person.


The second half was broccoli cheese. Except it was very white for broccoli and had the texture of cauliflower. I still cannot write broccoli without the spellchecker. Well, I did that time but only because it was already on screen. Anyway, the cauliflower again was soft, but had a bite to it – there was some kind of sporadic orange dusting, and a burnt spot, which suggested it was supposed to be cauliflower cheese but there was no cream evident, nor cheese flavour so I’m not entirely sure what happened. It was nice cauliflower though. Maybe the waitress should get a silver star seeing as her promised broccoli cheese was cauliflower.

There was a large pile of mashed swede. I’m still not overly convinced by swede. Is it actually from Sweden? Again like the red cabbage, there almost seemed too much of it which should be an oxymoron on a roast. I had a hint of another flavour, but my simple taste buds could not quite work out what.

Actually I just remembered that the swede was on the side-plate and red cabbage on the main plate.

So onto the part of the review that you care about even more than my introductory wibbling. Roast potatoes.


They were not a patch on last week’s crispy delights, but they were freshly cooked. Sadly they had more of an oily rubbery edge to them, but they were soft in the centre, there were 4 decent sized roast potatoes and they were good enough. Considering the amount of places that serve duff spuds, I’d say these were a little better than acceptable.

Then onto the piece de resistance. The waitress had promised me that the beef was perfectly cooked. I had to question her further on this, as what is “perfectly cooked” beef? To me, it would be rare. To my mum it is fairly well-done. Her explanation was explanatory – lightly pink in the middle, but quite well done on the edge. She explained the reasoning behind it but I cannot remember.

It worked.

To elaborate, the beef was indeed very tender, so easy to cut, it was slightly pink as promised, possibly slightly more pink than slightly pink but it was difficult to see in the darkened room. It was pretty close to melting in my mouth.


It was complimented well with the very large yorkie, which had crispy edges and a gravy-induced soft bottom. Close to yorkie perfection. I certainly cannot do better. Or even half as good.

And finally, the gravy was a fairly standard meat-stock based affair, not especially thick but enough consistency for a northerner not to throw a banger at the chef. Oh.

I guess you’ve worked out that it is going to get a good score. There is slight room for improvement, especially with the roast potatoes but this was easily one of the best roast dinners I’ve had on my travels. My main gripe is that there was too much red cabbage! Which seems very odd to say.

I’m going to give it an 8.1 out of 10. Which makes it the joint 5th best roast dinner around Reading. And gives me the opportunity to say that The Bull is nearly as good as The Bull.

I did have to book a table, and they were fully booked until 4pm (they serve until 9pm) – clearly others know how good this place is. It was on the expensive side at £16.50 but I guess it keeps the riff-raff out. But not yesterday, a ha ha ha.

By the way, I don’t actually get tax credits. But I am considering applying to be a Lord. Lord Gravy of Berkshire.

Next week I’m going somewhere which will really interest you. And I know they want me to review them. Let’s hope they know what they are letting themselves in for.

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Beef Topside @ The Horse And Groom, Harehatch 28/06/2015

So the controversy rumbles on. This blog has now been featured on Imgur. Which is apparently almost as popular as Reddit.

Yeah I’ve no idea, either.

All I wanted to do was talk about spuds and gravy. Apparently Imgur is quite popular although I haven’t got a clue why – I just checked out the front page and it is just full of really crap photographs which some 17-year old student in America probably thinks is hilarious.

I couldn’t even find a photo of a cat making a roast dinner.

I’m assuming that I had not heard of Imgur means I can no longer class myself in the category of “young”. A bit like many venues should not class their roast dinner liquid as “gravy”.

Thankfully given that the site was down last week, it added almost no visitors to my site. Do you like the new layout?  I’ve got some exciting things planned – I’m even going to use my Maths A-level education on one feature I have just dreamed up, ooooh! If there are any schoolchildren reading, which is unlikely due to the lack of crap Imgur photographs, then Maths is nearly as important as gravy. But seemingly less difficult.

Excitingly though I think you can say that this blog is finally “cool” – having been talked about on Shit Things To Do In Reading.  Can it get any better?

This is now the 8th paragraph (granted, a slightly ambitious description) so maybe it is time to get to the point of why you are here. Dinner. I had a lady from Yorkshire for company (don’t worry ladies, she is married, you still have a chance with me) and the random number generator picked the Horse & Groom in Harehatch, which is somewhere that had been recommended to me.

And then I walked through the door and my heart sank – I had been here before, a year or two ago, and it is was fairly disappointing.

I sighed internally.

The menu options were topside of beef, leg of pork, chicken breast or braised lamb shoulder. I did have an interesting question the other day about vegetarian roasts, and I did not see a vegetarian roast option. I never consider the vegetarian option but I will endeavour to take notice going forwards.


Beef was the one I hadn’t had for the longest, so that was my choice.

I enquired as to why the beef and pork came with just plain old vegetables, and the chicken and lamb came with seasonal vegetables. There is no difference. But they included peas! In fact, they included a generic pea, green bean and onion mixture, which did not rate highly at all by my accomplice – the peas were ‘mealy’, the green beans squeaky and the onions were pointless and tasteless.  My pea-phobia meant I did not get to enjoy any of them.

So I only ended up with two vegetables – the nicest was the red cabbage, which is never a favourite of mine and it was quite notably sweet and floppy.

The swede was very soft and irrelevant. There was certainly a hint of butter but it just seemed really pointlessly plonked upon the plate.


