Beef @ The Fox & Hounds (Theale) 30/11/2014

Beef @ The Fox & Hounds (Theale) 30/11/2014
It’s been a while since the last review.  Weekends away along with rather special
hangovers on other occasions have denied my ability to review a roast dinner –
and it isn’t exactly as if I can go for a Sunday roast on a Thursday evening
instead.
Sunday came and a very noisy house meant that I was awake
several hours before I desired, though also before my hangover had kicked in so
I span my imaginary compass and headed west towards Theale.  Or is it Burghfield?
A 6.5 mile walk being enough to work up a hunger.  I called the Fox & Hounds in advance to
book a table – it was fairly busy though I am sure they would have been able to
seat me without the advance reservation.
The pub itself is a country-ish pub – out in the sticks but
close enough to local villages of Theale and Burghfield to keep it busy.  Clean and tidy inside, with slightly-rustic
tables – plenty of outdoor seating and free Wi-Fi – important when one is
dining by oneself (I was hesitant to arrange to meet anyone for a roast in case
given the anticipated hangover).  Plenty
of seating outside too for pleasant summer drinking.
The final point before I get onto the real subject matter is
the drinks – little is more disappointing than turning up to a pub and finding
out that they sell nothing more adventurous than Carling/Strongbow, etc.  This wasn’t the case – the drinks available
were of good quality – I had a very nice country cider which I had not had
before – I cannot recall the brand but let’s face it, the only liquid of real
interest here is gravy.
Beef or turkey were the choices – the cows I passed on the
way had turned my mind to beef so that was an easy choice.  I waited 15-20 minutes for it to arrive which
is what one would prefer – it is always wondrously concerning when a roast
dinner arrives just 5 minutes after ordering, like it did at The Cunning Man.
The vegetables were presented in a separate dish to the real
part of the roast – the vegetable bowls being larger the more populated your
table was.  Overall the presentation was
good – not enough gravy for my northern-tastes but this was soon resolved with
a request for extra gravy.  And I approved of the carrots standing up.  And if the Moderation chef is reading – more than 2 carrots!
 
Cabbage isn’t my favourite vegetable – especially not the
red variety.  It was quite crunchy and
made an acceptable accomplice.  The baby
carrots were good – perfectly cooked if a tad uninteresting.  The final root-based offering was mashed parsnip.  A pleasant taste but I would have much rather
have had whole roasted parsnips.  Overall
not my favourite medley of vegetables but I did appreciate the effort to
differentiate.
3 roast potatoes seemed a bit stingy.  At least they were sizable and cooked well –
albeit with soggy rather than crispy outsides.
The Yorkshire pudding was excellent.  Close to perfection – a soft base, crispy
outsides and delightfully large – probably the best Yorkshire pudding in the
reviews so far.
An excellent fork-friend to the decent standard beef – which
was two pleasingly large slices of an average depth – one assumes topside of
beef.  It had an outer rim of fat
alongside one edge – not to everyone’s liking but always to mine.  It was good but nothing special.
And onto the item which can really make or break a roast –
the gravy.  It was normal beef
gravy.  No strange taste.  Like the rest of the roast dinner it was
decent but unremarkable.  Nowhere near as
thick as I would prefer but one has to remember that I was having a roast in
Burghfield – not Bradford.
Given that the last two reviews have featured bad gravy –
unremarkable was most welcome.
The price was £10.95 which down here is reasonable.  Up north and one would be moaning.  The service was sufficiently pleasant enough
for a Yorkshire man to leave a tip.
Definitely worth noting is that they only serve roasts until
2:30pm.  They advised booking in advance but as I mentioned, I am not sure it is necessary.
It was certainly a commendable roast dinner overall.  The best I have had since early this year at
The Crown in Playhatch – which really still stands out as the best in the local
area and is clearly going to take some beating.
In numbers The Fox & Hounds roast gets a reasonably decent 7.0 out of me.
Recommended – you will enjoy it but you probably won’t write
about it.
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Beef, Pork & Turkey @ The Cunning Man 26/10/2014

Beef, Pork & Turkey @ The Cunning Man 26/10/2014
Moo you looking at?
I decided to go for a walk along the River Kennet on Sunday
afternoon – it was a reasonably pleasant day and there was a handy pub an hour’s
walk from Reading town centre called The Cunning Man.

It looks nice on the outside, with a presumably fake thatched roof (forgive me
for my lack of thatch expertise – Thatcher yes, thatch no) and plenty of
outdoor seating – a rather pleasant setting.
 
