Leg Of Lamb @ The Green Man, Hurst 17/05/2015

Leg Of Lamb @ The Green Man, Hurst 17/05/2015

I would like to start off with an apology to my UKIP readers.

I decided that I would take an immigrant to dinner on Sunday, to try to impress her enough to want to stay here for the rest of her life.

Firstly we went to Slough for a walk around, to show her the cultured side of the Thames Valley.  There was perhaps not as much to see as I expected, and apart from a Wetherspoons and a really dodgy pub named after the factory in The Office, there was nowhere to eat a roast dinner – plus Slough is perhaps slightly too far out for my readership.

So we headed back west, and after some careful research, I selected a place in the country – which had the magic g-word on the menu.

Plus it was somewhere highly recommended by a good friend last week.

Hidden in the countryside and rather on the quiet side, The Green Man in Hurst had plenty of olde-England charm, with modern touches, and it served food from midday until 9pm which was helpful given that we didn’t know how long we were going to be in Slough for (not long, you may not be surprised to read).

The options were beef, pork, chicken and leg of lamb, along with a nut roast.  Will I ever try a vegetarian roast?

No.

We both went for the lamb, and chose medium-rare.  I’m not massively funny when it comes to roasts, except for wanting gravy instead of jus, but there is one vegetable that really disturbs me and that is the pea.

Those that have followed me for some time, and those that are my real-life friends, will understand that I do have a phobia of peas, and in particular their lack of discipline.  So I asked for an explanation as to what their “mixed vegetables” were, the waitress was uncertain but would ensure that there were no peas.

I counted six fucking peas on my plate.  Sorry to use the f-word but I could not have made it more clear how much they disturb me without disturbing the waitress when ordering.  As I was accompanied by a young lady, I had to look manly and battle to overcome my fear, so I stringently searched my whole plate for any further little critters before placing them in the empty glass on my table.

Panic over, my heart-rate subsided and I felt able to start my dinner, after yet another quick safety check under all of the food for any more pesky peas.

It wasn’t the most generous portion ever.  But it was priced at a lean £12.50.

Yes I ate the sugar snap peas.  They don’t have a lack of discipline.  They were rather on the sweet side – different but would much have preferred mange tout.  I don’t actually mind the taste of peas.

There was also some sprouting broccoli, which was surprisingly tasteless and on the floppy side.  A wasted opportunity.

The baby carrots were excellent.  Perfectly cooked, with enough crunch but yet still tender, this scattering of carrots was very impressive.

Also on the impressive side were…drumroll…the roast potatoes.  Only 3, of course, but sizable efforts and just about as close to perfection that I have come across.  So crispy on the outside, yet so fluffy on the inside, and cooked in goose fat.  Oh yes oh yes.  So, so good.

However, the lamb gets more of a slow clap than a drum roll.  I’m not quite sure why my dining partner received fresh-looking nearly medium-rare lamb, whilst I had dry medium-well done lamb, despite both ordering medium-rare.

Had it been the soft, succulent lamb I was hoping for, then I’m sure it would have had a much higher rating.  Sadly it was disappointing.  I did want to give a good rating to this place, given the look and feel it had, and that it wasn’t overly busy so perhaps all 8 readers would be inspired.  The community-minded Tory in me wants to share the knowledge of lesser-known venues that do a really good job.

There was, at least, plenty of lamb.  Unlike the Yorkshire pudding which just simply didn’t exist.  Us northerners have Yorkshire puddings with any meat.  I even had one with fish once.

The gravy tasted like gravy but it was exceptionally thin and almost jus-like.  Almost.  Certainly on taste, it gets the thumbs up.

I’m going to give the roast dinner a 6.5 out of 10.

Don’t worry UKIP readers, this wasn’t good enough to persuade my immigrant friend to stay forever.  Likewise, I’m not about to emigrate in horror either.

There were clearly some highly commendable parts such as the roast potatoes and carrots.  But had I turned up 30 minutes later, I suspect that I may have struck lamb-gold, and instead I was stuck with lamb-coal.