Game number 1.  Guess how many roast potatoes there were?  3!  One was very large, and definitely not cooked enough inside. The second more of the size you would expect, and as such, not so hard inside. The final roastie was rather deformed but that one did at least come closer to the description of roasted – the other potatoes had absolutely no evidence of a crispy outer.

I’ve had worse roast potatoes but these were very disappointing.

Thankfully the remainder of the dish was much improved.

The Yorkshire pudding was large, soft-bottomed and crispy on the edges.

I clearly made a good call on the beef – two reasonably large and reasonably thickly sliced slices of topside, just a tiny little bit of fat on the outside and reasonably pink on the inside.


I have to say that I am very glad I did not choose the chicken as one that went past me did look rather over-done – though it was only a glancing look which is clearly difficult to judge properly from.

And the gravy? Proper meat stock gravy! Woohoo! Let’s pop out the champagne. Actually I think champagne is rubbish. I much prefer beer. The gravy had a fair consistency to it too. It could have been better but it was definitely the best gravy for some time.



I was particularly impressed with the little gravy jug.

They had done 3 out of the 4 most important parts very well. The roast potatoes were bad but that has not exactly been unusual on my mission so far.  Also I feel that you can get better value for money at £14.00 and the lamb was particularly on the pricey side.

The service was pleasant enough though I sat there for a good 10-15 minutes with the receipt, waiting to pay, until I was advised that I had to go to the bar to pay.

I’m going to give it a 7.4 out of 10 – the same score as the Malmaison received though a vastly different experience.

Next week, hopefully no further controversy, and a visit to a place I have been told is amazing, with my amazing best friend as my treat for me being amazing.

The only problem is, there are two pubs with the same name – and I cannot remember which one was the one recommended.

And finally I will leave you with game number 2.  Which of these photographs was taken by a professional photographer?

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Beef Rib-Eye @ The Spring Inn, Sulhamstead 10/05/2015

Beef Rib-Eye @ The Spring Inn, Sulhamstead 10/05/2015

I was getting my hair cut the other morning, and my new hairdresser told me that he is aware of my work.  Word is getting around.

Word is going to spread even more soon as Get Reading have discovered my eloquent writing talents/are desperate for content (delete as appropriate) and are keen on publishing shortened versions of my reviews, assumedly without any descriptions of vegetables tasting like arse.

I did think about it for an evening, but it is a no-brainer really.  Nothing will change except more people will read it.  They did ask whether I wanted to publish in my own name, or stay relatively anonymous, and I think I am going to go for the second option.  Your thoughts are welcomed.  The only reason to go fully public would be to make it easy for a future book publisher/film company to employ me to review roast dinners around the world.

How cool would that be?  To go around the world and get paid to eat roast dinners.  Gravy Oliver eat your heart out.

For now, I shall have to contend with local fame, remaining relatively anonymous.  I am considering the pen name of The Earl Of Gravy.

For a second week in a row, I have usurped the random number generator by using the random number generator.  The place of doom can wait – Get Reading deserve a special treat for their first review.

This week, I headed to The Spring Inn, in Sulhamstead (west of Theale).  I wasn’t sure what I would get.  The menu clearly advertised jus, and you know what I think when I get that abomination.  However when I called to book that morning, the earliest they could get a table for me was 4pm, so clearly they are very popular.

I had two options to travel – either get the number 1 bus straight down the A4, or get a train and a 30-40 minute walk.  I like a walk but decided the bus was probably the easier option given all the housework I had to do yesterday.  My life isn’t all gravy, you know.  I thought it might be more pricey than the standard £3.70 return within Reading but there was no information to get on the rather cluttered Reading Buses website.

Anyway, I was rather shocked by the £6.40 charge when I boarded – I only had 40p more change on me, and that was after emptying my silver jar.  Reading Buses, please accept my Soggy Roast Potato In Jus award for your opaque pricing structure and cluttered website.  Twice the price of the train.  Get out of here.

So 419 words later, I guess it is time to get talking about the food.  Get it?

The offering was rib-eye of beef at £13.95, or pork something at £12.95.  Quite reasonably priced.

The food took 11 minutes to get from the kitchen, which always seems on the speedy side to me.

Starting, as is traditional, with the vegetables, and the carrots in particular, which were orange.  Forgive me, I really am struggling to find new ways to describe carrots.  And new placed to sneak in the word “get”.  There were a small sprinkling, and fairly soft and juicy, with a hint of honey which they had been ‘roasted’ in.  They certainly were not roasted like I roast carrots though.

We also had parsnip, which is a nice touch as it seems rarely attempted.  Again fairly soft with the hint of honey.

Then there was cabbage.  Cabbage isn’t something I have worked out how to cook well myself – I can do amazing carrots, but cabbage I fail on.  This was pretty nice and tender, with more of a hint of butter to my simple Northern taste buds.

Only now have I realised that I could have got some very interesting side orders, including chilli tender stem broccoli; French beans, shallots and crème fraiche (I really want to write fresh) and the not so interesting cauliflower cheese.  Doh.

For some bizarre reason, the roast potatoes came out afterwards in a large bowl of freshly-heated roast potatoes.  Was this to excite me as to just how many there was?  Could I have more than the standard Berkshire 3?  Am I the only one that expects 6 roast potatoes on a roast dinner?

