Gammon @ The Fox & Hounds, Caversham 08/11/2015

Getting a good roast dinner in or around the town centre of Reading is pretty difficult. Malmaison scored a 7.4 and Cau an 8.1. Most others have been distinctly average, or sometimes bad. And then there was the Wetherspoons in a category of its own.

Which is why I started this blog in the first place – the amount of times I have seen people ask the question “Where can I get a decent roast in Reading?” over the years just begged someone to answer the question.

I’d long over-looked the Fox & Hounds. I’d assumed that I had never been there, though when I walked into the doors, I realised that I had memories of some east Asian people selling me copied DVDs that they’d downloaded from Kazaa, whilst it snowed, in March/April. Anyone still use Kazaa?

Fast forward, ooooh, 12 or so years and I was back to eat a roast dinner.

I’ve wanted to go here for some time but I work on instruction, either by friends or the random number generator (which could perhaps be classed as my best friend) – but finally a friend wanted to go here so I walked over the shiny new bridge and set foot in the Fox & Hounds.

By the way, I like the rusty metal look.

The Fox & Hounds is a pub pub. It has a good selection of ales, is decorated with a vast array of beer mats and is split into two rooms – one was quite busy, the other with a pool table totally empty. The two ladies working behind the bar were friendly – and somewhat ebullient about the roast when I called earlier in the day to check they were doing roasts.

Two choices on offer – beef and gammon. And nut roast for vegetarians. And keenly priced at £10.00.

So I chose gammon as it was the first time that I had had the opportunity to do so since, oooh the Shoulder of Mutton controversy.

After around 15 minutes the home-made roast dinner turned up – packed with differing types of vegetables and a full plate.

The carrots were carrots. And they were orange. Did you know they used to be purple? I wonder if J.K. Tolkein could find 44 different ways to describe Harry Potter’s carrots?

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Moving on. I really enjoyed the curly kale, it hadn’t been cooked too much yet was still slightly on the soft side of average, as the carrots were. I’m not sure I’ve ever had it before, I thought they were spring greens until my friend corrected me. I guess the closest taste I can think of is spinach. I really did enjoy it – especially with the gravy which complimented the curly kale superbly.

The red cabbage didn’t quite have the same fruitiness to it as last week’s review had, though that was an exceptionally good roast. I’m not a fan of red cabbage and this was just kind of there. I was very indifferent to it.

At least there wasn’t too much of it – which cannot be said for the roast potatoes. I constantly complain about just getting 3 roast potatoes but 5 roast potatoes were too many as there were a bit of a chore to eat – they had been roasted at some point, but sadly had become rather rubbery and were quite dry inside.

I’ve had far worse but…yeah…

Controversially I’m now skipping back to the vegetables for the cauliflower and broccoli cheese which I’m pleased to say was good, the vegetables themselves were tender, creamy and tasted of…cheese! Yes a cauliflower cheese with cheese. How rare. And with broccoli too. Not quite up to the standard of The Crown in Playhatch (oooh remember what happened last time I compared somewhere to there….eeek) but it was pleasing for my tastebuds.

The Yorkshire pudding was quite crispy on the outside, but more in a shell kind of way. It wasn’t the best effort – perhaps it was cooked in vegetable oil. Something wasn’t quite right about it.

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I’m not sure gammon roasts are for me. It is good to mix it up, and this was cooked in cider so had a slight edge to it but it wasn’t as succulent as gammon can be, I feel that it was cooked too long, at least for my preferences.  And it was salty.  I know gammon is salty but this was very salty.

I did try the beef that my friend had and that was really good. Tender and nicely pink in the middle (on request)…it would easily have had another half a point on the end score had I not wanted to mix things up and go for gammon. Going for, going for…gammon. I’m pretty sure there used to be TV show with that name.

The gravy was tasty. An onion-influenced gravy, I thought I could taste a hint of red wine too. Enough in the way of consistency, though never as thick as 99.9% of northerners like it, and thicker than 99.9% of southerners like it (ie water).

So it was a bit of a mixed bunch.

Ooooh we had a stuffing ball too.  I cannot remember the last time I was served stuffing – it did add some extra contrast to the gammon, though the balls could have done turning during cooking – mine was dark well-cooked on top and not so on the bottom.

It’s the kind of place that if I lived in Caversham I could make my local. It has a far better feel than the vastly over-rated Griffin down the road, not to mention a better roast dinner. It feels like a pub that has been lifted out of mediocrity and is the kind of place that I passionately believe should be supported.

We had good service – the option was there for us to have beef and gammon.  And at £10.00 it is definitely one of the lower priced roasts so it was pretty good value for money.

I’m giving it a 6.6 out of 10. I’d love to give it a higher score but it is what it is. As I said earlier, it would have been higher if I had had the beef.

