Pork Shoulder @ The Bull, Wargrave 26/04/2015

Pork Shoulder @ The Bull, Wargrave 26/04/2015

Wargrave was the scene of a recent failure so it was with some trepidation that I headed back to the area.  Although the random number generator has picked somewhere truly ghastly for next weekend.

According to the website, The Bull is a 15th Century former coaching inn.  I was particularly excited to read that the food was cooked by someone called Jayne.  Not that I have any particular emotion connection to the name, but it gave the suggestion that their roast dinner was home-cooked, rather than mass-produced.  And it has a good website.

The pub itself was cosy but upmarket – and for those interested it was dog-friendly.  We had a nice table reserved for us near the window, and next to the log fire.  I am particularly keen on pubs with wooden beams.

One curiosity was noticing that almost every other building in Wargrave has this flowering tree wrapped around it.  Is anyone able to illuminate upon this?

The choices were beef, pork and chicken.  I went for the shoulder of pork at the pleasing price of £13.95.  Shortly after we had placed our order, the waitress/barmaid came over to advise that a party of 22 had snuck their order in before us so there would be a bit of a wait.  We were offered some bread to keep our stomachs occupied, which was a nice touch, and the bread was gorgeous – soft and warm, albeit with exceptionally salty butter.

It didn’t actually seem that long until the dinner arrived.  I hadn’t finished my pint.  And it was a case of “wow” when the plates arrived.

I am under the impression that as much of the food is sourced locally as is possible – I’m jumping the gun here but the strawberries for dessert, assumedly grown in the polytunnels near the train station, were just sensational.  Albeit they came with a choice of ice cream, cream or custard.  Has anyone ever had strawberries and custard?

Starting with my least-favourite of red cabbage, this was the strongest tasting red cabbage I have experienced.  It was crunchy and a touch wonky, and there was far too much served to be able to eat.

Swede isn’t something I would normally consider.  We were again provided with a generous unfinishable serving, a wondrous orange colour and a delightful kind of nutty yet fruity taste.  The swede was topped with butter and chives.

Next up was cauliflower cheese, with added broccoli in the mix.  Another massive bowl, and tried as we did it was again impossible to finish. Delectably creamy, with the vegetables just soft enough, and a hint of cheese.

So far, so very, very good.

There were just 3 roast potatoes supplied, as per the Berkshire usual it seems.  However these were very large roast potatoes, soft in the inside but only minimal crisp on the outside.  Good but not perfect.

Two homemade Yorkshire puddings were supplied, fitting with the theme of ample provision, unlike last weekend’s experience.  They were just a bit too crispy for my tastes, I feel a softer bottom is required.  But they were good.

The crackling was delightful, crispy yet soft enough to eat, and even melted in the mouth a bit.

Penultimately, pork proved plentiful, plus positively pleasing.  Ooh I do like a bit of alliteration.  Again it was nicely cooked, there were 4 slices of a medium-thickness, it was tender and very nice to taste.

Last to talk about is the gravy.  There isn’t much to say, it was very thin.  But complimentary.  And befitting of the excellent service, more was forthcoming upon request.

For £13.95 this was an exceptionally generous serving.  Easily the largest plate I have been served (clearly not beating the carveries for self-chosen quantity) and the quality was good to excellent throughout.  And that it was home-made made it all the more special.

I’m struggling for downsides.  I don’t understand why pubs in nice areas like Wargrave sell shoddy pints of chemicals like Fosters.  Also the music piped over the naff 80’s speaker in the corner was rather on the miserable side.

This leaves me with a bit of a conundrum.  It isn’t as good as The Crown which I rated 8.7.  But it is better than The Packhorse which I rated 8.5.  I would ideally like to retrospectively go back and change their ratings to 8.9 and 8.3 respectively.  Am I allowed to do that?  I don’t have a rule against it.  What would you think?

I feel that 8.5 out of 10 is a fair score.  This was a really enjoyable experience in every way.  I left absolutely stuffed but not out of pocket.  There is room for improvement.  But it really was excellent.