Of course, there were just 3 roast potatoes plonked down, soggy, non-crispy and very much like what you would get at the Toby Carvery.  Hmmm.

My talented chef friend, who is a plumber, surprised me once by advising that he thought Yorkshire puddings were a waste of time.  Just needless filler instead of real food.  Well, this one small effort was just filler – quite tough sponge and totally pointless.  Unlike a good yorkie.

I think I chose the beef because it came with a Yorkshire pudding.  Despite the previously described aberration, the ribeye of beef was a good choice.

I asked for it rare, and it definitely was not rare.  Somewhere between medium-rare and medium.  Which is still fine to me.  It was exceptionally generous in volume, with two very large slices of good quality beef – more than twice the amount that I had at the far more expensive Miller of Mansfield.  There was a little fat but that just adds to the taste in my eyes.  And mouth.

By some measure the highlight of the whole dinner.

On the flipside, by far the lowlight of the whole dinner was the jus.  To me, there is no excuse at attempting some shoddy red wine jus.  It had a particularly horrid taste, which disfigured all that was eaten, as I just could not get the taste out of my mouth.  I wanted gravy so I kept putting jus on, thinking it would be ok, but bite after bite I was just getting disappointed.

It wasn’t disgusting, it was edible.  But just plain wrong.  I hardly even touched the extra jus I had ordered (and received at the second time of asking).  I don’t even know why I asked it.

Apart from the excellent beef, the dinner was pretty average but the jus was so disappointing.

A 5.5 out of 10 seems a reasonable score.

It is a popular venue with an interesting menu , yet in the middle of nowhere, so it must be doing something right.

Next week, ooooh 3rd time unlucky perhaps?  Do ya get meh?

By the way if anyone needs a really old monitor, there is one in the hedgerow on the bus stop 5 minutes or so walk from The Spring Inn.

There wasn’t much else to photograph.

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Roast Beef @ The Miller Of Mansfield, Goring 19/04/2015

Roast Beef @ The Miller Of Mansfield, Goring 19/04/2015

Good afternoon.  How are we all?  Did you miss me last week?

Firstly I am going to ask a favour.  If you don’t already do so, please consider following the page on Facebook.  Consider it an electronic version of a crispy roast potato.  And if you are feeling generous, please do hit the button that invites your friends.  That would be analogous to proper gravy.

I’ve reviewed 19 roast dinners so far – 3 of the last 4 have ended up in the bottom 5 of the league table, the other slap bang in the middle.  I was overdue a success.

Again picked by random number generator, but this time it seemed on the face of it to have everything going for it.  Set in the picturesque village of Goring, it had good reviews Trip Advisor, the website was reasonable, the wording of the menu was delicate and intriguing – the price was on the high side – £19.00 for the beef or £15.00 for the pork belly.  I had no reason to believe it would be a bad roast dinner.

The nibble’s menu was tempting – what are “proper sausage rolls”?  Are they saying that Gregg’s do fake sausage rolls?  I had gone with the intention of resisting all other temptations, partly financial but also because I just didn’t need to.  However the idea of a sack of bread for the starter was too difficult to ignore for both myself and my linguistically-gifted accomplice – a bag of bread wouldn’t have appealed.  Neither would a basket of bread.  We wanted the sack.  A sack of bread.

Anyway I’m not here to talk about starters, nibbles or desserts.

It took a little while to be attended to upon arrival.  There were 4 people behind the bar busying themselves, I couldn’t quite work out what with and it was 2-3 minutes before we were greeted and another 2-3 minutes before anyone thought to ask why we were there or if we wanted any service.  Do I look that out of place in upmarket Goring?!

An inauspicious start, and it wasn’t exactly busy either.  There were far more free tables than occupied tables.  We seated ourselves on two stools around a barrel and ate our rather excellent homemade bread rolls.  Only four balls for £2.99 and perhaps we had fallen for their sneaky marketing of a sack.

We did get the slightly odd question of whether we wanted to be seated in the restaurant when our dinner was ready – quite how we were supposed to eat a roast dinner on a barrel, whilst sat on a stool I did not comprehend.  Perfect for a drink and nibbles – but it wasn’t dining room furniture.  Perhaps it was just automated like when you place your bag for life on the counter of a shop and they ask you if you want a bag.  I always find that very hard to respond to without automatically resorting to sarcasm.

Am I being picky?  It looked like it was going to be a fine dining experience – at least in terms of being a roast dinner so I was expecting service perfection.  More on the service later.

The venue itself was beautiful on the outside – really picturesque.  On the inside it was split into a restaurant with mustard-coloured walls and good quality wooden seats and tables – the bar area was an attempt at a rustic feel, and a pretty good job too.  Overall a pleasing aesthetic – and the toilet roll was high quality too – with the added pointed touch.  You can judge places by the quality of the toilet roll that they offer their patrons.

Also worth mentioning before I get into the meat of the subject is that it is dog-friendly, and though it doesn’t have a car park, we could park close by.  Also a short walk from the train station.

The vegetables arrived in two small bowls – one of spring greens, the other of carrots and cauliflower cheese.  I thought that we were advised that purple sprouting broccoli was one of the vegetable offerings but maybe I imagined that.

The carrots were on the crunchy side.  In fact they were some of the more-crunchy carrots that I have ever had.  I like that there was some extra effort made – they were cooked in butter with added chives – I thought I could taste a hint of honey too but that could just have been their homemade butter.

