Turkey @ Bell & Bottle, Shinfield 13/12/2015

I only discovered the existence of the Bell & Bottle last winter, when I popped in for a pint after a countryside walk around Shinfield, to watch the second half of a football game in which my team were playing. We lost 3-0 in an abject performance.

I discovered that they did roast dinners, but I ploughed onto the excellent Black Boy up the road.

Recently, the random number generator insisted that I paid another visit for one of their roast dinners. I wondered if it might be a hidden gem – no website and a Facebook page that hasn’t been updated since 2010. Yet they offered home-cooked roast dinners. This is the main point of Roast Dinners Around Reading – to get you away from the obvious and average places, to the undiscovered gems.

It took the best part of two hours to get there, 50 minutes of walking, one train and one bus.

I arrived to see a big Fosters sign stuck on the outside of the pub. You know where this is heading, don’t you?

The pub was split into a bar area and dining area, like many are nowadays. Wonderfully tacky Christmas decorations, mingling with fruit machines and TV screens. The tables were sturdy – the chairs I sunk right into, not quite to the floor but I was much lower down than I would prefer.

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There was a warm welcome from the two ladies running the bar. The options were beef, pork or turkey – guess what I selected? It being Christmas, and all. The price was just £7.95 – one of the cheapest roasts around.

Upon arrival there was no shortage of food. Certainly not vegetables, anyway, with 4 different types of steamed vegetables.

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I started with the green beans. There were far too many of them, and they were disturbingly darkened. They tasted fine. Fine in a very average way.

The broccoli (I’m pretty good at spelling that now) had a bit of bite to it, but there really isn’t any more to say about it. The cauliflower was very ordinary, also very soft – it could easily have ended up mushy cauliflower.

I sensed a touch of butter on the carrots, and they were pretty pleasing. I’ve had carrots in most of the 49 roasts to date and I’m really bored of writing about them – you are probably bored of reading about them but my readers stats are holding up, despite the recent loss of my attempted sense of humour. Maybe I need to talk about crystal meth more.

One certainly needed a sense of humour for the roast potatoes. They had been roasted. I am not sure when. There were four roast potatoes, two of which had a good 3-4mm of brown on the bottom. It tasted of burnt oil. It was fairly horrendous – I actually had to cut it off and leave it.

Otherwise they were chewbecca throughout. These may win the award for the worst roast potatoes in the inaugural annual roast dinner awards coming when I can be bothered to write them. A true abomination.

Do you think Ricky Gervais reads this? Maybe I should tweet him?

The Yorkshire pudding was fine. Small, edible – possible an Aunt Bessie’s or similar.

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I quite enjoyed the larger than usual stuffing ball, which the lady that took my order seemed particularly excited about, but even that was rather dry and coarse.

The turkey was utterly forgettable. It wasn’t bad, except the small corner of gristle which was inedible. Three slices that were tender enough and tasted of turkey, but also reminded me of one of those Bernard Matthew’s turkey crowns.

Finally the gravy was watery. Very thin. I am trying to forget about my whole experience.

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On the bright side, I did however have a very nice pint of cider to rest on my Carlsberg beer mat.

The highlight was that I didn’t end up paying too much for it. I did enjoy the carrots too. The worst part was the shockingly bad roast potatoes. And to think Google told me it was a Gastropub.

I am probably being slightly generous giving it a 3.3 out of 10. It didn’t give me quite the level of disappointment as last week’s.

Next weekend is the big 5-0. My 50th review. So I’m going to somewhere good. I am going to get a good roast, even if I have to spend north of £20.00. I don’t care. It is going to be good.

By the way, does anyone else wish the Reading Business Improvement District would invest the Christmas money in giant inflatable Santa’s instead of all these posh-looking pretty white lights?

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