 

Favourite part – curly kale.  Worst part – roast potatoes.  On the Yorkshire-Surrey scale it rates a Grantham.  I assume you know what the Yorkshire-Surrey scale is?  Granted I may have just made this up.  I’ll leave it for you to work out until next week.  Or maybe I’ll just tell you at Christmas.  Call it your Christmas present from me.

Next week I’m not sure where I’m going. I know I am going for a roast with my best friend, but whether my best friend chooses where we go or my best friend chooses where we go, I do not know.

I guess I’ll have to toss a coin.

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Gammon @ The Shoulder Of Mutton, Playhatch 07/06/2015

Gammon @ The Shoulder Of Mutton, Playhatch 07/06/2015

So the random number generator decided that I should go back to Playhatch, the scene of the greatest ever roast dinner (except those I’ve cooked myself, of course).  Until I realised that England had a friendly against Ireland at 1pm.  And I don’t usually miss England games.  And according to the website, The Shoulder Of Mutton only serves roast dinners until 2pm.

What was I going to do?  Roast dinner in the gorgeous sunshine, or watch the football?

And apart from the fact that the last time England and Ireland played in Ireland, there was a riot, why exactly was the game kicking off at 1pm?

I chose gravy over football.  Was it a wise decision?

Confusingly when I called in advance, they seemed to suggest that they served roast dinners until 7:30pm.  Contradictory to their website.  Dear businesses – people do actually use the internet.  And then when I arrived, they didn’t have a record of my booking.  Not to worry, as there were plenty of free tables.

Now let’s be Frank Spencer about this.  A pub serving a roast dinner within 100 metres of The Crown, is going to end up being compared to The Crown.

I’ve been told both that they do really good roasts, and also really disappointing roasts.

I was initially very encouraged as the menu had slightly unusual choices – gammon, turkey and mutton are not often offered, and I really like trying different foods – on a slight tangent I went to a Moroccan restaurant in Windsor on Saturday night, and their spicy sausages would have gone down a treat on a roast dinner.

Anyway I chose the beef.

Only joking.  I plumped for the gammon, and after a 10-15 minute wait in the gorgeous sunshine, the food arrived, looking on the home-cooked side – with the vegetables on a side dish, and extra gravy upon request arriving in a gravy boat.

I’m never really sure about vegetables being in a side-dish.  I feel that it is just for presentational purposes, however it really worked here as the cream from the creamed leeks somewhat infused the carrots, and to a very minor extent, the broccoli.  Damn, I spelt it wrong again.

Carrots were flat and fairly thin.  They tasted like carrots.  Did you know that carrots in Spanish, are zanahorias?  I really am scraping the barrel on how to describe carrots.

Likewise the broccoli was broccoli.  Both the zanahorias and the brócoli (it’s not spelt wrong – it’s Spanish) seem to have been steamed, and had the added complexion of the cream from the creamed leeks, which was a nice touch.

I don’t ever recall having creamed leeks on my adventures, so again marks for doing something different.  As I have demonstrated above, there are only so many ways I can make carrots interesting now I am on review number 27.  Although they were creamy, there was something missing, as creamed leeks really should be a taste sensation.  But they were good.

Now onto the not-so-good parts.

The roast potatoes did taste like they were out of a bag and put in a deep fat fryer.  There were 4 potatoes, all small.  Two slightly crispy, one of which was fairly uncooked inside.  The other two not at all crispy and not cooked enough inside.  Oh Betty.

The Yorkshire pudding was one of those small sponge-like ventures, and over-cooked.  Not good at all.  Ohhh Betty.

But we got stuffing.  Yes there was stuffing, and it was home-made with both sage and orange evident on my tastebuds.  I was quite impressed.  All roast dinners should come with stuffing.  Perhaps not beef and lamb, but all others should.

Onto the gammon – the reason why I was rather excited.  It was a tiny bit overcooked for my preferences, giving it a slightly dry complexion.  Average at best – the last time I had gammon was at The World Turned Upside Down, and it wasn’t as good as that.  Albeit that was the only thing I enjoyed at The World Turned Upside Down.

There was plenty of gravy, and it was real gravy.  Well, except in consistency where it more resembled a jus, especially with the many oil spots.

One day I will go on a photography course.

Overall it definitely gets extra marks for trying to do something different, the pub is nice, the garden was really nice in the sunshine, the service was good and the price of the roast was a pleasing £11.50.  And I can go into celebratory mode – they forgot to charge me for my second cider.

But there is much room for improvement, especially for the more crucial components.

And the question will always be asked – why are you going to The Shoulder Of Mutton when The Crown is just 100 metres away?  Unless The Crown is fully booked, then you should always go to The Crown.

I’m going to give it a 6.1 out of 10.

Next Sunday I’m going to another chain.  My expectations are higher than they were for the Wetherspoons, and hopefully it beats the Toby Carvery.  But it certainly has the potential to be dreadful.  Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Betty.

So how was the football?