Continuing the crunchy theme was the cauliflower cheese.  A creamy crunchy affair – yet again another portion of cauliflower cheese that didn’t taste much of cheese though.  It was still enjoyable.

There wasn’t much in the way of Spring greens to be able to ascertain any specific taste or opinion.  In fact the whole vegetable offering was what should really have been offered to one person – not two.

Panic had struck me when the plate initially arrived.  Can you guess why?

For despite the beautiful presentation – without doubt one of the better-presented plates so far – I could only see one roast potato.  One?  How tight.

Fear not though as the other two were hidden under the beef.  Three roast potatoes felt generous after my initial worry but in reality is anything but.  However the roast potatoes were excellent.  Very tasty as they had been cooked in duck fat – and you could tell unlike some places that tell you they cook their potatoes in duck fat but it might as well be cooked in paper oil.  Crispy on the outside – fluffy on the inside.  Pretty damn perfect.

3 pretty perfect roast potatoes beats unlimited and distinctly average potatoes as per the last review.

The Yorkshire pudding on the other hand wasn’t so excellent.  Rather on the soft side throughout, and not just on the gravy-dampened bottom.  It wasn’t a bad yorkie.

Penultimately there is the beef.  Again not exactly enough to have trouble eating it – but wow.  It was quite exquisite.  Very much on the red side which is how it should be, it was so tasty.  It just came apart with the smallest of effort – the beef was the definition of tenderness.  The waitress did ask if it were cooked enough for our liking which was a nice touch.

After the early disengagement, the service was much improved.  Attentive when required, with questions asked about what we thought of the meal (was I rumbled?!).  Good enough for a tip.

And finally – the gravy.  It was a beef gravy though it did taste a little on the buttery side – perhaps still from the carrots though?  Thin – but consistency is always on the light side at the more upmarket places.

Which I think it quite a good analogy for the whole experience – a little on the light side.

There is lots to praise – particularly the really excellent beef and roast potatoes.  There is nothing to complain about in terms of food quality.  But for £19.00 I just expected a little more volume – the vegetables in particular seemed very under-provided.

Perhaps I am being a tad piquant, but it is only going to receive a 7.5 out of 10.

Next Sunday I am planning on revisiting the scene of a recent failure.

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Beef, Chicken & Pork @ The St George And Dragon, Wargrave, 29/03/2015

Beef, Chicken & Pork @ The St George And Dragon, Wargrave, 29/03/2015

Gravy is ever so important to me.  Some people have a bad day at work and go home and open a bottle of wine, some go home and have a spliff – I go home and have gravy.

And the most important ingredient of a roast dinner is the gravy.  Not just any gravy either – it should have a reasonably thick consistency, and be made from meat stock at the least.  There is no need to get fancy with it.

At the risk of being compared to Hitler, it should absolutely not be jus.  There is no room for jus.  Jus should be eliminated from the roast dinner.  Albeit The Black Boy did do an excellent jus – the one and only enjoyable jus of my life.

I did say that I was going to go somewhere cheap this week but I couldn’t face the possibility of another poor/average roast – I was due a cracking roast dinner.  Plus I had already had to borrow money to see out the month, so I might as well borrow even more.

The random number generator picked The St George And Dragon in Wargrave, which if I recall correctly had been recommended to me by a couple of colleagues at work.

I did try to book on their website, however it was only myself dining and apparently solo-dining is not an option.

Wargrave itself is a nice village, not a place I had ever been to.  Some gorgeous houses, particularly near the station – I am pretty sure I saw one with a tennis court.  Not something you tend to see on the estates up north where I am from.  And I am not talking country estates.

I even felt a tad underdressed when I entered the pub.  It is one of those pleasant upmarket gastro-pub type places, near to the River Thames, with a nice decking area for the summer and a cushion on my chair.

It all looked very tempting – and I compromised on the trio of roasts.  I am yet to decide whether this is a wise idea – whilst this way I get to taste a wider variety, I do wonder if the quality is diluted.  I have yet to rate a trio of roasts that highly.

It took less than 10 minutes for the food to arrive, it seemed closer to 5 minutes.  I was very surprised.  I had hardly started reading the article on Islamic State (I wonder if this is enough to attract the attention of our security services to bad roast dinners?).

The vegetables came in this little cup.  Transferring them onto my plate was a little tricky, and various bits of leaf ended up on the table.

The carrots were good.  Thick, plump and tender carrots.  The kale and cabbage were rather non-descript.  I really am rather non-plused about them.

It isn’t often a parsnip is offered, and this was a really tasty parsnip – honey roasted too.  It was quite light coloured and I would have preferred it to have been more, well, roasted.  But kudos on the single parsnip.

I was excited about the prospect of goose-fat roasted potatoes.  But I shouldn’t have been so excited.  Whilst I could taste the goose-fat, there wasn’t much roasting that had been done, the potatoes were even slightly rubbery on the outside.  They were not bad potatoes but calling them roast potatoes would is against the trade descriptions act.

When the above menu states Yorkshire PuddingS, I was expecting a plurality of Yorkshire Puddings.  I did get one and it was dry and almost a touch on the stale side.  I am glad that I only got one.

There were also two little flat rounds of stuffing.  This was clearly factory-manufactured and could easily have been on one a Tesco chicken meal-for-one.

Two bits of crackling accompanied the dinner – they looked like Twiglets.  And perhaps tasted closer to them.  Again they seemed very factory-manufactured.

