Lamb @ Bird In Hand, Sonning Common 27/12/2015

I hope you all had a very nice Christmas, or at least enjoyed the free days off if you are not a devout Christian.

There was no rest for the wicked, or the jumped-up tin-pot Trip Advisor reviewer, as you may know me, and I travelled back down on the Sunday especially for my readers, to ensure that they didn’t miss out. Quite what Edible Reading’s excuse for not reviewing anywhere until 15th January is I do not know.

A roast dinner was actually the last thing that I wanted on Sunday, after a massive Christmas dinner, an even larger Boxing Day roast, not to mention the 6 hour journey down from Yorkshire (which paled into insignificance to my journey up there where my train broke down and was stuck there for 4 hours, oh joy of joys).

You know that blurred la la land that you get from spending hours and hours in a car? Or minutes and minutes reading my reviews? I had that. And not even a tinge of hunger. But the show must go on. Until I give a mafia establishment a bad review. Can you imagine – RDAR has been shot. I do occasionally dream about being shot, or arrested.

I cannot actually remember why I picked the Bird In Hand, in Sonning Common. Was it my random number generator, or did I actually pick it out?

It wasn’t an entirely auspicious start, as the proprietor was expecting us at the final table for 4pm, though I was certain that I had booked it for 4:30pm. He asked us to order quickly and there was some initial gruffness. Maybe I was in the wrong – as we say in my line of work, the customer is often wrong.

Otherwise the venue was very pleasant, some nice subtle decorative touches, a log fire, perhaps a touch on the poncey side for my Yorkshire upbringing, but that is just me. And an absolutely gorgeous in-house dog.

Betraying the descriptive elegance of the menu, the choices for the roast were pork, chicken, beef and lamb, priced between £14.00 and £18.00. I plumped for the braised lamb on the bone, at £16.00.

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We waited for around 15 minutes, and discussed the appropriateness of importing AIDS drugs into America during the early 1980’s.

There was quite a medley of vegetables. Some simple broccoli – there isn’t much to say about it. I particularly enjoyed the greens mixed with halved sprouts – they complimented each other particularly well.

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Carrots are best roasted, and these had seemingly been roasted, thin and long slices which brought out their succulence.

A true highlight was the parsnips. As close to perfection as I’ve ever tasted – they were so delicately sweet, yet had a slight nutty edge to them. Very impressive.

All good so far, but disappointment is often not far away when it comes to roast dinners around Reading, and disappointment is often not far away when it comes to Roast Dinners Around Reading.

I would suggest that I had roast potatoes but they actually more closely resembled chips. They were not quite chips – along the lines of oven-baked potatoes. They had a slightly oily outside and were slightly more robust internally than I’d prefer – acceptable but didn’t fill me with joy.

The Yorkshire pudding was a bit of a failure in that the sides didn’t rise. If they had, it would have been a cracking effort – sadly it more resembled a flat pancake. Though not a patch on the disaster that I made on Boxing Day, I think I actually made my worst ever YP – it ended up a small splodge of oily batter. Oops.

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Redemption was forthcoming. And redemption was supreme. The lamb was cooked close to perfection – falling off the bone as the fork approached, quite pink inside but not excessively so – the hints of balsamic and particularly the ale shone through. It had been…arrrrgh what is the word I’m looking for…not charred but that will have to do, charred on the outside before being braised. Delightful stuff.

There was plenty of lamb too – although my accomplices seemed to have even more on their plates. Not that I was hungry. But I was envious. I wasn’t vaguely hungry but I wanted more.

It was a red wine gravy that had been supplied, with a little bowl of extra gravy already on the plate. Did he recognise me? Despite the initial frostiness, we did receive good service afterwards, along with a goodbye and a wave from the ever-so-cute dog.

Oh yeah, the gravy. It was slightly more of a gravy than a jus, on thickness standards anyway although far from what I would even consider to be thick. It had a very strong taste to it, almost over-powering. Many would love it – I wasn’t keen. But that’s a simple man from Yorkshire thing.

Unquestionably this gets a Chiddingfold on the Yorkshire-Surrey scale. There was nothing northern about it at all. The highlight was the exquisite lamb, closely followed by the parsnips. The lowlight the roast potatoes that weren’t roast potatoes and weren’t chips either.

Ahhhh chips and gravy.

I’m going to give it a 7.6 out of 10 just because of the lamb. Go there for the dog, if not the exceptional lamb – I do hope to get chance to eat off-duty here one time soon. I fully intend on going back. Just to clarify – they do not serve dog, they just have an adorable dog.

Next Sunday I have a suspicion that I’ll still be hanging from New Year’s Day (too many idiots go out on New Year’s Eve for my liking) so I’m assuming it will be somewhere easy to get to that I end up. The random number generator picked somewhere which is horrendous to get to from Bracknell.

So, I wish you a great new year. I only have one plan for New Year’s Eve and that is too eat some gravy.

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