Lamb @ The Catherine Wheel, Goring, 05/06/2016

Finally I am someone again.

Yes not since the giddy Get Reading days have I had some public abuse, but finally someone has recognised my talents and called me a clown.

What I suspect though, is that she actually really enjoys this blog, and is just getting into the spirit of things. Either that or she runs a pub that does crap roast dinners.

Speaking of being someone, this week I headed out to The Catherine Wheel in Goring, a rather well-to-do village west of Reading – a very pleasant area of the country. One of the 10 places on my must-review bucket list, it was recommended to me by my secret 4th housemate in my previous house that never paid any rent but did take the bin out once. Jolly nice chap though.

A table was booked for 3pm, I even had an attractive young lady coming – though, alas, story of my life…I was stood up again.

The pub itself featured low ceilings and wooden beams. It took a good 10-15 minutes to get someone’s attention at the bar, not because they were slovenly but because they were really rather busy. A good sign.

I was shown to my table and advised to come to the bar when I had decided what I wanted. I asked if I could order straight away, which caused some confusion. But yes, I was allowed to order straight away rather than sit down, pretend to look at a menu and then walk back to order, risking losing my seat in the sunshine. You’ve put the menu on your website for a reason.

Beef, pork and lamb were the options, though they did have a vegetarian option – don’t ask me what! I paid £14.95 for the lamb, I think. There was also the possibility of having a roast dinner sandwich – if only I didn’t need to lose weight, I could have had that for starter.

One day I’m actually going to have designate pie day. I’ll have pork pie for lunch, a proper pie for dinner and apple pie for dessert. But I’m not sure what to do for breakfast – any ideas? Must be a pie.

There was around a 30 minute wait for the food, which normally I don’t mind, but I was more hungry than I was horny, and I’m going through a horny phase at the moment. But the rule is, the longer the wait, the better the roast.

One other thing to note, the charming and very nicely dressed lady that I assumed was the landlady, was polishing the cleaned glasses properly. Attention to detail. I approve.

So I was sat, very happily, in the sunshine when my roast arrived. It looked good. I didn’t even have to ask for more gravy.

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I started with what appeared to be mashed swede. It had a rather light orange colour, for swede, tasted rather buttery and on the sweet side. I have never enjoyed swede as much as I enjoyed this.

Onto the mange tout – one of my favourite vegetables and not something ever supplied with a bad roast dinner. Sadly they were a tiny bit undercooked for my preferences, being rather squeaky and crunchy – but horses for courses.

On the other hand, the cauliflower cheese was exceptional. Really creamy and really cheesy – plenty of it too. Truly delicious.

But swinging back the other way a tad like in the gay club in Ibiza, the roast potatoes were not very roasted. Whilst they were soft in the middle, there was no evidence on them having been roasted. Good potatoes – but not good roast potatoes.

Also roasted were a couple of parsnips. Not quite as sweet or nutty as normal, maybe it was the oil that they had been roasted in.

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A homemade Yorkshire pudding was included, marginally sponge-like in texture, close to a medium size.

Two large slices of lamb were included, assumedly leg of lamb, one quite thick at 6mm, the other half the thickness. Medium-cooked, with cracked pepper on the top, this was very good and rather succulent lamb.

Finally, the gravy. It seemed to have a hint of mint and red wine in it, which may just have been my hangover from 2 bottles of wine confusing my basic northern taste buds – it was a nice gravy, a thick one too, though it did become a little tiresome towards the end.

Overall it was a very good roast dinner, at a very nice pub with very nice weather.

Nobody came to collect my plate or offer me dessert – I could have been tempted. I stayed for a second drink which is quite unusual for when I’m on my own. I blame the sunshine.

My highlight was the exquisite cauliflower cheese – the lowlight, surprise surprise, the unroasted potatoes. On the Yorkshire-Surrey scale, it rates a Nether Heyford. Scores on the doors – 7.7 out of 10.

Next Sunday I think I’m going to go somewhere in the town centre. Yes, Reading town center. Actual Reading. Somewhere also on my bucket list, though somehow I still have 10 places on it.

And hopefully start clowning around again – this was a pretty boring review wasn’t it? Here’s a photo of my rail replacement bus to brighten things up.

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Roast Beef @ The Miller Of Mansfield, Goring 19/04/2015

Roast Beef @ The Miller Of Mansfield, Goring 19/04/2015

Good afternoon.  How are we all?  Did you miss me last week?

Firstly I am going to ask a favour.  If you don’t already do so, please consider following the page on Facebook.  Consider it an electronic version of a crispy roast potato.  And if you are feeling generous, please do hit the button that invites your friends.  That would be analogous to proper gravy.

I’ve reviewed 19 roast dinners so far – 3 of the last 4 have ended up in the bottom 5 of the league table, the other slap bang in the middle.  I was overdue a success.

Again picked by random number generator, but this time it seemed on the face of it to have everything going for it.  Set in the picturesque village of Goring, it had good reviews Trip Advisor, the website was reasonable, the wording of the menu was delicate and intriguing – the price was on the high side – £19.00 for the beef or £15.00 for the pork belly.  I had no reason to believe it would be a bad roast dinner.