I decided to enjoy a pint outside in my very own tepee hut area,
albeit still rather dirty with last night’s cigarette butts everywhere, whilst
awaiting my dining partner for the afternoon. 
It was pleasantly warm – for a northerner – at around 15’C.
The menu sounded good – as you may have worked out by now if
there is an option for more than one meat, it is very difficult for me to avoid
choosing this.  I am yet to conclude as
to whether this is a wise idea – does my greed obstruct my ability to appreciate
a particular roast?
We were quickly seated, albeit with some confusion by the
staff – our order was taken pretty much straight away, I went for a pee, came
back and it arrived.
First impressions upon viewing were of a more generous
helping than The Moderation had managed – 4decent baby carrots for a start, which is
3 more than the aforementioned had considered appropriate.
The cabbage was…bland.
The roast potatoes were average at best.  They kind of tasted like they were
microwaved.  More soggy and solid than
crispy – but I have had worse efforts.
The herb-crusted loin of sweetcure pork was just a slice of
pork with no immediately obvious hint of herbs. 
I have no idea what sweetcured means.
The chipolator unwrapped in bacon was fine, the stuffing was a very round circle of very average stuffing-meat.
The beef and turkey were fine – turkey probably the best meat of the 3 – but probably only a slight
upgrade from the Toby Carvery.  All the
meats tasted roughly the same.  1 slice of each around 3-4mm thick.
And the reason why everything tasted the same?  The gravy. 
We did ask how thick the gravy was before ordering, and the waitress
said it was quite thick this week.  I
like a good consistency.  The thicker the
better.
This was a good consistency. 
It looked promising and we got extra gravy upon request – not sure why
it wasn’t poured in the Yorkshire, which is close to a criminal offence, which
by the way seemed very similar to a slightly-larger than normal Aunt Bessie’s
frozen Yorkshire pudding.  But the flavour
of the gravy was so over-powering – again a tomato-based taste, as you can see
from the hint of red.  I really don’t get
this wannabe-fancy different tasting gravy. 
Just some beef or chicken stock will do. 
Hell, even serve me Bisto granules if you have to.
So overpowering that I had to have a rest halfway through,
despite not having eaten anything prior to this.
Had the gravy been reasonable, then it would have pushed the
high 6’s.  A decent amount of food and the quality was fine.  As it is, it was marginally
better than The Moderation and it receives a score of 5.4 out of 10.
All that leaves me to say is, if moo enjoyed my review, please
share, like and invite.
Sorry.  That was worse
than the gravy.
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Beef Sirloin @ The Moderation 19/10/2014

Beef Sirloin @ The Moderation 19/10/2014

The last time I went to The Moderation for a roast, I was disappointed.  It was a couple of years ago so I felt it was
time to try again.  They used to do very
good roasts 5-6 years ago.

Available choices were chicken, pork or beef, so I plumped
for the beef sirloin, to give its exact name, and went for 2 dishes for £12,
instead of the £10 roast, which seemed reasonable value.

There were around 15 of us seated and our dinners arrived at
the same time which is always appreciated and the waitress had understood my
request for extra gravy despite not acknowledging it.

So in the order that I ate it, the one piece of cauliflower
was fine.  Crunchy but fine.  As was the one piece of broccoli.
My one baby carrot was really nice.

Photo clarifies that I did get a carrot.

3 of my 5 a day done.

The selection of roast potatoes were reasonably decent.  The larger one was fairly tough inside, but
the others well-cooked and reasonably crispy on the outside.
The Yorkshire pudding was disappointing.  A decent size but it was filled like a
dumpling.  I am struggling to describe it
well, but it was a filled, fluffy bowl. 
Not what I class as a Yorkshire.
It was a decent piece of beef sirloin – in steak format as
opposed to carved from a joint of beef.  A
little pink inside, it was cooked nicely.

The gravy however, was tomato-flavoured and rather watery.  An attempt at modernisation where it is not
required.  The extra gravy was surplus to
requirements.  Well…mostly.  I certainly didn’t bother asking for some
bread to soak it up.  Nor was I tempted
to hide under the table and lick the remaining gravy doggy-style.
Inconsequentially, as this is a roast dinners around Reading
blog, not a roast dinners and desserts around Reading blog, the chocolate
brownie, though unsurprisingly limited in size considering the generosity of
just one carrot, was very tasty.

I didn’t hear anyone in my group expelling excitable endorsements
about the meal, but likewise nobody complained either.
It was decent and I wouldn’t recommend against it.  But there are better roasts out there.

5.2 out of 10.

Next up might be somewhere slightly outside of Reading.

