Pork, Lamb & Beef @ The Crown, Playhatch 04/09/2016

If there’s no good spuds, in your neighbourhood,
Who you gonna call?  Roast Dinners Around Reading.
If there’s a mass-produced dinner,
And it doesn’t look good,
Who you gonna call?  Roast Dinners Around Reading.
I ain’t afraid of thick gravy,
I ain’t afraid of thick gravy,
If you’re seeing watery jus, running off your plate,
Who you gonna call? Roast Dinners Around Reading.
Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire puds,
Sleeping in your bed,
Who you gonna call? Roast Dinners Around Reading.
I ain’t afraid of thick gravy,
I ain’t afraid of thick gravy,
Who you gonna call? Roast Dinners Around Reading.
If you’re sexy and alone,
Pick up the phone,
And call Roast Dinners Around Reading.
I ain’t afraid of thick gravy,
I hear he likes hot girls,
I ain’t afraid of thick gravy,
Yeah yeah yeah yeah.
Who ya gonna call? Roast Dinners Around Reading.

Yeah………………maybe not.

So we have laid our dear departed Roast Dinners Around Reading to rest forever.  And we thought it most appropriate that we should have the wake at The Crown in Playhatch.  The number one roast dinner around Reading.  He/she/it would have wanted it this way.

We have tried our best to replicate the amazing writing skill that the ever so talented and beautiful Roast Dinners Around Reading had.  Apologies if we have not quite captured the delicate essence and unique hilarity of this most edible of bachelors.  We tried to programme an algorithm to write it for us but all it did was write the words “gravy drug sex” over and over – with a few other bits inserted about (or into) Keith Vaz.

A lot of people were invited.  Not many people came.  Nearly half of those that promised to come didn’t turn up.  Everyone was late.  Was it something he said?

Probably.

For those that don’t know, and there should not really be any reason anyone is reading this that hasn’t been, The Crown is a carvery.  But not like a Toby carvery.  It does very nice meat, gorgeous…oh wait a minute that’s what the review part is for.  Oh and it is miles better than that place next door run by the witch that hated our hero, our legend, our beautifully derranged creative master that really deserved to be paid lots of money for writing such wonderful reviews.  Well, quite a bit better than next door anyway.

Have I waffled on enough yet?

The price has gone up since last time – now £15.00 a head.  But has the quality gone up to match or is this Farageinflation?

Once everyone had arrived, we were advised to go up.  The first person grabbed a plate.  The rest waited a few minutes for some more plates to arrive.  There was enough gravy for the first person in the queue, but then we had to wait a few more minutes for a new vat to arrive.  A whole new vat of gravy, just in his lordship’s honour.

It was possible to have carrots but I decided against it, as all the potential ways to describe carrots (including comparing the taste to anus) have been used by our dearly departed leader.

Likewise I shunned the red cabbage.  There could be no disrespect.

The broccoli cheese, however, was excellent.  Very creamy, somewhat cheesy – the cream stayed separate to the gravy and didn’t infiltrate.  The broccoli itself (I can spell actually it without a spellchecker) was perfectly crunchy, but not too much so.  Absolutely spot on.

However, the roast potatoes were not.  I had about 28 roast potatoes (it being a carvery), and they had all been roasted.  Some time ago.  Quite fitting, I guess, but they were a tad tricky to eat, quite hard to slice through, chewy to…chew.  But still actually properly roasted.

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Also a disappointment were the Yorkshire puddings.  Not massively so but they had been cooked just slightly longer than ideal, and therefore were rather too crispy.  Otherwise an excellently largish size, softish bottoms (like when I used to squeeze his lordship’s arse on occasion, normally after a crystal meth pipe) – just a bit overcooked.

I sneakily asked for some pork after asking for beef and lamb – but this isn’t the Toby Carvery, and they do not limit you to the thinnest, tiniest strips of almost ghost-like meat.

The pork was excellent, a loin of pork, with a thin layer of tasty fat going on overhead. Which reminds me – shout out to Edible Reading.  Easy now, bro.  Glad to hear the pigs no longer have you on their suspects list.  Wicked news, innit.  Now get back to writing, you fucker.  Even if it is Erotic Reading.  Yes, maybe you could review brothels as your new venture?  The Queen of Gravy would have loved that.  Yeah, you missed your chance to have dinner and smoke crack with her.  You snooze, you lose.

The lamb was good – unspectacularly good with not really much to say about it.

Oooh whilst I remember, we ordered some crayons for the child at the table (no his Lordship has passed away – another child), and they never turned up.  Thankfully we had an imaginary train to keep us all amused.

Onto the beef – the beef de resistance.  It was rather pink in the middle, slightly rarer than medium-rare.  Very succulent, very soft, very, very nice.

And finally, what you have all being waiting for (apart from to find out whodunnit) – the gravy.  Well, it was close to perfect.  Very gravy-like in taste, lots of bits from the meat inside, lots of juices – and pretty thick too.  Not too thick for most southerners, not anywhere near as thick as the weirdo wanted.  But easily the best gravy around Reading.

But no longer the best roast dinner.  Given the disappointing roast potatoes, and slightly disappointing Yorkshire puddings, this trip only gets an 8 out of 10.  Maybe their standards have dropped – or maybe, probably more likely, they just were not quite on the ball this afternoon.

I would like to say thank you to all the guests that actually made it, we had a good mix of Europeans, a token Brexit voter, a gay, a Greek (yes his bank card worked) – it was massively lacking in druggies but they were probably too fucked to eat.  Only one of the Spanish models that he featured the other week turned up, and his sister did too, who is an occasional mini-reviewer for Time Out, but obviously we cannot share her details as it would give away who he was.  Anonymity must be preserved.  Maybe she will be the famous blogger that he dreamed and deserved to be.

If we can ever get the algorithm working, then we are going to go to Japan to try to find a robot to go around and review roast dinners, but at this rate, this seems many decades away.  Most robots in Japan seem to only be for sexual pleasure.  If only he had had the opportunity to review sex robots – that would have made a great blog.  Or even a vlog.  Just imagine – he could have been as famous as Zoella.

So The Crown has lost its crown.  How fitting as we say goodbye to one of the most-loved writers that the world has ever seen.  In the fullness of time, I have little doubt that his works will be thought of as lovingly as Shakespeare is now.

Rest In Gravy.

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Beef & Pork @ The Rowbarge, Woolhampton 31/07/2016

Welcome back to Roast Dinners Around Reading. Not sponsored by IKEA.