It isn’t really going very well is it?  But as you can see there is lots of meat to come.  My eyes did light up when the plate originally arrived, and I did question whether I was going to eat it all.

But why would you put a pig-in-blanket on top of some bread sauce?  Why on earth would you do that?  In fact why would you put bread sauce on a plate?  Or horseradish hollandaise?  Or apple and vanilla puree?  Or a flipping chunk of apple?!  I was becoming mildly riled by this point.

Sauces should surely be in a separate pot.  There certainly should not be 3 sauces on the plate, on top of gravy (more to come on this subject soon).

The pork loin was decent.  It was quite unspectacular.  Cooked a little more than my preference with no remarkable features.

There was a nice-looking piece of chicken breast but the chicken itself was really dry.  I actually struggled to eat it.

I left the beef until last to try, but it was really quite well done.  Not at all to my liking.  Like the rest of the meal it was a disappointment, although the hint of mustard was appreciated.

Now I did consider writing about the gravy before everything else.  Though my introduction may have given the game away.

Or perhaps more accurately, the jus.  It looked more like some kind of glitter-face paint that I might wear to a disco-themed paint-balling trip.

Shiny, with lots of oil and red spocks.  The taste was red wine but it was so over-powering and quite horrid that it totally ruined the whole dinner.

A good gravy would have masked the dryness of the chicken, to an extent.  A good gravy would have enlightened the pork.  A good gravy could have masked the softness of the goose-fat potatoes.

Instead, it over-powered the taste of everything on the plate – and it being a horrid taste, totally ruined what was only an average dinner in the first place.

Some people would likely have really enjoyed it – taste is after all subjective.

But appearance isn’t all it seems in life.  The dinner looked good on arrival but was anything but.  In a cute metaphor, the pub looked quite upmarket, yet had a leak from the ceiling.

This was the first time that I have questioned doing this blog.  In total I spent £25.00 that I didn’t have, and 3 hours of my life including the travel time for absolutely no satisfaction or enjoyment whatsoever.  What was initially an adventure to a new village soon realised itself into a chore.

I haven’t even enjoyed writing this.

My score is 3.4 out of 10.  Less enjoyable than the Toby Carvery,

Thankfully next Sunday I am in Yorkshire.

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Beef @ The Pheasant Hotel, Winnersh 15/03/2015

Beef @ The Pheasant Hotel, Winnersh 15/03/2015

This week’s roast dinner was chosen by the random number generator.  I find this is an excellent approach of running various aspects of my life, particularly where there are plentiful and variable options.  For example, when I have too many e-mails at work to answer, I sometimes choose which to answer by random number generator.

It means that I don’t ignore those really horrid, difficult e-mails – if the random number generator says I have to do it then I do it,

I did have a tentative arrangement to go for a roast with a young lady from work so I had a quick look at their website.  The website is shocking – it looks like it was made by a 10-year old on meow-meow or whatever the youngsters take now.  It was glue in my day.  I remember being shown a shocking video at school on glue-sniffing.  I hadn’t even heard of it as a drug before then.  So of course I stole myself some Pritt Stick.  Didn’t see the fuss though.

Anyway, not only was the website shocking but the pictures of the food didn’t look appealing.  This for example:

Perhaps the blur was intentional?

Sadly, or perhaps thankfully, my potential accomplice had a hangover less bearable than mine so it was on the train by myself to Winnersh.  I was going to overrule the random number generator had she not succumbed to Sunday service.

Upon arrival I was instantly struck by the televisions showing some rugby game – ITA vs FRA.  I racked my brain to try to work out which teams they were.  I assume FRA were Featherstone Rovers, I guess ITA is Ilkley Town but not sure.  I don’t remember Ilkley Town having a rugby team.  They also seemed to have more than 13 men on each team, though this could have been down to the fact that my hangover had not yet arrived.  My point being that television and food are not compatible in a dining establishment.

The menu which I forgot to photograph was a Mother’s Day special.  Beef or chicken.  Two courses for £12.00 and a free glass of wine for the special lady.  I was going to ask if I was wearing a dress, would I get a free glass of wine, but I decided against applying my sense of humour.

Not everyone gets my sense of humour.  I was in John Lewis the other week, and went up to the vacuum cleaner salesmen and asked if he wanted me to throw the rubbish in my pocket on the floor so he could practice.  He aggressively responded “What did you just say?”.  I was like, “I’m only joking with you.”.  “No what did you just say to me?”.

Sometimes I have to keep inside my head what I think is funny.  I wish other people wouldn’t say everything that comes to their mind either.  Especially on a Monday morning.

But sometimes though in life you do need to have a sense of humour.

Anyway, I ordered the beef and it arrived exactly 9 minutes later, whilst in the middle of reading an article on how gentrification of Washington is not necessarily a bad thing.  Hug your hipster was the conclusion.

The carrots were cold.  I had a few but I didn’t finish them.  This is the first time on one of these reviews that I have left anything other than bone.

The green beans were comparable to eating plastic straws.  I had a few but left the rest of them.

Given the shocking vegetables, clearly the worst vegetables that I have come across so far, perhaps ever in my life, I was curiously pleased to see that the roast potatoes were actually roasted.

About 5 hours beforehand.

Yes they were boiling hot and soggy, yet with a crispy outer edge.

One assumes the microwave found plenty of water molecules in the potato, and none in the vegetables.

Can you guess where this review is heading?