Not sure if I will get time for a roast this Sunday as it is the last day of the football season and I’m going clubbing in London straight after so I might not fit it in.

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Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder @ The Thatched Tavern, Ascot 03/05/2015

Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder @ The Thatched Tavern, Ascot 03/05/2015

Those of you that read my review last week may recall that the random number generator had picked a venue that I really didn’t want to go to.

Despite my northern upbringing, Ascot is not actually a place that strikes fear into my belly.  Yes, I usurped the random number generator.  How rebellious of me.

It was a fine day, and I fancied a walk, finished off with a spot of outdoor dining in a beer garden, perhaps I was inspired by the ever-excellent Edible Reading.  The place that the random number generator had picked does have a beer garden, but I wouldn’t prefix the word ‘nice’ to it.

Also, my housemate seems to think that the dungeon of doom will surprise me and wants to go with me, alas he wasn’t around this weekend.  Another reason to put it off.

But most importantly, this is election week.  And I realised that I had to do an election special.  So the only pub of choice was one probably not named after one of our most famous Prime Ministers ever – The Thatched Tavern.

Apart from once briefly visiting the high street, I had never really had a look around Ascot and I have to say that it has a lot of trees.

The pub was a rather old-fashioned and traditional venue, a bit like Jacob Rees-Mogg.  It also has a pleasantly sculptured outdoor area, quite resplendent like Ann Widdicome’s shoes.

A quick check on their website and you can see how shockingly outdated it is.  Dennis Skinner would shouting be in admiration.

The choice of roast was a bit like all the party manifestos – they all look appealing on the outside, though whether they would be able to deliver upon their promises was another matter.  I think it was rib-eye of beef, slow-cooked lamb shoulder or corn-fed chicken, forgive my Miliband-like lapse in memory, at least I have only forgotten the menu choices, not the deficit.

Dinner arrived surprisingly quickly, in less than 10 minutes, which reminded me of how quickly the coalition agreement was arrived at back in 2010, and I wondered how long they had spent preparing it before-hand.

It was presented with plenty of Blairite style, though I did have to give some education, education, education beforehand on my pea-phobia – otherwise I would have had a nasty surprise like a post-election VAT-rise.

Cauliflower, carrots and swede were the vegetables supplied.

The cauliflower was very much on the tough side, like Theresa May.  Crunchy and not the easiest to eat – some people’s ideal but not mine.  They do seem to store more taste that way though.

The baby carrots were again minimally cooked and very much on the tough side.  They were rather pugnacious in character and reminded me of little Ed Balls’.  Again, however, the minimal cooking seemed to bring out the taste in the carrots.

I said last week that I wasn’t a fan of swede and I remain so.  This was soft and fairly tasteless – kind of a unique combination of Natalie Bennett and Godfrey Bloom.

Onto the potatoes and finally I get the chance to compare to a Liberal Democrat.  4 roast potatoes were more liberal than the usual standard, though they were rather on the soft side and there was no detectable crunch to them.  Necessary and decent enough, yes, they reminded me of Nick Clegg.

The Yorkshire Pudding wasn’t the best.  A homemade affair, at least, but more of a lightly-filled sponge than a traditional yorkie.  Danny Alexander?

So far, not especially overly convincing.  However the lamb was pretty gorgeous.  Succulent and tasty, the slow-cooked nature meant that it pulled apart easily, and at 16oz pre-cooked, there was a lot of lamb.  In fact, it went on and on like the pretty gorgeous Margaret Thatcher did.  Easily the highlight of the rather pricey roast.

Annoyingly, jus was supplied.  Like the top-down NHS re-organisation, I was not expecting this.  Though I probably should not have been surprised about such in upmarket Ascot.  It was thin, watery with oily blobs scattered all over, a bit like Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood.  It looked presentable but it not the sort of idea a northerner can accept.

Special mention must go to the exceptional home-made mince sauce.  Like the Green Party, it is normally something I avoid but it was quite divine.  Had I had gravy I would not have bothered.