I accept that this might have been a tad more appropriate had I done it last Monday or the Monday before – timing in humour is as important as legs as are to chairs. Such as this wonderful Brown Dunoon Dining Chair from World Stores – everything for the home.

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I did give IKEA an opportunity. I wrote to them and offered them the opportunity to sponsor Roast Dinners Around Reading:

Dear Sir

I note that you have recently opened a new store in Reading.

It is hard not to notice, as roughly every hour, the local ex-newspaper, Get Reading, will publish a story about your new store. They didn t get that excited when the new chicken shop in town opened. I do like chicken. Especially chicken roasts.

Anyway, I thought I would introduce myself. I run Roast Dinners Around Reading, which is a weekly blog reviewing a roast dinner in the local area. As you are new to the area, I thought that you might be interested in having a read – http://www.rdrdg.co.uk/. I also have a handy league table so that you can easily see the best place to go for a roast dinner – http://rdrdg.co.uk/league-of-roasts/.

Therefore I wondered if you would like to sponsor me. I can mention Ikea in every sentence (ie the carrots were as sturdy as a good solid oak bookcase from Ikea) and nobody will guess that you have sponsored me. Maybe I could even put a photo of a dining table up?

If you are interested in my wonderful and exciting offer, then I will leave it for you to suggest suitable recompense.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards
Lord Gravy

ps Does your canteen sell roast dinners on a Sunday?

***

I received a response a few days later, though sadly, not quite was I was expecting:

Dear Lord Gravy,

Thank you for your email detailing your exciting offer.

Unfortunatley we will have to decline this offer, however we wish you the best of luck with your Blog.

Kind regards,

Keeley
IKEA Customer Services

***

Not only did they not answer some of my questions, but there was also a spelling mistake. You wouldn’t expect any form of inaccuracy from a flat-pack furniture store, would you?

You certainly would get a top quality wardrobe from PineSolutions, were you looking, such as the below Arabella Painted 2 Door 2 Drawer Robe for just £249.00:

102.316.46.1.5

I like writing to companies. Sainsbury’s are particularly good value, I quite often write to them. A few years back they went through a stage of stocking Goldenfry gravy granules – the kind of northern granules – they make super-thick cement-like gravy. No proper northerner uses that Bisto shit. Of course – those that are not lazy/on benefits/not always drunk/not always on drugs will make their own from meat juices (not sure why I went 10 years with only eating Goldenfry) but when you have a Sweeney & Todd pie, there isn’t much you can do other than granules.

Anyway, they stopped stocking them back in 2011:

Dear Sir

Why can I not find Goldenfry gravy (chicken) in the Reading Central store on Broad Street any more? Gravy is a vital commodity in my life and makes me happy nearly as much as ecstacy, minimal techno and good sex do.

I can only find Bisto now, which to me is rather substandard.

Your other store in Friar Street does not sell it, and I don’t think it ever has.

I hope you can put this right, it will encourage me to visit on a more regular basis, after all, evil Tesco Express is much closer to my house and despite how much I despise it, they offer me the same choice of gravy and a much shorter journey to purchase it.

Kind regards

***

Yes I know I spelt ecstasy wrong but that’s because I don’t really take it so how would I know how to spell it?

Dear Person

I’m sorry you’ve been unable to buy Goldenfry gravy in our Broad Street store. I can understand your disappointment as you clearly hold this gravy in high regard.

Unfortunately this has been discontinued in this store and in our Friar Street store. Our buyers carry out regular reviews of all items to determine how well they are selling in each store. It was decided that because this item was not a big seller, it should be withdrawn to make room for another more popular item or to give us the chance to introduce a new product.

I’ve submitted a product request for this item to be restocked in our Broad Street store. Although this isn’t a guarantee, it does alert our buyers that there is a demand for it here.

We appreciate you taking the time to contact us and lhope to see you in store again soon.

Kind regards
JB
Customer Manager

***

Myself and Sainsbury’s have now got to the point where we have accepted that we are in a relationship of sorts. Actually this is enough crap for one day, isn’t it?

What isn’t crap, is this wonderful sofa from sofa.com.  Got to love a bit of mustard, not only on a roast dinner.  Just £1,680and they have finance available.

rufus_3_seater_sofa_rich_mustard_yellow_lb2 FSSNO130LINMSD

It’s a good job that most of this is copy and pasted otherwise I’d never get the time to write all of this on my “lunch break”.

The random number generator has been sacked and I am going where I want to for now, and this time it was the Rowbarge in Woolhampton. Based along the A4 next to Midgham train station – a truly gorgeous setting next to the river with plentiful outdoor seating – though it was still very busy when we arrived – we had to wait for a car parking space.

Popularity tends to mean quality, just like these excellent Osaka Crystal Flush Ceiling Lights from Wayfair:

shopping

They do roast dinners from midday until 9pm though booking is recommended – as is this excellent bookcase from Furniture At Work:

shopping (1)

They also have daily printed menus, so the selected of roasts on offer changes – we had choices of chicken, rare beef, pork loin, rare beef and pork loin, and finally, lamb. No vegetarian option. Yes, I did actually look. The prices ranged from £12.95 to £17.95.

Great value, just like these kitchen cupboards from Wickes at just £40.00 each:

download

We found a table outside, sadly in the shade given how busy it was inside. The table was good but not quite as good as this table from..actually I’m nearly as fed up of this as I am about articles about IKEA.  You get the point.  Have a picture of my roast dinner instead.

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The meal took around 15 minutes to arrive. First into my satisfaction tunnel, was the mixture of carrots and cabbage. Quite uninspiring – it almost could have been from a package. But definitely more of a Sainsbury’s bag than an Asda bag – they were perfectly cooked carrot batons and little pieces of ripped cabbage. And the excellent gravy really added context.

Oddly no other vegetables but it wasn’t as if the plate was sparse.

There were either 4 or 5 glamorous roast potatoes. All quite sizable with a hint that they had been roasted in duck fat though I could be wrong there. They did have that kind of cooked a couple of hours ago texture but overall a pretty decent standard.

The pork loin came in 3 x 3mm slices – it is very difficult to ascertain much difference between different pork loins. Ordinarily good, reasonably succulent with a nice-sized rind of fat around it. It came with crackling which was very crispy.

Also in terms of trimmings, there was a slice of stuffing – really tasty, packed full of herbaceous delights, even more so than my next-door neighbour’s cigarettes.

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We were promised rare beef (yes I brought along my friend that I disagree with on everything – though oddly we both went for the same meal), yes apart from that tiny bit of pink that you can see on the photograph, it was not rare. At least mine wasn’t, as I seemed to have the more well done part. Also a little lacking in quantity.

