Pork @ The Queen’s Oak, Finchampstead 20/03/2016

Sometimes I am the Peter Mandelson of creativity. That is not the case today.

Those of you with a keen memory that have travelled down the M40 may remember the graffiti “Why Do I Do This Every Day?”.

It was painted over, only to be replaced some time later with “Why Do I Still Do This Every Day?”.

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In the same way that I got up, had a shower, made my breakfast, went to work, etc etc this morning, yesterday I woke up and worked out how I was going to accomplish my roast dinner mission with an automation that would make the most autistic autoist autopilot automatically proud.

Why do I do this every week?

I was even more tired yesterday than I am today, after an initial hour-long burst of activity, I was ready to go back to bed by 11am. I soldiered on as I had booked a table at the Queen’s Oak in Finchampstead for midday.

Ahhhh – midday. That should then guarantee good roast potatoes shouldn’t it? Surely there was no chance that they would have been sitting there for hours?

The pub itself was odd and rather weathered – not in a hipster kind of way either. Partitioned into two, arguably beneficial given my fragile state yesterday and the Christening going on in the larger room – according to our table neighbour this would be so they could get into a good school. Yes it was cosy but space was at a premium and it was as if you were sat on the same table as your table neighbours – or at least it seemed that way to my socialist accomplice who kept trying to join in with their conversation. It isn’t the north, my friend.

Anyway, the chairs were plastic. Have you ever bought a plastic crown from Poundland, whilst dressing up as a king/queen? The chairs were something kind of along those lines, sat against walls of nicotine yellow and dark blood red. If I didn’t feel uncomfortable and ill beforehand, I did now.

This is all incidental though. Good food is what matters. There were no menus either online from the equally shabby-looking Wix website, or in the pub itself. There was a specials board but if you wanted to know what was on it, you’d have to go have a look at the board next door as they weren’t going to tell you.

We were miserably advised where our table was, so we toddled off to locate it. It took a good 10 minutes before we were asked what we wanted and offered the option of having a drink. I wasn’t in the slightest dehydrated after a heavy weekend, not at all. Options were pork, beef and lamb. I went for the pork at £11.50 – my accomplice went for the lamb at £12.50.

Things improved after the inauspicious start – the dinner looked decent despite my continually-bad photography.

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The vegetables came in a side-dish so we’ll start there. Both the broccoli and green beans were predictably ordinary. Softer than ideal – the green beans were unusually dark too.

There were a fair few full baby carrots – cooked with roots complete, crunchy and sweet. In fact they were actually a bit larger than baby carrots – I think they have a proper name. The pick of the vegetables by a long way.

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So how about the midday roast potatoes that I had high hopes would not have been sat around for hours turning into a car tyre? Well, they hadn’t been sat around for hours and they weren’t made of rubber either.

However, instead they were quite well-undercooked and not roasted either. The taste and texture was that of a deep-fried potato – they were closer to enlarged flat chips and certainly not what I would call a roast potato.

The Yorkshire pudding was quite bowl-like. Homemade and a touch too thin and crispy in places – a smidgen overdone and burnt on top but overall not too bad despite my unappealing description.

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There were four smallish slices of pork loin. It didn’t really stand out in any way so I blame the Tories because they promised me 5 slices by 2021 but instead they cut this to 4 slices instead of the usual 3 slices. My friend also said that the lamb was good. Then again he thought that the “roast” potatoes were really good too. Oh yeah and he votes Labour.

Thanks to Iain Duncan-Smith’s resignation, the cuts were reversed and stuffing was provided both with the pork and lamb dishes. This was a ball of joy – homemade, packed full of herbtastic taste.

I even had Steven Crabb crackling which was edible despite me having been attacked by the evil Tory dentist earlier in the week. A mixture of crunch and soft fat, this was quite delicious.

But not a patch on the pig in blanket which was just drool-worthy. I probably was dribbling. I am possibly still dribbling now. It was again homemade sausage meat – stumpy but fat – a bit like Eric Pickles. Sorry, Sir Eric Pickles MBE.

I appreciate that my review didn’t flow this week. I’m not even going to attempt to improve it apart from to check spelling/grammar mistakes of which there was a record amount.

Gosh I had forgotten about the gravy. My socialist friend said it was like a jus. It wasn’t. It was quite a thick, gloopy gravy. There was almost none on the plate but it came with a large gravy boat. Fairly ordinary but ordinary gravy is most acceptable. I’m really not firing on all cylinders today, am I?

What they did well at The Queens Oak pub (be careful if using your sat nav trying to locate this place) they did well – in particular my favourite being the pig in blanket. The deep fried potatoes were below par and not enjoyable. It was a pretty northern affair – I’d be tempted to rate it a Featherstone.

I’m going to give it a 7.4 out of 10. Were it not for the little extras, then it would have been around a 6.2.

Next weekend I’m up north again – the weekend after I’m clubbing so you might have to wait 3 weeks until the next review. But after the linguistic crapness of this review, I doubt that you will be crying into your gravy.

Oh yeah there was a parsnip too.  There was something not quite right about it – perhaps it was deep fried too.

Can I go back to bed?

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No I cannot be bothered to rotate it.

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Duck @ The Greyhound, Finchampstead 21/02/2016

Duck @ The Greyhound, Finchampstead 21/02/2016

I came up with a great introduction on Friday for this roast review. I have forgotten what it was.