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Gammon & Turkey @ The World Turned Upside Down, 06/04/2015

Gammon & Turkey @ The World Turned Upside Down, 06/04/2015

I left you last week in a state of suspense – will I ever do another roast review?

Next weekend I am in London so unlikely to be able to produce a review, and this weekend gone I was in the beautiful city of Hull – City of Culture 2017.  I assume the cultured among you will be visiting?

But I didn’t want you to think that I was leaving you.  I might one day but my work is unfinished.  Especially now I even have Get Reading following the blog.

I got back into Reading around 9pm on Sunday night – still stuffed after my mother’s roast dinner (I reckon a 7.4 before you ask) so there was no way I was going to be able to have a roast dinner anywhere.  And how was I going to get a Sunday Roast on a Monday?

There was only one solution.

Yes for £7.49 on a Sunday, and just £4.29 Monday to Saturday (except of course on bank holidays, grrrr) – and an extra £1.50 to GO LARGE, there was The World Turned Upside Down.  How could I resist?

It isn’t in the most salubrious area.  I can avoid making a snotty comment about the clientele as there were not enough clientele to pass remark upon.  The ambience was one of near-silence.  Perhaps they need some dub techno to set the mood?  Possibly the most tenuous way to promote my DJing.

We waited for a short period until the chef appeared, who was very friendly and up for some banter.  The gammon looked freshly cooked but the other meats looked dry – as if they had been under heat lamps for several hours.  Which of course they had.  You could also have pie instead of meat for the roast.  Or a half-chicken though it was closer to a third by time the heat lamps had shrivelled them up.

The vegetable selection wasn’t exactly inspiring – peas, carrots, cauliflower ‘cheese’, sweetcorn – they also had chips.  Chips???!  Though I admit that I have on occasion had chips on self-made roast dinners when I had had too bad a hangover to make roast potatoes.

I chose only the cauliflower ‘cheese’ – two of the vegetables on offer are FOFs (the second word is “off”, I will leave you to work out the rest) and I didn’t fancy plain old carrots.  My accomplice did assure me that the carrots did not taste of arse.  The cauliflower cheese was ok, quite on the soft side and a hint of creaminess to pass the Trading Standards Cauliflower Cheese test.

As I could have as many roast potatoes as I wanted, I had 8, maybe 9.  There were one or two crispy sides mixed in, but generally a rubbery lukewarm feel to them.  Vaguely acceptable.

Having the special golden large ticket, I was granted a sausage.  The sausages had clearly been cooked some hours ago, but it was edible and porkish.  Something close to a Walls sausage.

The special golden large ticket (it was actually just a white receipt and the same size as a normal sized dinner receipt but my accomplice works in marketing and it seems to be rubbing off on me) also granted a large Yorkshire pudding instead of unlimited small Yorkshire puddings.  As the large one needed to be made fresh, I chose that option.  Crispy sides and a delightfully soggy base, it really wasn’t too bad at all.  Far from award-winning but acceptable.

I cannot really pass too much comment upon the stuffing.  It was a slightly different colour and taste to what I expected, and a touch on the stale side.  But at least it was attempted – I wish more places would do so.  Granted I accept most places are going for a higher class of customer (or “better” class of customer as Get Reading managed to suggest those shopping at the Oracle are compared to those shopping at Primark…ouch) and stuffing balls may not be part of the staple diet in Henley.

Just to clarify, I am working class.  At least when I’m in Henley.  In Hull I am upper-middle class.

Onto the meat and I chose gammon, which I normally don’t go for.  However it looked freshly cooked unlike the other meats and it tasted gammony, a touch salty with a wide brim of fat, but it was quite enjoyable.

The other meats looked awful – beef, lamb and turkey but I noticed a fresh turkey had been brought out and placed near the vegetables – however Adolf’s chirpy and banterous nature did not cheer him up enough to allow me the fresh meat so I just plumped for the turkey.

Did you get it?! Plumped…turkey…

Moving on.

Frankly it was some of the worst meat I have reviewed so far.  Cold, dry, stale.  It was your step-auntie’s turkey from Christmas Day – at the New Year’s Eve party that you really didn’t want to go to.

So onto the gravy.  The most complimentary thing to say was at least it wasn’t jus.  Is it complimentary or complementary?  I’m normally pretty good with my spelling despite going to school in Hull.  It was quite thin but generally acceptable.  Unlike my schooling.

I did not have high expectations for this.  I think it beat my low expectations.  Had it been freshly cooked then the score would have been a little higher.

It was better than the Toby Carvery – the meat had taste to it for a start.

I’m going to give it a slightly controversial 4.4 out of 10.

Next weekend I am partying in London on the Saturday night and with the first train home being the Waterloo stopping service at 7am, I doubt I will be able to move, let alone eat come Sunday afternoon.  But you never know.

By the way, if you are looking for a Christmas present for your soon-to-be ex-wife/husband, look no further then the below great offer.

Can you imagine the joy on their face?

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