In my opinion it is the second best roast in the local area.  I highly recommend a visit – and do book beforehand.

With next weekend being a bank holiday there is a chance I may end up partying in London instead of roast dinnering around Reading.  I can confirm that the random number generator has picked somewhere for my next roast that I am really not at all looking forward to.  The ultimate antithesis of home cooking.

Maybe I will be surprised.

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Beef, Chicken & Pork @ The St George And Dragon, Wargrave, 29/03/2015

Beef, Chicken & Pork @ The St George And Dragon, Wargrave, 29/03/2015

Gravy is ever so important to me.  Some people have a bad day at work and go home and open a bottle of wine, some go home and have a spliff – I go home and have gravy.

And the most important ingredient of a roast dinner is the gravy.  Not just any gravy either – it should have a reasonably thick consistency, and be made from meat stock at the least.  There is no need to get fancy with it.

At the risk of being compared to Hitler, it should absolutely not be jus.  There is no room for jus.  Jus should be eliminated from the roast dinner.  Albeit The Black Boy did do an excellent jus – the one and only enjoyable jus of my life.

I did say that I was going to go somewhere cheap this week but I couldn’t face the possibility of another poor/average roast – I was due a cracking roast dinner.  Plus I had already had to borrow money to see out the month, so I might as well borrow even more.

The random number generator picked The St George And Dragon in Wargrave, which if I recall correctly had been recommended to me by a couple of colleagues at work.

I did try to book on their website, however it was only myself dining and apparently solo-dining is not an option.

Wargrave itself is a nice village, not a place I had ever been to.  Some gorgeous houses, particularly near the station – I am pretty sure I saw one with a tennis court.  Not something you tend to see on the estates up north where I am from.  And I am not talking country estates.

I even felt a tad underdressed when I entered the pub.  It is one of those pleasant upmarket gastro-pub type places, near to the River Thames, with a nice decking area for the summer and a cushion on my chair.

It all looked very tempting – and I compromised on the trio of roasts.  I am yet to decide whether this is a wise idea – whilst this way I get to taste a wider variety, I do wonder if the quality is diluted.  I have yet to rate a trio of roasts that highly.

It took less than 10 minutes for the food to arrive, it seemed closer to 5 minutes.  I was very surprised.  I had hardly started reading the article on Islamic State (I wonder if this is enough to attract the attention of our security services to bad roast dinners?).

The vegetables came in this little cup.  Transferring them onto my plate was a little tricky, and various bits of leaf ended up on the table.

The carrots were good.  Thick, plump and tender carrots.  The kale and cabbage were rather non-descript.  I really am rather non-plused about them.

It isn’t often a parsnip is offered, and this was a really tasty parsnip – honey roasted too.  It was quite light coloured and I would have preferred it to have been more, well, roasted.  But kudos on the single parsnip.

I was excited about the prospect of goose-fat roasted potatoes.  But I shouldn’t have been so excited.  Whilst I could taste the goose-fat, there wasn’t much roasting that had been done, the potatoes were even slightly rubbery on the outside.  They were not bad potatoes but calling them roast potatoes would is against the trade descriptions act.

When the above menu states Yorkshire PuddingS, I was expecting a plurality of Yorkshire Puddings.  I did get one and it was dry and almost a touch on the stale side.  I am glad that I only got one.

There were also two little flat rounds of stuffing.  This was clearly factory-manufactured and could easily have been on one a Tesco chicken meal-for-one.

Two bits of crackling accompanied the dinner – they looked like Twiglets.  And perhaps tasted closer to them.  Again they seemed very factory-manufactured.

It isn’t really going very well is it?  But as you can see there is lots of meat to come.  My eyes did light up when the plate originally arrived, and I did question whether I was going to eat it all.

But why would you put a pig-in-blanket on top of some bread sauce?  Why on earth would you do that?  In fact why would you put bread sauce on a plate?  Or horseradish hollandaise?  Or apple and vanilla puree?  Or a flipping chunk of apple?!  I was becoming mildly riled by this point.

Sauces should surely be in a separate pot.  There certainly should not be 3 sauces on the plate, on top of gravy (more to come on this subject soon).