Any slight disappointment was short-lived due to the excellent Yorkshire pudding. OK, mine didn’t have the perfect structure but it was perfect in terms of soft bottom and crispy edges. And large. How Yorkshire’s should be.

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And the gravy was very good. A meat stock type – enough thickness to satisfy me and a savoury taste to compliment the whole dinner. Well done on the chef for that part.  I can also clarify that I have not upended gravity.

It could have been a top 3 challenger – it looked impressive upon arrival. But a few imperfections mean that a 7.7 is my rating. I was going to give it a 7.6 but that is what my friend that I disagree with everything on gave it, so 7.7 it is.

The highlight was the gravy, or maybe the stuffing. The lowlight was the ordinary vegetables.

Next weekend I have to make a flying visit to Hull but hopefully I will be back in time for another roast dinner adventure.

See what you missed, IKEA?

Also I should add that it is the best place to go for a roast dinner if you are expecting nuclear war to break out.  Vote Trump.

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Beef, Lamb & Pork @ Crooked Billet, Wokingham 12/06/2016

Yesterday was the most important day of my year, arguably for many years.

Sunday was not. All I needed to do was recover from a hangover, buy a new shoulder bag for work to replace the one that now stunk of piss and ale, have a roast dinner (of, course) and make it home in time for my food shopping delivery.

Simple. Bar the hangover. Just one minute after I posted wondering whether I was going to be able to follow my original plan, my wonderfully craziest friend (and I have a few in that category) messaged me and we were game on. And he invited his even crazier friend.

Can you see where this is going?

I was originally going to go somewhere in Reading but I wanted to impress, and managed to book a table at the surprisingly quiet, Crooked Billet, near Wokingham. I’ve tried on 3 previous occasions to book a table there but always without success.

You’d really have to know this place exists. We found it at the end of a rickety country lane, over a ford of which we decided not to attempt – probably our last sensible decision of the day.

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There were a variety of roasts on offer, pork, chicken, lamb, beef and nut roast at £14.50. There was also a mixed option of pork, lamb and beef at £16.50. As I was feeling utterly incapable of making a decision, I went for the mixed roast, despite having had two large sausages rolls for breakfast.

I had little doubt that I was going to get an excellent roast and I was immediately wowed upon delivery. It took a while, 30 minutes or so, though we did have a starter, plus a pre-starter but that was something not supplied by the venue.

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Easily the largest plate that I’d been served in a long time but I know where to start. The carrots.

Or carrot. After 69 roast dinners reviews I thought I had seen it all when it came to carrots but this was served simply as one long delicate yet delicious stick of orange. Easy to cut into chunks, moist and succulent.

For my personal tastes the mange tout were too crisp and squeaky but others prefer them this way – horses for courses. I do love a mange tout or two and it was exactly what I was going to do do do, come on let’s do the conga.

Yeah maybe not.

Then there was a fine selection of tenderstem broccoli (thank you again spellchecker) – not just average broccoli. Marginally on the tough side of average but very well-appreciated as a healthy higher class vegetable.

There was some blanched-looking dark green stuff which was possibly cabbage – it tasted good but some of the core was just a little too tough to munch.

We had a little pot of cauliflower cheese too. Nicely crisp on top with the taste of cheese evident too. The cream was thick enough not to infect the gravy. Very good.

Before we go on and you might want to skip this paragraph – don’t say that you were not warned. I know that I normally have a fair linguistic talent however I’m struggling to work out how to insert this naturally (worryingly apt language for what I am going to say) but my crazy friends’ crazy friend would like me to insert a sentence explaining that he believes that the only use for celery is to try to insert it in bodily areas that you would not normally associate with the insertion of celery. Ideally before or during sexual intercourse.

This was pretty much the deal to ensure that he kept his hands off my privates during dinner so I hope that you understand this situation. Sadly I did end up seeing his nob – thankfully not in the restaurant.

Erm…moving on. You are going to miss me, aren’t you?

Three fairly small roast potatoes were included. They were actually properly roasted but sadly they had lost their crispy edges. However what they lost in crispiness they more than made up with the exquisite taste of the goose-fat that they had been roasted in. Even if you had never had roast potatoes cooked in goose fat – you’d know these were. Superb stuff.

The Yorkshire pudding was a decent homemade effort – it hadn’t risen incredibly and was quite medium sized but it was good.

Then comes the meat. Where to start?

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I shall start with the beef, which was on the edges just a touch dry but it had a certain flakiness to it of earlier-cooked beef. It had been cooked medium-rare – soft and pinkish on the middle but crispy and grey/brown on the outside. The fatty parts were included too which were divine.

Then the pork which was succulent and juicy, not forgetting the bits of fat that were included to enhance the taste. It also came with a strip of crackling which was perfection – crunchy on top, soft and juicy underneath. Even my crack addict teeth were able to crunch it.

Perfection almost came with the lamb which was just delicious. Sometimes the flavour of lamb doesn’t come out properly, normally when it is quickly cooked but this was superb. As I said, delicious.

All came in sizeable thick slices and it really was a struggle to finish.

And it just leaves to mention the gravy, which was innocuous and very thin. Nothing wrong with the flavour, it was light and complimented the food nicely. But not what you’d call a gravy up north.

There is room for improvement.  It was all very good or excellent but it wasn’t a 9.  It didn’t quite beat The Crown at Playhatch but it was the closest I’ve come to beating it.

It gets a rather marvellous 8.6 out of 10.

So many highlights from quantity to all of the meat, oh and the cracking – but the goose-fat taste on the roasties was that moment.  As a lowlight the gravy was far too thin for my liking but still good.  On the Yorkshire-Surrey scale it gets a Stafford.

And how did the rest of my day go?  Well, I bought a new bag from town.  And then I bought another type of bag down Oxford Road.  And I made it home nearly 4 hours after my food delivery.

And had 3 hours sleep before my most important day of the year.  Oops.

Next week I am going to tell you how to vote in the EU referendum by way of a roast dinner review, the result of which will not be pre-ordained in any way, oh no, just like Boris’ leave campaign was nothing to do with his leadership desire, oh no, all to do with being faithful to his wife as any good, honest husband would always be.  In out in out we’ll shake it all about.  By the way I did decide against posting the photo of my friend’s willies that I had to take on Sunday.

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Pork @ Hind’s Head, Bray 17/04/2016

The Crown in Playhatch was one of the very first roast dinners that I reviewed. It hasn’t been topped. I’ve even gone back there to check that I didn’t over-rate it, and I did mark it a very slight fraction less the second time around, but like Bryan Adams, it still remains number one. Oh like a virgin, roasted for the very first time.