The Yorkshire pudding was a filled-in kind of sponge.  There was no redeeming feature – the taste was exceptionally bland.  Ooh we had a parsnip.  Quite tasty but floppy.

I left the beef until last and I guess it was the best bit.  Which is kind of like saying that the drugs at hospital are the best bit about being stabbed.  Not that I have ever been stabbed, though I was threatened a few times growing up in Hull – including the first week at primary school, aged 5.

Bad was the beef – as bad as the linguistic quality that begins this paragraph.  Far too well-cooked, with plenty of gristle and fat.  It was crapo.  I did mean to write the word ‘crap’ but I actually think crapo is more effective in this case, so I have not corrected it.  I always think of new ideas for blogs, I think one day I am going to do a blog called “Tapas Or Crapas”, but given the shortage of tapas restaurants in the area it would probably need to be a UK-wide blog, or maybe for when I move to London like I have been threatening to do for the last 10 years.

And only after I have gone through my Spanish cook-book bought for my birthday by my aforementioned work friend.  I have spent more time talking about me than the roast haven’t I?

I guess I should mention the gravy.  It was probably Bisto.  Lumpy Bisto.

So this was the worst roast dinner I have reviewed.  But I really enjoyed it in a “I am really going to enjoy writing about this” kind of way.  The whole dining experience actually got even more impressive, as the gentleman on the table next to me returned his starter for having mould on it.  I am going to increase the score a fraction just for having the balls to serve mouldy bread.  The woman cooking did come over and offer not to charge them for it.

I was silently in hysterics.  I thought it was absolutely brilliant.

Thankfully my mum lives 220 miles away as she would not have been impressed with this “Mother’s Day Special”.  It kind of reminds me of the time my grandma took the family out to this crappy, sorry, crapo chain pub for Christmas Day once and the dinner was atrocious.  But it was so crapo that it was funny.  My mother told me that I was not allowed to tell my grandma what I thought of it.  All of my family were like “oh that was really nice, thanks ever so much”, despite leaving half of it on their plates.

I told her the truth.  Thank you ever so much grandma, but it was awful.  Can I cook next time?  They actually let me cook the sprouts now.

I’m going to give it a 1.2 out of 10.  Mainly for the mouldy bread treat and the really attractive young lady behind the bar as the food had absolutely no redeeming features.  Inedible Reading where are you?

On the way home I popped into the Lyndhurst to watch my friend eat a far better roast dinner – which is on my list to re-review as the chef there seems to be doing wonders, and the original review isn’t really applicable now.

I’m going to finish this special review with the first (and possibly last) of a new musical feature.

I wonder if I can fit it into my next DJ set?  Gosh that was a tenuous way to promote.

Please don’t go, don’t gooooooo, I’m begging you to stay.  And eat gravay.  Don’t gooooo owoah owoah.  Just don’t go.  Please don’t go.  Don’t sniff glue.  Just don’t, owooooooahn’t.  Just don’t go.  Or sniff glue.

Next Sunday I am going somewhere good.

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Beef Sirloin @ The Plowden Arms 01/03/2015

Beef Sirloin @ The Plowden Arms 01/03/2015

With Vladimir Putin flexing his muscles, I thought that I should do the same on Sunday and took a long walk to Shiplake, via Sonning Beach.

It was a pleasant 2.5 hour riverside walk, though the mud ensured that this was more of a pleasant spring walk than a March march.

The Plowden Arms was my destination, chosen by random number generator, my favourite way to make a decision.

They actually found me a couple of months ago and suggested to me on Twitter that they had a very good roast.  I had to check it out.  If any pubs/restaurants around Reading are reading please do make yourselves are to me.  Unless you do a bad roast – in which case you might not want to.  I don’t take any prisoners (of war).

The pub itself was a quaint traditional village pub with some very old music playing – it reminded me of the kind of music they would play in the war to keep up morale.  Wait a minute, were the Russians advancing?

Two choices on the menu for roast fans – pork shoulder with crackling or beef sirloin.  As I had pork last weekend, I had no choice but to go for beef.  As I am trying to lose excess weight, under orders from my sergeant, so I chose just to have the main course for £16.00.

I have to say that the whole menu looked really interesting with various more adventurous offerings than your local Wetherspoons.  But I am here to talk roasts, and roasts only.

Dinner arrived within 20 minutes and I was immediately pleased to see the home-cooked nature.

The vegetables arrived in three separate dishes.  I am pretty sure that one dish would have sufficed.

Carrots first.  They were slightly unusual tasting but in a good way.  So many places just seem to serve up standard boiled carrots when it is so easy to turn an average vegetable into a taste sensation.  Honey and caraway was the flavour – I’m not a fan of honey but it was just a hint enough to be enjoyable.  I have no idea what caraway is.  This is not a northern ingredient.

The cauliflower cheese was good. Tender cauliflower with creamy cheese over it.  A vast improvement from the place I reviewed last week.

King cabbage was…cabbage.  I didn’t eat too much of it.  Cabbage is cabbage.  I just don’t really know what to say about this.

The roast potatoes were very good.  Not quite as soft and fluffy on the inside as would have been ideal, more firm that soft.  But look at those crispy edges.  And they were of a good size too.  A good spud.

My mother would make similar Yorkshire puddings to the one which was delivered.  It wasn’t the biggest, or the best but it was a good home-cooked Yorkshire pudding.  But my mother would have given me three Yorkshires, not one.