The service was good at first, though I did have to go back inside to order my dessert and get a second drink.  I must have been forgotten about.

The clientele were mostly Tories, though Nigel Farage would have been pleased about the ethnic mix, without a non-white face in sight.  However I did hear two people speaking a foreign language.  Probably Nigel’s wife.  Does anyone remember Nigel from Eastenders?  Yes I didn’t have a life in the 90’s.  Though I was far more racist back then than Nigel Farage could ever dream of.  This is prior to meeting anyone from a foreign land, from ooooh somewhere like Leeds.  And prior to getting an education.  And prior to moving down south.  My cousin has a British Bulldog tattoo on his arm.

Hull wass definitely different to Ascot.  And still is.

At £21.95 for two courses, it was on the pricey side and a bit like Labour’s health and education spending binge, I didn’t get value for money.

Overall it was high on style, but not always high on substance.  In some areas rather tough, but in other areas very pleasing.  It was on the upmarket side, but not everything was suitable for a northerner.  You can guess this one surely?  My roast dinner most reminded me of…

David Cameron.

I’m going to give it a 7.5 out of 10.  It should have been better but like the coalition government, they certainty got some things right.

Aptly, I saw this rather resplendent car on the way home.  Sex on wheels.

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Lamb @ The Jolly Farmer, Hurst 22/03/2015

Lamb @ The Jolly Farmer, Hurst 22/03/2015

The random number generator picked The Jolly Farmer this week.  It’s a Greene King pub just down the road from one of the better roasts I’ve reviewed at the Castle Inn, and on the edge of Dinton Pastures.  Also dog-friendly.

I did say that I was going to go somewhere good this week, but I had a quick glance on their website and found the following poster:

It didn’t inspire me with confidence.  Nor did their 2010-style website.

But with prices from £7.50 (or £7.95 as the website confusingly states) and a two-figure sum in my bank account, I was not going to over-rule the random number generator.

A quick note of thanks to my followers – last week’s review reached the highest total of readers so far at 262 and counting.  If you enjoy my reviews, it would be appreciated if you could share, like, invite your friends, retweet – whatever your thing.  Consider it the oxygen that feeds my enthusiasm.  Or perhaps your duty to spare your fellow humans from  abominations such as last Sunday.

I called first to book, it was an awful phone line and I could only just about understand the person on the other end.  We would not have been seated at the peak time of 1pm but they did suggest seeing as it was a lovely day that we could sit outside.  Forgive me for having lived down south too long but 10’C is not an appropriate outdoor dining temperature.  They do have a nice, large outdoor area though, which would be pleasant in the summer.

I shall set the scene.  We arrived to, an unremarkable-looking pub.  Several people shouting at the football on the television screens – thankfully no television screens in the dining area.  The staff looked on the harried side to begin, with a touch of confusion over who was serving our drinks and showing us to our table once those in front of us had been served.  Some of the clientele, were, how do I put it…matching the price of the food on offer.  Not all, but there was a definite chavvy element within.

There, I have said it.  Last week I offended the feminists, this week I have offended the lower classes of society.  But I am actually a man of the people.  A bit like Ed Miliband.

Yeah…

Anyway, before I go off on one about that tosspot and offend all of my Labour-voting readers.  We were hurriedly given the options still available – chicken or lamb.  I do find it hard to choose anything else when lamb is on offer.

Dinner arrived after a 10-15 minute wait.  It was reasonably well-presented – judging from looks it was clearly not going to be claiming a top-3 spot, neither was it going to be as bad as last week.  A bit like going on a blind date, and being relieved that your date isn’t three times your size, but equally isn’t a stunner either.

The carrots were those baby carrot things, I quite enjoyed them.  They had a bit of crunch to them and still had their outer skin on, which I like.  And they tasted of carrots.  My accomplice, however, said some of them tasted of anus.  I do not have the requisite experience to judge on this comment, I simply thought it tasted of carrot.