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Turkey & Beef @ Toby Carvery, Reading 28/09/2014

Turkey & Beef @ Toby Carvery, Reading 28/09/2014
Roast Dinners In Reading is back.  There will be at least one roast a month from
now on.  Maybe.
And a real domain name. 
Maybe a Facebook/Twitter page too.  I might even amend the name slightly.
So after a nice walk near Ascot on Sunday just gone, I decided that I
required a big pile of food on a pre-payday budget.
Toby Carvery was the choice.
It wasn’t as cheap as I had thought it would be – £9.49 for a carvery
and an extra £1.50 to go KING SIZE.  I
went KING SIZE.
KING SIZE gets you two chipolatas, an extra Yorkshire
pudding and a bit more meat.
Either normal size or KING SIZE gets you up to 4 different
meats – turkey, gammon, pork and beef were the choices.  The pork didn’t looked like it had been there for a few hours, so I chose
beef and turkey.
The vegetable choices were pretty basic – carrots,
cauliflower ‘cheese’, peas, runner beans, onions. 
There were 3 different types of gravy – vegetarian, mint and meat.  I drenched my plate in meat.
So onto the food.  And
boy was I hungry.
The beef was ok, it tasted like the turkey, which was so
thinly sliced that the server should really have a job at Bernard Matthews
doing their wafer-thin turkey slices. 
The potatoes were ok, they tasted like the turkey.  The stuffing tasted like the potatoes, but at
least had a different texture.  The
sausages did taste like sausages but the cauliflower ‘cheese’ tasted like the
beef, or the turkey, or the potatoes. 
Certainly not of cheese.

The gravy was brown water.
The crackling was inedible.
Thankfully a dining experience isn’t all about the food.
The waitress was very helpful (and quite hot), the wait for
a table was just 10 minutes or so and the clientele were friendly, though the
two ladies near us seemed a little confused as to why Muslims tend not to have
western names such as Harry or Fred.  I
considered suggesting that neither do the French or Germans but decided
against.
The beer choice was not great – I plumped for Amstel but it tasted of chemicals.
Thankfully the company was excellent.
Things can only get better. 
Malmaison next weekend?!
A more-generous-than-their-meat-serving score of 3.5 out of 10.
Oh wait a minute, the Yorkshire pudding were pretty good.
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The Trio Of Roasts @ Griffin, Caversham 16/03/2014

The Trio Of Roasts @ Griffin, Caversham 16/03/2014
When a trio of meat is on offer – there is no decision to be
made.
The Griffin does very good food so I was particular hopeful
and expectant of a cracking roast, sat in the very pleasant early Spring
sunshine, beer on table, in their sizeable garden area.
It arrived in good time and there was a decent portion for
the £10.50 paid for the roast.  A
reasonable sum in Berkshire.
There were many other options, ranging from £7.99 to £13.99 – the menu is here.
Starting with the vegetables – carrots, broccoli and
cauliflower.  All decent, but nothing
exciting.
The potatoes were rather on the soft and soggy side – they looked
good but didn’t quite meet hopes, no crispy edges.

The Yorkshire pudding was a decent size and there was unlimited gravy on offer –
none of this poncey thin runny stuff but not too thick to scare your average
southerner either.
Finally, the meat. 
Beef, pork and turkey (if I recall correctly!).  The pork was disappointing – it was just
slices of cooked pork.  The beef and
turkey were standardly average.  There
was enough meat but it was crying out to be a little more special – just the
odd herb perhaps?!
There wasn’t anything bad about the roast but I have eaten
at the Griffin several times and their food is normally very, very good – the roast
was only ok.
I wouldn’t recommend the roast – stick to the other meals as
they are far nicer.
6 out of 10 – distinctly average.
I expect I will return and would definitely consider the Sunday Best as they look rather more interesting.

The quest for the perfect Sunday roast in Reading continues…if you want to join
me or have a recommendation then please post below.
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Roast Carvery at The Crown, Playhatch 09/02/2014

Roast Carvery at The Crown, Playhatch 09/02/2014
Next up in the very occasional series of Roast Dinners in
Reading, was a trip to The Crown in Playhatch, just slightly out of town.
The building itself was rather pleasing on the eye but would
the roast be pleasing to the taste buds?
 
It is a carvery that they do, and the choice of meat on
offer was beef, lamb, pork, turkey and gammon.
I chose the beef, lamb and pork (you are allowed 3 types) – the beef and lamb were
excellent and the pork very good, perhaps just a touch on the dry side.  The pork crackling – wow.  But there was only a small pot to share
between all carvery-goers so it was a sparse treat.
It being a carvery, it was a case of as many vegetables and
potatoes as you like.  And very
importantly…as much gravy.
The potatoes were nicely crispy on the outside, though
perhaps a little more squidgy than ideal. Good but not perfect.
The choice of vegetables was carrots, purple cabbage and
broccoli and chesse.  I only sampled the
broccoli and cheese – it was really tasty.
The Yorkshire pudding was large, home-made, and made to
perfection.  A superb effort.
The gravy was unlimited, and had a decent consistency.
 
Overall this was an excellent roast dinner, and worth the
extra effort to drive slightly out of Reading. 
At £13.49 it provided excellent value for money too.
The service was excellent at all times, the pub was clean
and the waitresses were very attractive.
I would advise booking in advance as there were no tables
available in the restaurant and only one in the bar.
A thoroughly excellent roast dinner – 8.8 out of 10.  I highly recommend it.
Maybe I will manage more than one review this year?
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