The pork loin was decent.  It was quite unspectacular.  Cooked a little more than my preference with no remarkable features.

There was a nice-looking piece of chicken breast but the chicken itself was really dry.  I actually struggled to eat it.

I left the beef until last to try, but it was really quite well done.  Not at all to my liking.  Like the rest of the meal it was a disappointment, although the hint of mustard was appreciated.

Now I did consider writing about the gravy before everything else.  Though my introduction may have given the game away.

Or perhaps more accurately, the jus.  It looked more like some kind of glitter-face paint that I might wear to a disco-themed paint-balling trip.

Shiny, with lots of oil and red spocks.  The taste was red wine but it was so over-powering and quite horrid that it totally ruined the whole dinner.

A good gravy would have masked the dryness of the chicken, to an extent.  A good gravy would have enlightened the pork.  A good gravy could have masked the softness of the goose-fat potatoes.

Instead, it over-powered the taste of everything on the plate – and it being a horrid taste, totally ruined what was only an average dinner in the first place.

Some people would likely have really enjoyed it – taste is after all subjective.

But appearance isn’t all it seems in life.  The dinner looked good on arrival but was anything but.  In a cute metaphor, the pub looked quite upmarket, yet had a leak from the ceiling.

This was the first time that I have questioned doing this blog.  In total I spent £25.00 that I didn’t have, and 3 hours of my life including the travel time for absolutely no satisfaction or enjoyment whatsoever.  What was initially an adventure to a new village soon realised itself into a chore.

I haven’t even enjoyed writing this.

My score is 3.4 out of 10.  Less enjoyable than the Toby Carvery,

Thankfully next Sunday I am in Yorkshire.

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Pork Loin @ Castle Inn, Hurst 08/03/2015

Pork Loin @ Castle Inn, Hurst 08/03/2015

I had a month off drinking recently.  In fact, a month off every kind of intoxicant that you can think of, paracetamol, caffeine – everything.

What has this got to do with roast dinners, I hear you ask.  I’m not entirely sure either.

But there is always a risk after a big night out that there is an inability to achieve the one and only goal of the day, especially after a 15 hour session.

This week though, I had extra incentive as I had the company of my favourite Polish plumber, Tarquin (otherwise known as Ben).  And he was driving.  Which was lucky as the random number generator had picked a pub out in the countryside that would have meant using a bus and a 30 minute walk from the nearest bus stop, which I don’t think my fragile state could have handled.

Actually it wasn’t entirely random.  It was skewed as unbeknown to me I had listed it twice on my to-do list.  But rules are there to be broken, as I may not have said to my mother when the police charged me, aged 13, with trespassing on railway lines.  Kids, if you are reading, don’t go on railway lines.  Gravy is much more fun.

So without further ado, I bring you a roast dinner review of the Castle Inn, in Hurst, brought to you in association with Sunflower Plumbing.

The Castle Inn is a traditional country pub, with low ceilings and warm feelings, next to a bowling green.  Roasts are served midday until 4pm – beef and pork were the choices, though the chicken dish was also amendable into a roast dinner.  It was £18.95 for two courses – if I recall correctly it was £13 for just the roast, perhaps £14.

I did try to enquire via their website form however I did not receive a response.  The website only suggested that food was served – no clarification on whether roast dinners were part of the offering.  Though the Christmas menu was still on the website (it isn’t now).  The website wasn’t especially helpful – I probably would have just assumed that it didn’t do roast dinners were I not on a mission to review all roast dinners in the area.  Being a budding web designer I notice poor websites.

Given the previous day and night’s alcohol consumption, my taste buds were not working in particularly good order.  But my companion is not only an excellent plumber, but also an exceptional cook – no roast dinner has ever come close to those that he has cooked for me.

The dinner arrived after around 15-20 minutes.  It was well presented and came with a separate bowl of vegetables to share.

The vegetables were copious and correct.  Decent but nothing special, the carrots were soft and tender, the broccoli with a little more bite.  The green beans though were quite exceptional – quite stringy and on the thin side – Sainsburys basics these were not.  I do not normally come away raving about a vegetable but these really were quite exceptional.

