Chicken @ Oakford Social Club 11/01/2015

Chicken @ Oakford Social Club 11/01/2015
Around 5-6 years ago, myself and our friends used to go to
the Oakford Social Club almost every Sunday. 
This was the era when they had crayons, paints and canvasses on the
tables for budding artists to draw pictures of bearded dwarves conjoined to tables over
a nest of wasps.
It was always busy, sometimes we had to wait for a
table.  We always had a roast dinner –
sometimes they were very good, other times they were fairly awful.  Generally the staff were hopelessly forgetful
and looked like they were on some form of tranquilizer.  It was a great place to spend a hungover
Sunday.
Then they stopped doing the art.  They stopped doing the roasts.  And assumedly stopped doing the tranquilizer
as the service is much better nowadays. 
The really cute girl with short hair left.  We stopped going.
Myself and two close friends actually set off to go to The Blagrave
Arms yesterday, having heard good things about their roast.  Alas it was closed so we went around the
corner to our old home, the Oakford. 
Sadly I had left my fake beard at home but did have coloured trousers on
so I didn’t stand out too much.
I was a little pushed for time, having just 40 minutes until
I had to meet someone – thankfully there was no kitchen queue.  The menu offered a choice of beef, chicken or
something vegetarian that I took absolutely no notice of.  No beef left so chicken was the only option
for an anti-vegetarian such as myself.
Despite there being no kitchen wait, it still took 30 minutes for the roast to arrive.  I have to say that I was not especially hopeful
for a good roast dinner.  I really like
the Oakford as a pub but just had a feeling that the roast was going to be
awful.  My expectations were not changed
upon arrival.
The vegetables were a seasonal root vegetable mix.  All quite soft and soggy, with a
little microwave-warmth.  Swede, carrot,
parsnip, onion, possibly some curly kale were in cube-like evidence.  Edible but not enjoyable.  Actually I quite liked the parsnip.
5 minutes later our separately-ordered cauliflower cheese
arrived, and my extra gravy.  The
cauliflower itself was fine but the cheese was runny and messy – I do prefer
more of a sticky kind of feel to the cheese on cauliflower cheese.
The roast potatoes were the worst I have reviewed so
far.  The word “roast” would be
unjustified – they were cold inside, as if they had been reheated in the
microwave.  Which they had been.
The Yorkshire pudding was burnt.
I do have something good to say.  There was a lot of chicken – a whole half of
a chicken.  It was a touch on the dry
side but more generous than I have experienced elsewhere.  I particularly enjoyed the breast.
And the gravy was a reasonable effort too.  One of those red-wine efforts that kind of
taste like tomato.  A meat stock-based
gravy would have been far more welcome but it did have a good consistency –
this and the chicken rescued the roast – to an extent.
I am saddened to give such a bad review.  There is a lot to like about the Oakford –
the staff are friendly, the burgers are excellent, the range of beers is one of
my personal favourites in Reading – the crowd is generally good and music far
more interesting than most places in the town centre offer.
It’s uniqueness does seem to have been faded by central
office control over the years, and the roast dinner is a particularly disappointing
example of this.  What might work in an
inner-city pub in Stoke does not transfer to a hipster-style pub in
Berkshire.  Horses for courses.

The roast dinner being bad isn’t down to the chef – it is down to what the pub
is supplied with by central office.  The
course is right but the horse is wrong.
A sad, lonely 2.8 out of 10 for what is my favourite Reading
watering-hole, my favourite burger joint – and now my least-favourite roast
dinner joint.
Sorry.
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Chicken @ The Lyndhurst 28/12/2014

Chicken @ The Lyndhurst 28/12/2014
The Lyndhurst used to be my local.  It always had a warm, welcoming feel to it, a
good range of beers and good food. 
Always.
So it was a surprise when it closed earlier this year.
Thankfully it has been re-opened, the kitchen has been
refitted and roast dinners are back on. 
Served until 6pm so as not to compete with the pub quiz at 8pm and at an
efficient price of £9.95 – the cheapest roast I have reviewed to date.
The welcome was voluminously complaisant – warmth and humour
exuded from the host and hostess, invigorating my slightly fragile mind and
body, which was immediately endearing and I dearly wished to be able to give a review as
warm as their welcome.
Beef and chicken were the options, I had reviewed lots of
beef recently so it had to be chicken. 
But wait a minute, there is a lamb shank available – oh yes please.
Actually, oh no there isn’t.
It is still panto season isn’t it?
When the roast arrived, my immediate impressions were of a
home-cooked roast dinner, it looked similar to something my mother would make.
Sadly there was only one vegetable – peas were also due to
be served however as they are the anti-Christ of the vegetable world due to
their lack of discipline, I was left with just one rooty delight – carrots.  And they were fine.  Nothing more, nothing less.
The potatoes were real home-cooked roast potatoes, sadly no
crispiness but these were an improvement on most of the offerings in recent
reviews.
Two Yorkshire puddings were served – small in size and soft
throughout.  They really should be
soft-bottomed only with a somewhat crispy outer shell.  Far from perfection but better than the over-cooked
offering from London Street Brasserie.
There were several generously sized slices of roast chicken,
along with two wings.  It was definitely
from a real chicken, it was tender, nicely cooked – however I felt it was a
little ordinary in taste – some lemon infusion or some herbs would have greatly
increased the score.
It being a chicken roast, I was disappointed that there was
no stuffing offered.
Finally, the gravy.  Good
marks for consistency, it was actually gravy-like consistency, however there was that tinge of
something like tomato that a lot of places seem to feel necessary to spice up a roast dinner
and ends up making the gravy, and hence the roast dinner, a touch tiresome.
I still asked for extra.
 
It’s a tricky one to give a rating to.  My heart wants to give a higher rating than
my belly does, due to the very warm friendly welcome, and general excellent
service – it seemed as though nothing was too much effort.
There was nothing wrong with the food and the home-cooked
feel was particularly endearing, however there is plenty of room for
improvement.
6.3 is my rating.  I do
recommend a roast dinner here.
And I have a feeling that if I go back in a few months,
which is inevitable, there will be a higher score.
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