The broccoli on the other hand seemed rather anaemic, weathered and tasteless.

I couldn’t work out if we were served with cauliflower or cauliflower cheese.  Two of the pieces of cauliflower suggested not, but the other piece had some kind of orange crust on it.  I couldn’t taste any cheese either but that seems to be a pattern.

There were 4 roast potatoes of varying sizes.  Some large, some small.  And they were an unspectacularly decent gathering of roast potatoes.  Fluffy on the inside, with an element of crispiness on the outside – perhaps more solid than crispy.  Not bad at all.

Apparently the lamb was a lamb shank.  I am not sure why you would be served lamb shank with no evidence of the bone.  It didn’t seem like lamb shank to me.  It was a little more cooked than ideal and fairly tasteless.  A fair proportion with a small side-serving of mint sauce, which normally I would forgo but was useful to add a touch of taste.

My accomplice’s lamb did come with added string.

One solitary and fairly small Yorkshire pudding accompanied the dinner – clearly something mass-produced and popped in the oven for 4 minutes.  On a level with an Aunt Bessie’s offering.  Acceptable.

The gravy summed up the whole meal – unspectacular but decent.  The consistency was thick enough for a southerner and it tasted like gravy without doing anything weird to it.  There was hardly any on the plate but a full gravy boat was forthcoming upon request.

The service did improve – whilst at first it seemed we were a little in the way, it was friendly and courteous enough once they had calmed down – with the older gentleman (possibly Italian?) full of charisma which is always good to see.  Friendly enough for me to forget my bank balance and order the cheesecake for dessert.

It is a rating I have had to think about.  Very unspectacular.  But decent enough.  Better than expectations given the off-putting photograph on the website.  And especially for the price – £8.95 is the cheapest roast so far.  So it was good value.  I have to take into account that it was nearly half the price of the very, very good Castle Inn.

I shall give it a very unspectacular but decent 6.1 out of 10.

Next week’s venue will depend on my bank balance.  I have enough coins in my coin jar to afford The World Turned Upside Down.  Possibly time to stick my hand down the back of the sofa.

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Beef, Pork & Lamb Carvery @ The Crown, Playhatch 25/01/2015

Beef, Pork & Lamb Carvery @ The Crown, Playhatch 25/01/2015

Happy Birthday To Me.  Let’s Eat Some Gravy.

Yes it was my birthday weekend, so I could break all the rules I wished which included drinking red wine for breakfast but more pertinently, revisit an establishment that I had already reviewed.

It being my birthday I had decided to invite my friends to come for a roast at the 2014 RDAR winner – The Crown, in Playhatch.  There has to be a good reason to revisit a venue, under new management for example, or a new chef being in place (The Lyndhurst is back on my to-do list), but in this case I just wanted to go back to my favourite, take as many friends as possible and hope it is still as good as last year.

The Crown is a very popular venue and one I had to book 2 weeks in advance for a sizable group of us.  They have two sittings – one at midday and one at 3pm

I packed a very healthy-sized dinner for just £13.00.  A carvery choice that included turkey, gammon, lamb, pork and beef – I had the latter three.  I don’t think I could have put any more on my plate – and I held the queue up whilst I poured more and more and more gravy on – though this time I didn’t leave a gravy trail like I did the other week at a venue in Northamptonshire (there was no protesting that it was nothing to do with me – the trail led all the way onto my table – it was their fault for serving such small plates).

The choices of vegetables were red cabbage, carrots and broccoli-cheese.  I just had the broccoli as it smelt gorgeous, and tasted so too.  The cheese was just the right amount, more than a hint and mixed in a creamy fashion with the gravy.  The broccoli was a tad on the crunchy side but a very healthy vegetable.

I know I should have had all 3 vegetables for the review but my birthday, my rules.

The roast potatoes were a decent effort.  Not really any crispiness on the edges but still soft inside.  If anywhere can do really good roast potatoes this year then they may take the crown off…The Crown.

Yeah I know.