Oh that was Madonna wasn’t it? I went to Berlin once. More than once, actually, as it used to be the centre of minimal techno – my favourite music genre.  I’ve been twice.  Anyway, there were three of us, really into our underground music. We’d missed our flight on Saturday morning as my friends (now amicable ex-friends) were dicking around in the airport and they closed the gate, surprise surprise as I told them they would if we didn’t hurry up.

Warning – this story is quite long. We were re-booked onto a flight the next day and come the evening tried to go clubbing. The first place that we went to, we were told that we were way too sober – the people inside had been on it for several days.

Then we tried to get into Berghain – arguably the most famous of the Berlin clubs, certainly with the most famously impossible door-policy. The lights and music were on but we couldn’t even find a way to get rejected.

Running out of ideas, it was Sunday night, we headed towards this office block in the centre of Berlin which had a nightclub on the 11th floor. The doormen were welcoming, until they said it was €350 each to get in. Thankfully it was just their German sense of humour.

But then quite seriously he blocked our way and said “wait, wait, you do realise it is gay night, don’t you?”.

“Of course, the gays have the most fun,” my friend replied.

So yes, we had come to Berlin for minimal techno, and ended up watching trannies fake-suck-off guys whilst listening to Madonna’s “Like A Virgin”. Whilst high.

We didn’t invite anyone back to our apartment.

That was quite a tangent. You’ll have to give me a minute to stop thibking of the tranny’s cock and remember what I was talking about. I hope you have similar images right now.

Right. Nowwww then. Oh gosh I sound like Jimmy Savile now. In a dress. This really needs rescuing. How on earth did I get sacked by Get Reading?

Anyway. I really want to try to test The Crown before I am jailed for upsetting some middle eastern dictator and see if someone can take its crown. Was that better? I’m still relying on the random number generator for now but the Hind’s Head in Bray was somewhere that I thought had potential to beat it.

1. I have had several people recommend it.
2. It would be the most expensive roast dinner I’ve ever reviewed.
3. It has a Michelin Tyre thing.
4. The bloke on the table next to me said it was the best roast dinner he’d ever had, and apparently he was a tough man to please. Then again, he had an American accent so that might not be saying much.

Pork or beef were the two roast dinners available – I chose the pork at £23.50 (although it is advertised on the website at £20.99 – shoddy – insert totally smooth link to the fact that I do make decent websites should anyone want to hire me). The beef was £25.50 if I recall correctly, but I’d eaten it the previous weekend so pork was the only choice by my rules.

Service was proper throughout. The young lady on the greeting desk was very attractive, sorry, I mean courteous, my waitress had possibly the heaviest French accent I’ve ever encountered and was polite, helpful and…correct.

I was offered some water, so I asked for just a small glass. A whole jug arrived with some lemon slices, as did some bread and butter – being northern, my immediate thought was “this better be free”. I looked at it suspiciously before tentatively shoving large lumps into my gob.

It didn’t take too long for the roast to arrive, maybe just over 10 minutes, and my initial thoughts were “is that it”?

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No, I don’t know why I positioned the photos like that either.  I just fancied a change.

I’m not sure if it was that light at all on content, but it was missing a Yorkshire pudding. Apparently you don’t get them with pork at upmarket places.  I didn’t query their judgement.

There were 3 long strips (still thinking of the tranny?) of carrot, slightly soft, somewhat buttery and charred in a kind of diseased-looking way but oh these were wonderfully flavoursome carrots. Truly fabulous. If somewhere can do the carrots well, you know you are onto a good roast.

The handful of green beans were as close to perfection as possible. Quite heavily buttered, easy to cut but enough structure to give them some bite – I thought perhaps there was a tiny hint of garlic but I could have been imagining this.

On the plate there was a pile of something shredded that I couldn’t quite discern for definite. On looks I thought it was cabbage but on taste it was closer to onion. It didn’t add anything to the dinner.

Hmmm. Roast potatoes. Could they buck the trend and make good roast potatoes?

Yes. Four fairly small roast potatoes, cleverly so, perfectly soft and fluffy on the inside – freshly roasted and quite crispy on the outside. They actually looked like they had been deep-fried, but I’m presuming not, they certainly didn’t taste so – I expect the chef actually knew how to make crispy outsides. Not only that, they had a hint of rosemary too.

The Yorkshire pudding, oh, wasn’t. However I was supplied with both stuffing and crackling.

Both were decent, the stuffing being of bacon and herbs…I suspect sage more than any other, and came in a perfectly cylindrical tube, albeit much smaller than a tranny’s…erm. Did I mention it was herby? Moving on.

The crackling was crunchy, but edibly so. Just.

Three slices of pork loin were supplied and despite the decorative menu description and high price, I didn’t especially discern this to be especially distinguishable from any other pork loin that I’ve had. Yes it was tender, yes it was succulent and a good piece of pork loin, but I thought it might have been a bit special. It wasn’t. It was simply very good. I suspect that I may have been far more impressed had I chosen the beef – bad planning on my part.

Finally the gravy. It was a rich meat-stock affair, very thin and watery, and came in a tiny jug. Unusually for me, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to ask for more. I didn’t even take the opportunity to take my top off, fart and snort a line of white powder just to say I had done so in a Michelin Tyre establishment.

Mostly a minor issue, but something that surprised me from such a place, was that I found the gravy running down the knife onto the bottom of my hand and my wrist. Whether this was the design of the knife, the watery nature of the gravy or whether I have simply never been taught to hold a knife in an upper class way, I am entirely unsure of.

I did feel a bit out of place there. I’m not the common oik I used to be, hell, I vote Tory, but I really did feel that I was expected to spend more money than I did. The waitress seemed surprised that I didn’t want a starter, I chose the cheapest beer at £4.95 even though I didn’t actually want a beer and just felt a bit awkward. Maybe it was because I was eating alone.

I decided to leave as quickly as possible so I could walk through the rugby pitches on the way back to Maidenhead station and shout “poofter” at them, though the waitress was not too keen on collecting my money and I had to go up to the bar to pay which seemed totally incorrect but, hell, I’m a Tory and I do what I want.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a gorgeous pub with excellent service and very flavoursome food. But in the same kind of way as when I go to a Wetherspoons, I just didn’t feel like I belonged there. Same ish anyway. I belonged much more in that gay club.  And I really, really love boobs.

So summing it up for those who were too scared to read the above:

Highlight – the exquisite vegetables.
Lowlight – the nice but totally un-special pork.
On the Yorkshire-Surrey scale it was practically in the sea – so I’ll give it a Worthing.