However my mother would not cook similar beef as she seems to think pink meat is bad.  I love pink meat.  The waitress did advise upon ordering that they cooked their beef pink, which I thought was a good touch – as my mother would not have been keen.  In fact the service was good throughout and it only dawns on me now that I forgot to leave a tip.  Hopefully this good review will go some way to compensate. My mother doesn’t like my hair cut either.

So back onto le beouf, and it was succulent tender sirloin beef.  A really nice piece of beef.  I was a tad disappointed with just two fairly thin slices of beef as I do love my meat.  But quality is more important than quantity.  Oh there is one thing to mention though – I had a butter knife to cut the beef.  Now it wasn’t exactly difficult to cut such good quality, tender beef – but it did seem odd.

Gravy.  I didn’t need to ask for more gravy as I mentioned it on my online booking with the special consideration of ‘gravy’.  They understood.  Not only was there a reasonable amount on the plate but there was an accompanying gravy boat too.  Maybe they knew who I was?  Maybe my cover has been blown?  Oh and it was a good consistency, a touch of thickness and a meaty taste.

I did really enjoy the meal and was disappointed that I couldn’t stay for dessert as I had changed my mind by this point.  I had to rush off to get the hourly train back to barracks and knew that there was heavy rain on the way (you may also know me from Weather Forecast for Reading).  Also I didn’t want to risk catching trenchfoot.

I’m going to give it a good round 8 out of 10.  I do recommend it if you are willing to take a trip out into the countryside – it is along the A4155 or a 25 minute walk from Shiplake train station.  Or a 2.5 hour walk along the Thames.  Sunday lunch is served midday until 330pm.

Next weekend I intend on going to a nice country pub and sitting in the garden to enjoy a roast and a pint.  My month-long detox will be over and I shall be having a nice vodka or two.  Unless it is on war embargo, in which case it will be a nice pint of cider.  In the sunshine.  I cannot wait.

I’m ready for you Mr Putin.

Innnnnnnnn 1.  We have the disputed territory of Abkhazia.
Innnnnnn 2.  The newly conquered Crimea.
Innnnnn 3.  The gangland of strip of Transnitia.
Innnnnnnn 4.  The exclave of Kaliningrad.
Innnnnn 5.  Another Georgian territory of South Ossetia.
Innnnnn 6.  The war-torn Chechnya.
Innn 7.  A £7million loan to the National Front in France.
Innnn 8.  The newly captured Donbas region.
And Bully’s Special Prize.  Tonight you can win 8,000 nuclear weapons, 1,800 of which active for use straight away.  And a caravan.
Yeah…maybe I’ll stick to reviewing roasts.
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Beef, Pork & Lamb Carvery @ The Crown, Playhatch 25/01/2015

Beef, Pork & Lamb Carvery @ The Crown, Playhatch 25/01/2015

Happy Birthday To Me.  Let’s Eat Some Gravy.

Yes it was my birthday weekend, so I could break all the rules I wished which included drinking red wine for breakfast but more pertinently, revisit an establishment that I had already reviewed.

It being my birthday I had decided to invite my friends to come for a roast at the 2014 RDAR winner – The Crown, in Playhatch.  There has to be a good reason to revisit a venue, under new management for example, or a new chef being in place (The Lyndhurst is back on my to-do list), but in this case I just wanted to go back to my favourite, take as many friends as possible and hope it is still as good as last year.

The Crown is a very popular venue and one I had to book 2 weeks in advance for a sizable group of us.  They have two sittings – one at midday and one at 3pm

I packed a very healthy-sized dinner for just £13.00.  A carvery choice that included turkey, gammon, lamb, pork and beef – I had the latter three.  I don’t think I could have put any more on my plate – and I held the queue up whilst I poured more and more and more gravy on – though this time I didn’t leave a gravy trail like I did the other week at a venue in Northamptonshire (there was no protesting that it was nothing to do with me – the trail led all the way onto my table – it was their fault for serving such small plates).

The choices of vegetables were red cabbage, carrots and broccoli-cheese.  I just had the broccoli as it smelt gorgeous, and tasted so too.  The cheese was just the right amount, more than a hint and mixed in a creamy fashion with the gravy.  The broccoli was a tad on the crunchy side but a very healthy vegetable.

I know I should have had all 3 vegetables for the review but my birthday, my rules.

The roast potatoes were a decent effort.  Not really any crispiness on the edges but still soft inside.  If anywhere can do really good roast potatoes this year then they may take the crown off…The Crown.

Yeah I know.

The Yorkshire Puddings were excellent.  There were some flatter offerings but mine had sturdy edges and soft bottoms like they should – I only went for two.  There were little bits of crackling too which were very tasty and not too crunchy.

All of the meats were good.  The beef was a little red on the inside, which is perfect.  The pork was good.  The lamb in particular was very nice.  It is always nice to see large lumps of meat and the portion-sizes were generous.

And most importantly, the gravy.  It had an excellent consistency (I would make it thicker myself but it probably wouldn’t appeal to the average southerner), it was made with a meat stock and was quite a strong taste.  In fact possibly a touch too strong as I did get a little tired of it towards the end of my very large meal.

Sunday was a success.  Several people told me it was the best roast they have eaten in a while.  Everyone was impressed and it remains my favourite roast dinner.

My rating is an 8.7 which is almost the same as last year.