The Yorkshire Puddings were excellent.  There were some flatter offerings but mine had sturdy edges and soft bottoms like they should – I only went for two.  There were little bits of crackling too which were very tasty and not too crunchy.

All of the meats were good.  The beef was a little red on the inside, which is perfect.  The pork was good.  The lamb in particular was very nice.  It is always nice to see large lumps of meat and the portion-sizes were generous.

And most importantly, the gravy.  It had an excellent consistency (I would make it thicker myself but it probably wouldn’t appeal to the average southerner), it was made with a meat stock and was quite a strong taste.  In fact possibly a touch too strong as I did get a little tired of it towards the end of my very large meal.

Sunday was a success.  Several people told me it was the best roast they have eaten in a while.  Everyone was impressed and it remains my favourite roast dinner.

My rating is an 8.7 which is almost the same as last year.

It remains top of the roast dinner league.  However I have a feeling that somewhere will beat it, somewhere will take the crown off The Crown.  A ha ha ha ha ha ha.

It wasn’t funny the first time was it?

If you appreciate my reviews, please do like, share and invite your friends to my page.  Call it my birthday present, if you wish!

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Lamb Shoulder @ The Packhorse, Mapledurham, 04/01/2015

Lamb Shoulder @ The Packhorse, Mapledurham, 04/01/2015

I decided to head north for this episode.  The Packhorse in Mapledurham was my chosen
destination.  I was impressed by the up
to date website, and the temptation of lamb shoulder was too much to resist.  Not only that, they serve food from midday until 9pm on a Sunday.
I walked there – via Mapledurham House, through some woods, alongside
a golf course and by time I was on the A1074 I was hungry, thirsty and tired.  At 15 minutes’ walk away, I saw the Pack &
Saddle, and strongly considered just going there instead.
Perseverance pervaded through my legs and I arrived to the
smart, warm country pub that is The Pack Horse. 
I can see it being a really nice location for a drink in warm sunshine.  It was busy, I probably should have booked
ahead – there were no tables in the restaurant but there was seating available
in the cosy bar.  Which was warm – except
when some morons decided to hold the door to the garden open and have a
conversation for several minutes.
I had high hopes for this roast.  There was something about the menu – the fact
it was updated online that morning impressed me (it’s the small things
sometimes), the font and clarity of the menu helped too.  £16.95 for the lamb shoulder seemed pricey –
there were several other options that were cheaper.
Upon roast arrival, my first reaction was “is that it?”.  It didn’t exactly fill the plate – then again
I filled my plate at Toby Carvery and that remains the worst roast in Reading
so far.
And then I saw the vegetable offering.  Red cabbage – which I have never enjoyed,
some strange mustard-coloured paste and greens – which mainly consisted of
cabbage.  And just 3 roast potatoes.  Again. 
What is it with the roast potato limit around here?
Undeterred, I got stuck into the red cabbage, mixing it with
the paste – which from taste seemed to be like pureed swede – I could be wrong
on this.
It ended up a bit of a taste sensation, certainly compared
to expectations.  It was the first time I
had actually enjoyed red cabbage, and mixed with the swede was quite special.
Mixed greens were next, these were fairly standard – mostly
consisting of cabbage, with one solitary pea (I forgave them for this
indiscretion), one mange tout, one cube of green bean and one slice of
carrot.  Tastier than expected.
All good so far. 
Potatoes.  They were a tad crispy
on the outside, just a tad, and soft and fluffy on the inside.  Deceptively small as they took 3 bites to
consume – I do not have a small mouth.
The Yorkshire pudding was excellent.  Exactly as it should be – crispy sides and a
soft, slightly soggy base.  As close to
perfection as I have reviewed so far.
 