In terms of a score, this is probably the most difficult rating I’ve ever had to consider. Some people would give it a 9. And it was excellent food but a high-scoring roast dinner isn’t just about flavour. And it was very expensive at £23.50 – I should have reviewed this place when Get Reading used to pay for it.

I’m really not convinced about my score but I’m going to give it an 7.8 out of 10. Part of me thinks I’m being unfair, part of me thinks I’m being generous. I’d be especially interested in your thoughts and scores if you have had a roast dinner there.

Next weekend I am going to the new centre of minimal techno – Bucharest. I do get back on the Sunday evening but I’m more likely to put on a dress and give you a lap dance than be able to eat a roast dinner.

Don’t worry though – I do have a super special special feature lined up for you.

By the way I didn’t even get a look from the tranny, let alone a dance.

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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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Pork Belly @ The Golden Retriever, Bracknell 24/01/2016

I woke up yesterday with my last hangover for at least a month. I was in no mood to go on a mission. But neither was I in the mood to cook. So I did a quick search for “pubs” on Google Maps, and set out to The Golden Retriever, within walking distance of the total dump I live in, albeit it wouldn’t be too bad if all of my housemates knew how to empty and load a dishwasher. It was so memorable that I just had to load up Google Maps again, to find out what it was called.

On the way there, I realised two things:

Firstly, it is Valentine’s Day soon. Secondly, I do not make enough of an idiot of myself on this blog.

Therefore I am offering a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go on a date with me.

You must match some limited criteria. Female. Definitely single and not a whore. Ideally not the size of a whale. A vague touch of feminity would be appreciated – at least more feminine than me, anyway. You must be able to hold a conversation – not a monologue. Having something to talk about other than the latest Celebrity Big Brother would be useful. Spelling, grammar and punctuation must be of a reasonable standard – bonus points if you are foreign and can still write English to a good level. A sense of humour would help…especially if you are going to cope with me. No older than mid-30’s. A sense of style (not fashion but your own style) is always appreciated. I do particularly like Spanish, Northern, Eastern European and Iranian women, but that isn’t a deal breaker. Not having an aversion to Romanian minimal techno would help.

Am I too fussy? Hmmm, I’ll let regular readers decide.

About me. Well, you’ll have a vague grasp of my personality from reading this, and you’ll know I have a sense of humour…or I try to. Looks-wise, without giving the game away too much to the mafia, I am of average height, I do have a bit of a beer belly but this is in reverse. I have my own sense of style and a penchant for interesting footwear. I have a very unique hairstyle. I am relatively well-read and of reasonable intelligence. I have various interests and lots to say…except on a Monday morning. I am just as happy watching Shakespeare, as watching football. I like roast dinners. I am not going to send you a picture of my nob, no matter how often you ask me – this is not Tinder.

As I expect dozens of applications, or at least dozens of young ladies after a free lunch (yes men should always pay for the first date, I am a tad traditional, being northern), there is one qualifying question that you must answer:

How are your gravy-making skills, and what type of gravy would you make if you wanted to impress me?

Answers and applications on a postcard, or a Facebook message.

Right, now I’ve made a tit out of myself, I’ll get on with writing a load of shit about a roast dinner.

Outside, the pub looked quite elegant with the fake-thatched roof. Then again, so did the Cunning Man. Upon entering The Golden Retriever, however, it reminded me more of a Toby Carvery. Or even the Cunning Man. Kind of dark, clonish and miserable. They are about to close for a refit, though.

I went to the bar and the barman said, “What can I get you, love”. Fearing I may have had a sex change overnight, I rooted through my handbag to try to find a mirror, but to no avail. He then proceeded as gruffly as possible to inform me that “you need to see front-of-house if you want grub, mate”. Quite.

Front-of-house was probably the more slovenly of the staff, and it seemed like an hour before I was seated. It wasn’t, but I was hanging and every minute stood up, hungry, was as painful as catching a train into London in rush hour. Realistically it was probably a good 15 minutes before I was seated despite there actually being tables available, including the one I was seated at.

There were many roasting options, including standard and “vintage” options. The waiter suggested that I avoid the beef, upon my request for advice, as it was often chewy. I went for the pork belly. No option particularly appealed. 1% extra for honesty, if nothing else.

I don’t even really want to write about the roast. I’m almost tempted not to write anything further, and I should definitely delete the introduction. The meal was plonked down on my table and before I could mutter the words “more gravy, please”, the waiter was gone. He did just about acknowledge my request.

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The carrots were _________________________________.

Mixed in with the carrots was some cabbage. It was fairly feature-less but relatively enjoyable.

There was a whole parsnip, cut horizontally. It was particularly chewy and difficult to cut with a fairly awful near butter knife, rather stringy yet still had a sweet and pleasant-enough taste to it.

Peas were also offered but thankfully I had the brain to check in advance.

A standand 3 roast potatoes were supplied, all relatively crispy and cooked in duck fat. Gosh. But they were also suspiciously hot, painfully so for the first one as my eyes watered more than when I sorted than line of salt that I had bought for £40 the night before.

I guess the vintage element was the stuffing and pig in blanket. Neither of which I recall being alluded to on the menu, neither of which were memorable. The stuffing was lukewarm and flaccid. The pig in blanket was surprisingly tasteless.

The pork belly was devoid of joy. I’ve had worse, but it was a touch on the dry side and also quite stringy. I could not determine any layer of fat, nor was there any crackling offered. It seemed very mass-produced.

I like to accompany my meat with a Yorkshire pudding, they kind of complement each other, but there was no improving the meat with a standard Yorkie. It was fine, slightly fluffy but slightly chewy too.

They promise proper gravy on the website but it was more of a jus, albeit with some level of consistency. My extra requested gravy was not forthcoming, and despite the slight dryness of elements of the dinner, I didn’t feel that I missed it.

Overall it was fairly miserable and mass-produced, yet I wouldn’t say that it was a bad roast dinner. Just bland. And quite bad. I’m going to give it a 5.3 out of 10. I’ve definitely had worse.

The blandness means that I struggle to pick out either a highlight or a lowlight. Leaving, was probably the highlight. The scatty, disinterested and slow service was the lowlight. On the Yorkshire-Surrey scale, it rates a Luton.

Next Sunday, if I can be bothered, I will go to one of the places that the random number generator recently picked that I could not be bothered to go to in recent weeks.  Maybe.

In other news, I just ate pizza from Pizza Hut. It was as regrettable as expected. I should have eaten my shoe instead.