The nibble’s menu was tempting – what are “proper sausage rolls”?  Are they saying that Gregg’s do fake sausage rolls?  I had gone with the intention of resisting all other temptations, partly financial but also because I just didn’t need to.  However the idea of a sack of bread for the starter was too difficult to ignore for both myself and my linguistically-gifted accomplice – a bag of bread wouldn’t have appealed.  Neither would a basket of bread.  We wanted the sack.  A sack of bread.

Anyway I’m not here to talk about starters, nibbles or desserts.

It took a little while to be attended to upon arrival.  There were 4 people behind the bar busying themselves, I couldn’t quite work out what with and it was 2-3 minutes before we were greeted and another 2-3 minutes before anyone thought to ask why we were there or if we wanted any service.  Do I look that out of place in upmarket Goring?!

An inauspicious start, and it wasn’t exactly busy either.  There were far more free tables than occupied tables.  We seated ourselves on two stools around a barrel and ate our rather excellent homemade bread rolls.  Only four balls for £2.99 and perhaps we had fallen for their sneaky marketing of a sack.

We did get the slightly odd question of whether we wanted to be seated in the restaurant when our dinner was ready – quite how we were supposed to eat a roast dinner on a barrel, whilst sat on a stool I did not comprehend.  Perfect for a drink and nibbles – but it wasn’t dining room furniture.  Perhaps it was just automated like when you place your bag for life on the counter of a shop and they ask you if you want a bag.  I always find that very hard to respond to without automatically resorting to sarcasm.

Am I being picky?  It looked like it was going to be a fine dining experience – at least in terms of being a roast dinner so I was expecting service perfection.  More on the service later.

The venue itself was beautiful on the outside – really picturesque.  On the inside it was split into a restaurant with mustard-coloured walls and good quality wooden seats and tables – the bar area was an attempt at a rustic feel, and a pretty good job too.  Overall a pleasing aesthetic – and the toilet roll was high quality too – with the added pointed touch.  You can judge places by the quality of the toilet roll that they offer their patrons.

Also worth mentioning before I get into the meat of the subject is that it is dog-friendly, and though it doesn’t have a car park, we could park close by.  Also a short walk from the train station.

The vegetables arrived in two small bowls – one of spring greens, the other of carrots and cauliflower cheese.  I thought that we were advised that purple sprouting broccoli was one of the vegetable offerings but maybe I imagined that.

The carrots were on the crunchy side.  In fact they were some of the more-crunchy carrots that I have ever had.  I like that there was some extra effort made – they were cooked in butter with added chives – I thought I could taste a hint of honey too but that could just have been their homemade butter.

Continuing the crunchy theme was the cauliflower cheese.  A creamy crunchy affair – yet again another portion of cauliflower cheese that didn’t taste much of cheese though.  It was still enjoyable.

There wasn’t much in the way of Spring greens to be able to ascertain any specific taste or opinion.  In fact the whole vegetable offering was what should really have been offered to one person – not two.

Panic had struck me when the plate initially arrived.  Can you guess why?

For despite the beautiful presentation – without doubt one of the better-presented plates so far – I could only see one roast potato.  One?  How tight.

Fear not though as the other two were hidden under the beef.  Three roast potatoes felt generous after my initial worry but in reality is anything but.  However the roast potatoes were excellent.  Very tasty as they had been cooked in duck fat – and you could tell unlike some places that tell you they cook their potatoes in duck fat but it might as well be cooked in paper oil.  Crispy on the outside – fluffy on the inside.  Pretty damn perfect.

3 pretty perfect roast potatoes beats unlimited and distinctly average potatoes as per the last review.

The Yorkshire pudding on the other hand wasn’t so excellent.  Rather on the soft side throughout, and not just on the gravy-dampened bottom.  It wasn’t a bad yorkie.

Penultimately there is the beef.  Again not exactly enough to have trouble eating it – but wow.  It was quite exquisite.  Very much on the red side which is how it should be, it was so tasty.  It just came apart with the smallest of effort – the beef was the definition of tenderness.  The waitress did ask if it were cooked enough for our liking which was a nice touch.

After the early disengagement, the service was much improved.  Attentive when required, with questions asked about what we thought of the meal (was I rumbled?!).  Good enough for a tip.

And finally – the gravy.  It was a beef gravy though it did taste a little on the buttery side – perhaps still from the carrots though?  Thin – but consistency is always on the light side at the more upmarket places.

Which I think it quite a good analogy for the whole experience – a little on the light side.

There is lots to praise – particularly the really excellent beef and roast potatoes.  There is nothing to complain about in terms of food quality.  But for £19.00 I just expected a little more volume – the vegetables in particular seemed very under-provided.

Perhaps I am being a tad piquant, but it is only going to receive a 7.5 out of 10.

Next Sunday I am planning on revisiting the scene of a recent failure.

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