I’m not feeling especially comedic today so maybe I’ll just get down to business. I can hear your collective sigh of relief.

I’d tried to book a table at The Greyhound a couple of weeks ago, despite there only being one train every two hours, and then a 50 minute walk from the station. Sadly they were fully booked. I took that as a good sign.

Travelling back from Hull yesterday, I had no intention of anything that involved a second mission – had I no accomplice, I doubt I would have bothered at all.

Thankfully, driver in place, we set off to our pre-booked table, despite the attempts of Hull Trains to delay me, albeit only by 35 minutes this time as opposed to 4 hours on Christmas Eve. And then I had to wait 8 minutes for a tube train. 8 minutes. Seriously. What are TFL playing at?

We were warmed greeted by our host, who even offered to take our jackets. My immediate thoughts were that this was a little more upmarket than the boy from ‘Ull is used to. I was confident of a well-presented roast dinner. But would it be any good?

Three roast dinners were on offer; Aberdeen Angus rump of beef, Hampshire pork loin and honey & orange glazed duck breast. It had to be the duck at £16.50. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the first ever Roast Dinners Around Reading duck review. I do try not to eat duck because I would like to be re-incarnated as a duck. Well, I’d like to be re-incarnated as a human ideally, maybe a Jamaican gangster, but a duck is my second choice.

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Oh I did say no talking crap didn’t I?

There was a fair wait for our roast dinners, maybe 20 minutes or so, I didn’t time it, as we watched dish after dish come out for what looked like quite an exquisite buffet. Certainly not the type of buffet you’d get in Hull.

Don’t forget – longer waits are a good sign.

Once the dinner arrived, it was immaculately presented, as I had expected.

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Firstly there was something I’d never even seen before – which looked like the vegetable equivalent of a dinosaur. Extra points not only for novelty but for introducing me to something new – I couldn’t work out if it was closer to cauliflower or broccoli. Taste-wise it was closer to cauliflower, albeit not so strong. Quite crunchy too.

Gosh I’m going into a second paragraph for a vegetable. Wikipedia doesn’t help me understand what to classify this as. To quote, “Romanesco broccoli, also known as Roman cauliflower, Broccolo Romanesco, Romanesque cauliflower or simply Romanesco”. So I shall call it Dinosaur Cauliflower. So happy to have had something inventive on the roast. Hint, hint chefs.

And a third paragraph. Even better than that, the number of spirals on the head of the Dinosaur Cauliflower is a Fibonacci number. You do know what a Fibonacci number is, don’t you?

Accompanying this was a collection of “roots”. Initially I was expecting that, just some plant roots, or maybe tree roots. Until I “twigged”. Sorry.

There were only a few of each, all roasted, all succulent, all bordering on excellent. The carrots were the pick, sliced lengthways and wonderfully buttery. Or maybe the parsnips were the pick with their sweetness. The swede wasn’t the pick but it was good, nonetheless. If I were being picky, then maybe the parsnips could have done with a few more minutes roasting.

I nearly forgot to mention it but there were a few leaves of spinach – deliciously buttery. Why wasn’t there more spinach?!

So far, so very good. But could they pass the roast potato test?

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Just about. The potatoes were roasted properly and tasted good. Perhaps roasted in duck fat – there was a hint of having been cooked in something nicer, but not strong. That said, they were on the cold side – had I gone for the roast a few hours before, I’d probably have been very impressed with them. Fairly crispy on the outside, fairly soft on the inside, with just a hint of rosemary and cracked pepper. Good but not perfect.

The Yorkshire pudding was disappointing. Though it had risen some way, it was dry, overcooked, a little chewy and ultimately pointless.

Alas, the gravy was also uninspiring. That said, these more upmarket places can ruin gravy by doing wanky jus, and this wasn’t a jus, just justifiably a thin, watery inoffensive gravy. Fine but given the quality on offer elsewhere on the plate, my expectations were not met.

Did you know Donald Duck used to smoke?

I’m going to struggle to describe how good the duck was. It was sliced into 6mm pieces, cooked close to a medium-rare with enough pink showing. The meat itself was tender, juicy, with a slight layer of fat and skin on the top which just added to the joy. The flavouring was evident throughout but never too much.

Everything about the duck was top notch. I have indeed struggled to explain just how good it was.

I did also swap a slice of duck for a slice of beef, and can confirm that was excellent too, a hint of pepper on the edge, and very red throughout.

Ahhhh. And relax. I’ve had a very good roast dinner. If the YP and gravy had impressed, it would have been challenging for a top 3 position. Again, if I were being picky then I’d have liked a little more quantity – I was still quite hungry afterwards and ended up having a dessert. Though I guess that is a sign of a good restaurant.

The service really was excellent throughout, from greeting to goodbye, the staff earned their tip and our (cute) waitress had brows on fleek. I really hope you do not understand that last comment.

So much of the meal was enjoyable, but the duck was just a level above. The YP was the disappointment. On the Yorkshire-Surrey scale it rates a Windsor.

And numbers? A nice round 8.0 out of 10.

Next weekend’s location depends on whether I have guests. I have found myself a nice little walk to do, as I fancy a walk in the countryside but only if I’m by myself.

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