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Pork @ The Cross Keys, Pangbourne 03/01/2016

Happy New Year and all that jazz. Do you have any resolutions? Perhaps you are going to eat more gravy? Perhaps you are one of the pubs I have reviewed and are going to start making decent roast potatoes that are roasted and fresh? Perhaps your resolution is to share each of my reviews to all of your friends, invite your friends to follow the Facebook page and retweet every review?

Or maybe you have resolved to ignore all these crap reviews and spend your time doing something more useful like cross-stitching?

I have two resolutions relating to Roast Dinners Around Reading.

One is to try to monetise the blog. I can hear you screaming about gentrification and the slow creeping commercialisation of everything you hold dear…but you can always use Adblock. I doubt it will get past Google Adword’s obscenity filter anyway so if you want to advertise send me a message.

Secondly, assuming I am certain to be going for a roast, I will endeavour to try to find someone to join me. It is a lonely world walking in the rain with a hangover to a different part of Berkshire to sit there, eat dinner and go back to my glorified council estate shithole of a house again. I can hear your violins.

They are hurting my ears.

This was another post-hangover Sunday, my creaky body was not going to permit too tough a mission but at the 3rd attempt, the random number generator chose somewhere within reasonable travelling distance, surprisingly so, which was The Cross Keys in Pangbourne.

I’d had a disappointing roast before in Pangbourne at the highly over-rated, The Swan – all presentation with only some performance, and as I walked past the Aston Martin garage, and the Bentley garage, and then the Lamborghini garage, all the time defending to myself as to why I really do much prefer catching a Thames Slug, I cannot say my expectations were too high.

As I opened the door to the Cross Keys, I felt a warmth, immediately encapsulated by the low ceilings and the busy bar. The restaurant itself was quiet – the portion that I was sat in was totally empty, which suited me fine seeing as I was all alone, awwwww. The only options available were beef and pork. For some reason I didn’t fancy beef, so for the reasonable price of £11.95, I pigged out on pork. Yeah the jokes aren’t going to get any better this year.

The dinner didn’t take too long to arrive, and it was pleasingly presented, vegetables on a fairly small side bowl, the pork covering the roast potatoes and a little Yorkie to the side. In a mother’s roast dinner kind of style.

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I started, as you’d expect, with the circularly sliced carrots – ordinary carrots with a hint of butter. There were also a few small florets of broccoli – nothing to distinguish it from any other ordinary broccoli.

The shredded cabbage was rather on the yellow side, it was tastier than you’d expect, again a hint of butter, and perhaps of pepper too. I did rather enjoy it. Enjoyable cabbage. It’s almost like one of those impossibly good New Labour slogans.

Then there were a whole 4 roast potatoes – roasted! Two smaller, and two larger potatoes, the smaller ones looked particularly crispy. I was suitably impressed.

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Sadly, they didn’t quite match up to appearances, and were not actually that crispy – the larger ones were a tad chewy too. But considering the consistent turgidity that many places spew out, these were above-average and should be credited as such. If only I had arrived at midday! There was a little bonus in that there was some pepper that has been cracked over them during the cooking.

There were several fairly thickly sliced slices of pork loin. Whilst unspectacular in taste, it was both tender and plentiful.

I’ve not really complained about much, have I? They Yorkshire pudding was ok. A small width, but it had risen well. Sadly a little too crispy and dry but not bad.

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I realised yesterday that someone had posted a question on my page as to where the best crackling in town can be found. The Crown in Playhatch did have a bowl of small pieces of very tasty crackling but I think I may have found the answer. Two fair-sized slices of crackling accompanied the pork, both super-salty, both super-succulent. And edible! Very edible. I could easily have had a plate of crackling.

And the gravy? I had ordered a bowl of extra gravy as per assumption but I didn’t need any of it as it came with plenty. A standard Bisto-ish gravy – unspectacular in taste, relatively thick for southern standards.

All in all, a pleasing start to a roasting year.

The highlight was the crackling – the lowlight was probably just the YP. And on the Yorkshire-Surrey scale it rates a Stoke-On-Trent.

I’m going to give it a 7.3 out of 10. Which is only marginally higher than I rated The Swan, despite not looking back on it too favourably.

Next up, depending on motivation is somewhere south of Reading. A hidden gem in the countryside, apparently.

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Pork Belly @ Browns, Reading 15/11/2015

Everyone is different. Wouldn’t it be a dull world if we all thought the same. Some people think I am a marvellous writer. Others cannot believe that Get Reading publish this rubbish. Personally, I cannot believe that I do not yet have TV companies banging on my door offering me 6-figure sums to do Roast Dinners Around The UK.

Think of me as the northern Michael Portillo, where I travel around the country, sampling the delights of roast dinners at the end of obscure branch lines that you thought Dr Beeching had closed down in the 60’s. And then, of course, there would be a follow-up show – Continental Roast Dinners, where I sample the finest exotic roast dinners in cosmopolitan centres of cuisine, like Istanbul, Paris, and Benidorm.

Until such a day, I will be yours truly, and I hope I do annoy some of you on occasion. In my view, I can only be a good writer if some of you think what I write is a load of shit. The only opinions I fear are no opinions.

As the Christmas lights had been switched on in Reading town, I thought I should venture into the beautiful, cultured heights and lights of cheeselog-central (you do know what a cheeselog is, don’t you?) and ended up at Browns on the Oracle riverside. Actually, my best friend chose Browns because she fancied the nut roast. Not so interesting. Although I do want to give it an apostrophe.

The menu was temptingly written, with beef, chicken, pork belly, lamb and nut roast all available. I did have a suspicion that it would be more style than substance. After all, Brown’s isn’t really my kind of place.

I love a country pub, like The Bull in Sonning which was delightful. I like a more standard boozer with home-cooked food like the Fox & Hounds. I don’t like chains – I believe there are around 25 Brown’s in the country and I certainly am not keen on places that I view as poncey, admittedly coming from Hull, I used to view the Back Of Beyond as poncey.

Arriving to find someone playing the piano (from a sheet of music on his ipod) was a little eye-rolling for the boy from Hull.

I just want beer, meat and gravy.

We were seated downstairs, ordered our food from the convivial waiter, who had semi-recommended the chicken and I did fancy the chicken. So I chose the pork belly – pretty much on the basis that I love pork belly. Forgetting that it is very easy to get it wrong.

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Well, I think you’ll agree there is style. But what about the substance?

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Firstly the red cabbage which came in one of the sharing pots. I’ve never been a fan – even when it is done brilliantly I find it a bit gruesome. And this didn’t help the red cabbage reputation, having lost much of its colour and a fair portion of its taste through cooking.