My friend advised that a hint of mustard was included in the cauliflower cheese.  I cannot say that I noticed.  The cauliflower cheese was again generous, and creamy but very little in the way of a cheese taste.

My driver was not too keen on it been on the plate, however I was not concerned.  What did annoy me, and this is just a fractional irritant, was the apple sauce on the plate – I probably should have mentioned when ordering that I didn’t want the apple sauce (which my driver believes was just from a jar) as this inadvertently contaminated the Yorkshire pudding.

Said Yorkie was very large and home-made.  My plumbing adviser believes that it was cooked in beef dripping rather than oil.  Perhaps just a tad too long in the oven as it was a little more on the crispy side than preferred.

Crispy is also the word for the roast potatoes.  Yes, three weeks in a row I have had good roast potatoes.  In fact these were very good.  Probably the best roast potatoes I have reviewed so far.

There were 3 slices of pork loin.  Not quite as generous as the rest of the meal but more than sufficient, and pleasantly succulent slices with a little fat.  I like a little bit of fat.  The cracking was crunchy and edible but nothing special.  Annoyingly it was laid on the apple sauce.

The gravy was good.  Not too strong a taste, not that I could taste anything properly anyway, and a reasonable consistency.  My calling card for extra gravy was met swiftly and sufficiently with a good-sized pot of gravy.  In fact the service was really good throughout, guiding my delicate state through the process and even anticipating my request for the Yorkshire pudding (not on the menu for the pork) without me even having to say anything.  It having been International Women’s Day yesterday, I should also mention that the barmaids/waitresses were pleasingly attractive.

Overall the theme was one of generosity and the rating will match.  The quality was there too, minus a couple of imperfections though it was a shame that I could not fully appreciate the roast dinner in my delicate predicament.

I do fully recommend this roast and give it a rating of 8.1.

Next week’s roast will be somewhere along the Reading to Waterloo train line.  Well, that’s the plan anyway.

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Slow-Cooked Pork Belly @ The George, Winnersh Triangle 22/02/2015

Slow-Cooked Pork Belly @ The George, Winnersh Triangle 22/02/2015

This week’s roast location was chosen as it is within walking distance of a couple of good friends that I hadn’t seen for a while – just a short train journey from Reading to Winnersh Triangle.

Pedants amongst us (I include myself) will note that this is a Chef & Brewer pub – and has pretty much the same food offering as The Griffin, which I reviewed last year.  If not identical.  Pedant I might be but I have not checked each menu to see if they are exactly the same.

Upon arrival I advised that I had booked a table for 3, using the online booking form that morning.  This seemed to cause some confusion at first but I was seated soon enough.

And I remained seated for around 15 minutes before my friends arrived.  Nobody thought to ask if I wanted a drink, or to offer me the menu to take a look at.  I did consider drinking the water from the small vase that a rose was perched in, to make a point, but the sobriety that my month-long detox has impaled upon me meant that I just continued to sit there quietly and read an article in the Economist about the recovery in the manufacturing sector in London – did you know that the manufacturing sector in London grew by 15% last year?  Manufacturing is growing faster in London than any other region in the UK.  Albeit from a low base.

I think I may have digressed.  But if I have to wait for a drink, then you have to wait for me to manufacture the review.

So when my friends arrived, we continued to wait a bit for some attention but it was not forthcoming.  If only my teleportation device was as successful as my invisibility cloak.  We went to the bar to order to be advised, “You know you can order from your table”.

I do like having something to moan about.

Now the roast at The Griffin was distinctly average, however I had ordered from the standard menu without realising that they had a Sunday Best menu – I allow myself to repeat reviewed pubs if there is a reason, but I do not allow repeat mistakes.

The Sunday Best options were slow-cooked pork belly, slow-cooked rib of beef or slow-cooked lamb shoulder – which unnervingly we were advised was taken off the menu due to not being of the required standard.  Did that mean that they had high standards for their customers, or does that mean that their supplier was crap?