Then the meat.  The
lamb shoulder was so tender, pieces glided off it like a skier on the
snow.  It was supremely tasty and there
was a lot of it – far more lamb than I was expecting.  Again – deceptively small.
And the gravy?  It
arrived as just the usual southern trickle but more was forthcoming upon
request.  It doesn’t win top marks for
consistency, it was acceptable to my desires however the taste was most
excellent.  A real meat stock-based gravy
that I just wanted more and more and more of.
Was anything wrong? 
Well, the service was perfunctory at best – it would be nice to at least
be acknowledged when saying goodbye.  I
also thought it was standard to be asked how one’s meal was.  But there are far more marks to be gained
from good gravy than good service.
Dear friends and readers – this was the best roast dinner so
far of 2015.  This is the standard to
beat.
A truly excellent roast. 
8.5 out of 10.
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Roast Carvery at The Crown, Playhatch 09/02/2014

Roast Carvery at The Crown, Playhatch 09/02/2014
Next up in the very occasional series of Roast Dinners in
Reading, was a trip to The Crown in Playhatch, just slightly out of town.
The building itself was rather pleasing on the eye but would
the roast be pleasing to the taste buds?
 
It is a carvery that they do, and the choice of meat on
offer was beef, lamb, pork, turkey and gammon.
I chose the beef, lamb and pork (you are allowed 3 types) – the beef and lamb were
excellent and the pork very good, perhaps just a touch on the dry side.  The pork crackling – wow.  But there was only a small pot to share
between all carvery-goers so it was a sparse treat.
It being a carvery, it was a case of as many vegetables and
potatoes as you like.  And very
importantly…as much gravy.
The potatoes were nicely crispy on the outside, though
perhaps a little more squidgy than ideal. Good but not perfect.
The choice of vegetables was carrots, purple cabbage and
broccoli and chesse.  I only sampled the
broccoli and cheese – it was really tasty.
The Yorkshire pudding was large, home-made, and made to
perfection.  A superb effort.
The gravy was unlimited, and had a decent consistency.
 
Overall this was an excellent roast dinner, and worth the
extra effort to drive slightly out of Reading. 
At £13.49 it provided excellent value for money too.
The service was excellent at all times, the pub was clean
and the waitresses were very attractive.
I would advise booking in advance as there were no tables
available in the restaurant and only one in the bar.
A thoroughly excellent roast dinner – 8.8 out of 10.  I highly recommend it.
Maybe I will manage more than one review this year?
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Roast Lamb @ The Lyndhurst

Roast Lamb @ The Lyndhurst

I thought I should bring back the search for the perfect roast dinner in and around the Reading area.

I went to the Lyndhurst, on the edge of the town centre, a nice, friendly locals pub which is well-run and has a very good choice of drinks.

As you can see, they had a good choice of beef, pork, lamb and roast chicken – along with a mega roast!

Had I not had breakfast, I would have attempted the mega roast.  I went for the roast lamb, which at £10.50 is a decent price.

As you can see below – it was well-presented and tidy.

I shall start with the least important – the vegetables.  Thankfully no peas.  There was 4 different vegetables, one I didn’t recognise, some kind of yellow stuff.  The vegetables were a little too cruncy for my personal tastes, but generally good still and not a criticism.

The potatoes however were rather rubbery in texture and though edible were not good.  This however was the low point of the roast dinner and it gets much better from here.

One yorkshire pudding, and it was a decent size and a tasty yorkie.

There was three slices of lamb, a perfect thickness and nicely tasty.  A good cut of lamb.

And last but certainly not least – the gravy.  It was very tasty gravy, and the consistency was nicely thick – but not too thick (I do like my gravy super-thick but most people don’t down south so this is probably about as thick as could be acceptable).  None of this water gravy crap that many places serve up.  Proper gravy – and no skimping on the amount.

As you can see below, it was the perfect thickness to do a little gravy art.  Good job I went with friends and not my mother.

A friend of mine also had the pork roast which looked even better than the lamb (and another friend had the sausage and mash which also looked superb but doesn’t count as a roast dinner).

I am going to give it a rating of 7.5 out of 10.  A good roast dinner at a good price, and I will be back to try the pork or maybe even the mega roast one day.

Recommended.

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