At least this week I didn’t need the writing skills of E.L. James to describe the carrots. They were honey-roasted and guess what? I’m not keen on honey. I probably could get over that but they had a consistency which suggested they had been bathed in honey rather than roasted, for they were so soft and flimsy. My friends loved them. I didn’t.

I assume the parsnips had been roasted together with the carrots. Coming in the same pot kind of gave it away, and although not anywhere near as soft the carrots, they were certainly edible for those without teeth. I still have most of mine despite being brought up on a diet of sweets, gravy and crystal meth. Parsnips are great, and tend to be a rare treat on a roast dinner and these were certainly tasty and enjoyable, if not a tad on the soft side.

The green beans were as close to perfection that you can do ordinary simple green beans I did once cook them with parmesan and what was wow – but for ordinary green beans with nothing at all special about them, these were very good – the only real characteristic to judge them on was how soft/crunchy they were and they just had enough crunch to make them perfect.

Less perfect were the roast potatoes. They came in a pile on the shared serving tray, which was an odd way to do it. That certainly would not happen in Bridlington. They were half-way there to being good roasties. All the preparation had been done, they look like they had been chuffed up around the edges and had they been roasted another 10 to 15 minutes, they could have been excellent.

As they were they were too soft on the outside, and a tad under-cooked on the inside. They were not bad – I’ve had far worse. But very middling.

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My photography really is getting worse.  Either that or my phone.  It doesn’t help that WordPress distorts the photographs when they are larger than a thumbnail either.

Sadly I enjoyed the pork belly even less. The meat itself was quite dry, stringy and almost slightly coarse on taste, not that there was much taste. And the fat on top, which should have been the highlight of the whole meal, was just pointless. As I said earlier, it is easy to get pork belly wrong and I regret choosing it. Worse was to come but I’ll save that for later.

My friend that ordered the chicken really enjoyed his chicken so for the second week in a row, it seems that I chose the wrong roast. And further to that, my best friend who had the vegetarian option – the nut roast – gave her dinner a 9 out of 10. Apparently one of the best roasts she had ever had. In case you haven’t worked it out already, it isn’t going to get a 9 out of 10 from me.

Only the beef option came with a Yorkshire pudding, but I asked the waiter if I could have one anyway. Of course, I could. Although this apparently meant that I could have 4 for £1.50. Of course. Apart from this slight confusion, I do have to say that the service from both the bar tenders, and our waiter was very good throughout. Always friendly, talkative – politely waiting on occasion to ask how our food was, or if there anything else he could get us, did we need any more drinks, etc. Although when he asked what we thought of the food and I said “terrible”, he did reply with “perfect”. I was, at that point, being facetious.

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So back onto subject and the Yorkshire puddings. I managed two of them, although they did taste a little too much of the oil that they were cooked in, and were too crunchy on the outside. Not bad efforts.

The stick of crackling seemed to be there more for decorative effect, but it was more than welcome – it was quite gorgeous and salty – yet crunchy though not too much for my crystal meth teeth.

The waldorf stuffing ball was the smallest stuffing ball that I’ve ever seen, with only two bites it was difficult to ascertain a taste, though there was definitely nut (walnut I assume) and parsley. It was a little burnt on the edges but I appreciated something different.

Oh and don’t forget the….erm…green thing near it. Maybe it was watercress but seriously what was that doing on my roast dinner? It was as pointless as the side salad you get at Sweeney & Todd.

Last, and least was the gravy. Or red wine jus. Before I tell you about mine, let me tell you about the vegetarian gravy. It was an onion gravy, thick and lumpy. I’m not so keen on onion gravy but it was good. Us carnivores had red wine jus. You know my thoughts on jus, although consistency-wise it was closer to a gravy – taste-wise it was horrid. It had that burnt kind of taste – it reminded me of the jus at The Cunning Man I had many, many months ago. Yuck.

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And bad gravy can ruin the best roast dinner. Fair play to the waiter who did understand my advance request for extra gravy and brought 3 small gravy boats over. I didn’t use all 3 small extra boats.

It seems as though it may have been a bit horses for courses – both my friends were either happy or very happy with theirs. I didn’t enjoy mine and the £14.75 price tag didn’t help either.

I want to give it a low score, but there were some redeeming features so it gets a 5.4 out of 10.

The highlight was the green beans – the lowlight was definitely the awful red wine jus. And on the Yorkshire-Surrey scale it rates a Guildford.

For next weekend the random number generator has picked somewhere south of Reading. I doubt many of you will have heard of it, and I do not have high expectations. However it is quite a mission to get to, and if it snows or I have a large hangover, both are possible, then I might just go somewhere within walking distance or one or two train stops and make it easy on myself.

By the way, I wasn’t actually brought up on crystal meth.

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Pork @ The Ostrich Inn, Colnbrook 25/10/2015

Boo!

I’m back to haunt you with my weekly roast dinner reviews. I’ve missed writing about them. I’m not sure I’ve missed eating them – the soulless ones anyway. Two of you have even missed reading them. Do feel free to share, retweet – invite your friends – it would be witchy wonderful.

Yes, I’ve risen back from the grave…y.

If that didn’t make you laugh then you must be a vampire.

You may be asking why I’m reviewing somewhere near Slough. Don’t scream – there is a point. I appreciate that it is actually closer to London than Reading, but this is not just hocus pocus. Have you worked out the theme yet?

You must be braindead if you haven’t because, yes it’s Halloween, that most ghastly of celebrations that I despise almost as much as Valentine’s Day (although that I do enjoy somewhat now I have a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Margaret Thatcher in my bedroom). I really don’t understand why people celebrate Halloween more than St George’s Day, for example, or VE Day…or my birthday.

I didn’t think that it would be difficult to find a pub that claimed to be haunted but I was alarmingly wrong. Apparently the nearest haunted pub is The Ostrich in Colnbrook. Near Heathrow. Near Slough. Now that is scary.

It’s actually the 3rd oldest inn in England. This was replicated by the quite magnificent wooden beams and ceilings – and then obliterated with this most tacky 1990’s bar that wouldn’t look out of place in any cheap town centre bar in Chelmsford.

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One assumes that the ghouls interfered with the construction plans.

Onto the roast and the menu had beef, chicken and pork – the chicken was not available, and not having a clue as to whether the roast would be deadly or delightful, I went for the safer choice of pork. The beef was priced at £13.50, the others at £12.50.

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15 minutes later and the ghoulish barmaid brought our impressive looking dinners for us to slavishly gnaw away at. Ghoulish as she was wearing white make-up with very dark blood-red lipstick. I’m not being evil.