I ordered the pork belly with sage & onion stuffing, along with a side of cauliflower cheese.

Dinner arrived, sans cauliflower cheese after a reasonable wait of around 15 minutes, and the dinner looked reasonable.

Vegetables first and they were a mix of cauliflower, carrots and broccoli.  All were your fairly standard mass-manufactured vegetables, though I was a little confused as to some of the carrots being warm and others cold.  A decent standard, there really isn’t much to say about them.  No cauliflower cheese yet though.

Let’s talk Yorkshire next.  The Yorkshire pudding was a kind of medium-large size though seemed more like a slightly larger Aunt Bessie’s affair – it wasn’t much to write home about.  Still no cauliflower cheese.

The pig in blanket was good.  A chunky pork sausage with one thin rasher of bacon around it.  A far larger sausage than the Malmaison managed.  Perhaps I should have ordered a few of them as side-dishes rather than the cauliflower cheese.

Now the pork belly.  Upon first tasting I was impressed – it just glided onto my fork and melted in my mouth.  It seemed that I had struck meat-gold.

But this was not repeated.  Perhaps I had struck oil instead as most of the pork belly was fat.  I guess that is the risk that you take with pork belly as it is a fatty joint but this was not enjoyable.  And what should have been crackling on top was just soft, squidgy and fatty too.  I was actually a tiny bit queasy afterwards which is very unusual for me.

How about the sage and onion stuffing?  Well how about it indeed.  Apparently it borrowed my invisibility cloak.  Unless it was infused into the pork belly?

The gravy was non-distinct.  It didn’t really have a particular taste and was a slightly runny consistency.  Averagely average and I don’t have many words for average.  I did ask for extra and was brought some fairly quickly – in one of those tiny cups that they bring the milk out in with a cup of tea.  Clearly lost in translation once again.

Do I need to spell out that I am from up north when I ask for extra gravy?

Next Sunday I am kind of expecting to receive my extra gravy in a thimble.

I can finish on a high though.  And a surprising one at that.  My regular readers will know that I consistently complain about “roast” potatoes.  Well, these were roasted.  They had crispy edges.  They were actual roast potatoes like I would make at home (without the herbs and pepper than I cook with).  Not warm but I don’t want to be too critical, after all, somehow they managed to do what almost every place so far has failed to do and make actual roast potatoes.  Possibly the best roast potatoes I have reviewed.

Oh wait a minute, I forgot something.  And I wasn’t the only person to forget.  Do you know what I am talking about?

I hope you are liking this interactive review.  Or should I say, are you enjoying this interactive review?

The answer is cauliflower cheese.  It arrived when I had eaten around two thirds of my dinner.  It wasn’t worth waiting for – creamy but not cheesy.  If only it was a pig in blanket.

So there you go.  I guess you have worked out that it isn’t going to be challenging for roast of the year come December.  It was hugely let down by the poor piece of pork, and the service issues.  However it was also partly my fault as I tried some of the beef too and that was really excellent – a very smoky tasting rib and a furlong better than the pork.  In fact, it was a mile better.  Had I chosen the beef and had extra pigs in blankets, rather than the cauliflower cheese, then I would have been talking a rating of at least 7.0.

As it is, I feel that a 5.8 out of 10 is fair for an £11.99 roast.

Next Sunday I am heading out into the sticks.

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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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Slow-Roasted Pork Belly @ The Black Boy, Shinfield 18/01/2015