It remains top of the roast dinner league.  However I have a feeling that somewhere will beat it, somewhere will take the crown off The Crown.  A ha ha ha ha ha ha.

It wasn’t funny the first time was it?

If you appreciate my reviews, please do like, share and invite your friends to my page.  Call it my birthday present, if you wish!

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Beef @ London Street Brasserie 07/12/2014

Beef @ London Street Brasserie 07/12/2014
It’s probably my last roast dinner review before
Christmas.  Next Sunday I am cooking the
house Christmas roast dinner and the weekend after I am away.
So I decided to treat myself to one of the more expensive
options on my to-do list, London Street Brasserie.
I forgot about the idea of booking ahead and we were lucky
to get a table in the bar area – otherwise it would have been a 2 hour
wait.  It is a popular restaurant for a
good reason or two.
It was a slightly confusing pricing structure.  Having looked at it online, I had concluded
that it was £16.50 for two courses, with a surcharge of £3.95 if you wanted
cauliflower cheese.
However on closer inspection, it was actually £16.50 for two
courses and a £3.95 surcharge if the main course you desired was the roast
dinner.  Or £12.80 plus a £3.95 surcharge
if you just wanted a roast dinner.  My
friend asked the waitress for an explanation of the pricing structure and was
given a rather curt “how many bloody times do I have to explain this” kind of
response, a rather inauspicious start.
Apologies for the repetition but I had to review roast beef
again – it was the only roast on offer.  As
far as I can tell they only offer one option each week.  It was my intention not to repeat meats but I’m
not the first person from Hull to break a rule.
Our roasts arrives in a timely manner after a 15 or so
minute wait, along with the apparently slightly ungenerous medley of vegetables
to share between 3 of us, though this notion was dispelled when the cauliflower
cheese arrived 2 minutes later, with an apology for it being late.  Definitely enough vegetables overall.
The medley of vegetables contained carrots, green beans and
mange tout (appropriately-named vegetable considering the DJ “Eats Everything”
played in our town on Friday night), topped with parsley.  My
imagination seems to recall some broccoli in the mix but the photographic
evidence does not concur.  The vegetables
were on the right side of crunchy, the mange tout perhaps a little much so.  Personally I cook my vegetables a little
softer, but…carrots for courses, as the saying goes.  A real food critic would probably appreciate
the crunch more than myself.
There were just two potatoes.  Decent size, cooked through but without a hint
of crispiness.  If you are only going to
give us two roast potatoes then surely they could be on the crispy side?  It isn’t too difficult – Jamie Oliver taught
me – just chuff them up (his words, not mine innit pukka bruv).  I
am however content with the quantity as the plate didn’t lack depth – especially with
the size of the Yorkshire pudding.
Controversially ignoring my usual order and skipping back to
the vegetables – the cauliflower cheese was really nice.  Soft cauliflower with a creamy mild cheese – I
cannot tell you which cheese – I can tell the difference between Red Leicester
and Cheddar but that is about my limitation.
It does look quite superb doesn’t it?
The Yorkshire pudding, however, was not so impressive.  It looks impressive but so does Blackpool
Tower.  It was overcooked – more crunchy
than the vegetables and not even soft-bottomed given the lack of gravy.

Now is probably a good time to talk gravy.  It was that discoloured water-based
concoction which foodies probably salivate over but confuses us northerners.  It tasted nice, but there was very little of
it and had a viscosity possibly lower than superfluid helium.  We asked for more gravy but it still didn’t
satisfy requirements – however the little flat hipster-style gravy pan was pretty
Thankfully I am finishing on a high.  The sirloin of beef consisted of two large
slices, around 4-5mm thick, cooked perfect to my tastes – quite rare on the
inside, medium on the outside with a slight crisp to the edge.  It really was excellent beef.
What else?  Apart from
the initial curt response, the service was good, the staff all smartly dressed
in black – there did seem to be an abundance of fairly young good-looking
girls, which kind of reminds me of Waitrose in Bracknell where all the staff
are fresh-faced and good-looking.
I like the restaurant, there is a good feel in there or ‘ambience’
as my posh southern friends from Bracknell might say.  At £16.95 it was the most expensive roast
that I have reviewed so far and not the best.
Expectations can be problematic in life.  Like when you pay a load of money to go see a
really good DJ/band/opera in London (or whatever your thing) that you are
really excited about – and coming back with a slightly flat feeling for you may
have had a better night out than the night before down your local when you went
out for one beer and had a ton of fun but it doesn’t seem like it because you
expected so much more.  So trying to tie
in the slightly unexpectedly disappointing analogy, I had high expectations and
these were not met.
But it wasn’t a bad roast.
I have had really good meals in there in the past – a quite
exquisite lamb shank particularly sticks in the memory.  Really, really good.
If you are going to go on a Sunday then I would suggest
choosing another option – £16.50 for two courses at lunch is a good deal for
what is a very good dining experience.
It scored a respectable 6.6 out of 10.  I dearly wish I could have rated it higher and I will definitely be back to eat there.  But not for a roast.
Oh gosh I forgot to mention the Watercress.  How could I?!  It had a rather tangy taste to it.  Or maybe it wasn’t watercress?  Forgive me if I’m wrong, we don’t eat salad
where I come from.  It was less pointless
than the side-salad at Sweeney & Todd but I still didn’t understand it.  Maybe I should just be quiet and appreciate
something different?
All being well, I will be back in 3 weeks.  I wish all my readers and enjoyable festive period.
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