There were actually 5 different types of vegetables. Starting with the least impressive – the scary orange slime which I assume was swede puree though perhaps it was pumpkin puree – having never eaten pumpkin I cannot be sure.

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Then we had a mixed vegetable medley – surprisingly it being my Halloween roast there were no sneaky evil peas. The baby carrots still had their skins on and were a delight, the two smallish pieces of broccoli were on the soft side but perfectly pleasant, and the green beans were again just a touch on the soft side – none of the squeakiness you can get from being lesser-cooked. Clearly everyone has their own preferences on how little or how much you cook vegetables – but for me this was perfect.

Then we had cauliflower cheese. The cauliflower was again soft and tender, the cream had infected the whole cauliflower and there was a crispy and cheesy texture that had melted to the top of the florets – yes they actually managed cauliflower cheese that tasted of cheese. A supernatural effort.

It was all going devilishly well, but would the roast potatoes have been made by the witch or the wizard? Startlingly, they were proper roast potatoes. 4 of them – all on the large side, all fluffy on the inside and impressively crispy on the outside.

The only slight let-down is that they had clearly been warmed up but there isn’t really much they can do about that given how long it takes to do roast potatoes properly and that the pub serves dinner from midday to 9pm. But I don’t want to be critical as these were some of the best roasties all year.

Sadly the Yorkshire pudding did let it down as it was somewhat gruesome. Actually it wasn’t that bad but it was kind of overblown and overcooked.

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For the meat, two reasonably thick slices of pork belly were supplied. Although for one of the slices, I could tell it was cooked some time ago as it was just slightly dry, but this trick did not detract from the quality and the tenderness of the meat – with the highlighted treat being the crispy shell and the small ring of succulent pork belly fat underneath.

Like a vampire’s desire for blood, I of course asked for extra gravy. Especially given that the menu promised proper gravy. It was one of the thickest gravies I have had the pleasure to experience for some time, a meat stock effort with a fairly strong, substantial taste to it. It did overpower a tad but again, a minor infraction.

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I really enjoyed not only the experience, but the roast too. Not only a return to reviewing, but a return to form too. Never be afraid to venture out of the cauldron.

I’m going to give it a spooky 7.8 out of 10.

Next week I’ll be nearer to Reading – I promise! It might even be another really good roast. Two in a row – that would be frightening.

And hopefully with less eye-rolling from you. Sorry.

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Pork Loin @ The Bird In Hand, Sandhurst, 14/06/2015

Pork Loin @ The Bird In Hand, Sandhurst, 14/06/2015

Hello, it’s your favourite Trip Advisor critic that Get Reading are taking too seriously, with another roast dinner review.

You may have seen the hoo-hah over the weekend – yes just 3 of my reviews have kindly been published by Get Reading so far, and they have already had a complaint to the editor.  Hopefully they don’t have a Putin-esque outlook, and my roast reviews will continue to reach a wider audience.

Nothing here changes.  I’m from Yorkshire – if a roast potato is crap, then I’ll tell you it’s crap.  This blog continues until one of the following conditions is met:

1. There are no more roast dinners to review.
2. Every venue makes perfect roast potatoes and thick gravy.
3. I move away from Reading.
4. I give a bad review to a mafia-run establishment and am gunned down.

I think the complainant is warming to me now.  I can see us being good friends soon.  I think she is married so a date is out of the question.

Gosh, what a great idea that is.  Roast Dinner Dating.  Maybe The Shoulder Of Mutton would host a Roast Dinner Dating event?

How do I trademark this?  I could probably build my own dating website – every other person seems to run a dating website nowadays.

I am really going off course here, thankfully I don’t have many followers.

The plan this week was to go to a chain – however my friend could not make it so out came the random number generator and it chose The Shoulder Of Mutton.  Touché, random number generator.  So I removed the ones that I’d already visited and it gave me The Bird In Hand, in Sandhurst.

Somebody had recommended it to me, I cannot remember if it was a reader or someone from work.  I’ve never been to Sandhurst before – it seems quite well-off, plenty of good-sized housing – though not on the posh side.

The pub itself was split into a restaurant which was fully-booked but did look upmarket, and a pub half showing the darts with a pool table.  We sat outside and awaited our roasts.

The choices were beef, pork and turkey – I was very tempted by the turkey but I went for pork.  The out-of-date website suggested that it was £9.99 though I think I was charged £11.00.  They didn’t charge my friend for his dinner.

We had a 10-15 minute wait whilst we discussed our expectations and neither of us came to a conclusion – the signals were mixed but I did suspect another unspectacular but decent roast was ahead.

There were lots of carrots – sliced into rings and halved again, with a little black pepper on top.  I really don’t know what else to say – I’m obviously not that good at reviewing.

The swede came in a unceremonious lump – it had a rather buttery taste.

We were granted some tenderstem broccoli which is a rarity on a roast and was a nice treat.

However the cauliflower cheese was distinctly non-cheesy and had a slight alien-like neon-green glow in patches.  Acceptable and edible but I cannot profess any admiration, despite it being a particular favourite of mine.

We were predictably granted three roast potatoes – each of them very large.  However they seemed distinctly deep-fat-fried in texture, colour and especially taste.  There was still something bizarrely charming about them – not bazaar like my personal profile apparently is.

The Yorkshire pudding was fairly large which is pleasing – I never understand just giving someone one small yorkie – on the now-rare occasion I make a roast, I ensure there are at least 2 though often 4 of the little beasts (probably why I am losing weight).  Then again, I’m just a pratt who cannot cook beans on toast (I actually don’t know how to cook beans – toast I can manage).

Apart from the size being redeeming, the yorkie provided no further joy as I found it overcooked, dry and brittle.  I hope that is enough adjectives.

Three fairly thin slices of pork loin were provided – it was tender enough though I thought that the portion size was on the small side.  It did come with over-cooked crackling – though once the crackling was doused in gravy, it did become edible without causing me any dentist fees.

And the gravy.  It was either Bisto, or a very good copy of Bisto.  And very watery too.  Which is acceptable.  Much preferable to a dodgy red wine jus – I’m looking at you Cunning Man.

Overall I am going to give it a 6.4.  Nothing stood out as a taste sensation, it was another decent roast with areas of improvement – especially the yorkie.

Next weekend the random number generator has picked a pub in a very nice location – but one that seemingly has as many excellent reviews as poor.  Although I reserve the right to be dishonest and unprofessional, and go somewhere else.

Yours pompously.
Roast Dinners Around Reading

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