Slow-Roasted Pork Belly @ The Black Boy, Shinfield 18/01/2015
This roast dinner was selected from my to-do list by the
random number generator.  I like to use
the random number generator wherever possible in life to enhance
decision-making.  Sometimes it makes a
good call – other times a dubious call, but one has to follow the instructions
of the random number generator – there is no over-riding it.
What I wasn’t willing to leave to random choice was my
choice of dinner.  Beef sirloin, chicken
or slow-roasted belly of pork.
There was only one choice, despite that fact that it was
advertised as coming with a red wine jus. 
I am a gravy man.  I hate
jus.  I do have to pronounce this
carefully – I had to delete a Facebook friend once for anti-Semitism.  I really cannot believe people still have
such views.
Anyway, before I go too far off topic, my choice was
pork.  Slow-roasted belly of pork.  It sounds good doesn’t it?
I have always liked The Black Boy.  Welcoming with a good menu, a reasonable
choice of drinks and reasonably-priced (at least for down here), a good garden to sit in – a good ambience.  They serve food from midday until 9pm on a
Sunday – we arrived around 4pm and it was busy. 
I would suggest if eating at a more traditional time then booking in
advance would be wise.
The food took around 25 minutes to arrive – it was nicely
presented with a substantial chunk of pork belly on top of a bed of mash, with
a moat of red wine jus around it.  The
vegetables came on a separate serving plate.
The vegetable offerings were carrots, broccoli and red
cabbage.  The carrots and broccoli were
fairly indistinct – seemingly steamed, quite soft and plain.  The red cabbage on the other hand was
notably-tasty, especially when mixed with the mash and jus.
I was saddened that there were no roast potatoes, though on
reflection this was probably a wise move given how so many places seem to get
them wrong.  My fellow-diner had roast
potatoes with his chicken roast and advised that they were a little burnt.  My mash on the other hand was excellent –
just the slightest hint of apple and again, went really well with the jus.
Finally to the piece of no resistance.  The pork belly was substantial in size and a
succulent, juicy piece of pork.  It was
really, really good.  But not only that,
it was topped with crackling that was crunchy but edible, and so, so tasty.  Writing this right now is quite difficult as
I just want repeat the experience yet all I have in front of me is fruit salad
or salad salad.
And the jus?  I have
to admit that it was really nice.  There
was just enough, it soaked into the mash nicely and accompanied all parts of
the dish with additional flavour – though the pork belly was so succulent that
it didn’t need any liquidity.
I may need to review my antipathy towards jus.
This really was a very good roast, one worth making the
effort to get over the M4 for.  I made
the right choice, my friend very much enjoyed his chicken dinner and my other
friend was raving about his plate of chips.
A suitably impressive score of 8.2 out of 10.
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Beef, Pork & Turkey @ The Cunning Man 26/10/2014

Beef, Pork & Turkey @ The Cunning Man 26/10/2014
Moo you looking at?
I decided to go for a walk along the River Kennet on Sunday
afternoon – it was a reasonably pleasant day and there was a handy pub an hour’s
walk from Reading town centre called The Cunning Man.

It looks nice on the outside, with a presumably fake thatched roof (forgive me
for my lack of thatch expertise – Thatcher yes, thatch no) and plenty of
outdoor seating – a rather pleasant setting.
I decided to enjoy a pint outside in my very own tepee hut area,
albeit still rather dirty with last night’s cigarette butts everywhere, whilst
awaiting my dining partner for the afternoon. 
It was pleasantly warm – for a northerner – at around 15’C.
The menu sounded good – as you may have worked out by now if
there is an option for more than one meat, it is very difficult for me to avoid
choosing this.  I am yet to conclude as
to whether this is a wise idea – does my greed obstruct my ability to appreciate
a particular roast?
We were quickly seated, albeit with some confusion by the
staff – our order was taken pretty much straight away, I went for a pee, came
back and it arrived.
First impressions upon viewing were of a more generous
helping than The Moderation had managed – 4decent baby carrots for a start, which is
3 more than the aforementioned had considered appropriate.
The cabbage was…bland.
The roast potatoes were average at best.  They kind of tasted like they were
microwaved.  More soggy and solid than
crispy – but I have had worse efforts.
The herb-crusted loin of sweetcure pork was just a slice of
pork with no immediately obvious hint of herbs. 
I have no idea what sweetcured means.
The chipolator unwrapped in bacon was fine, the stuffing was a very round circle of very average stuffing-meat.
The beef and turkey were fine – turkey probably the best meat of the 3 – but probably only a slight
upgrade from the Toby Carvery.  All the
meats tasted roughly the same.  1 slice of each around 3-4mm thick.
And the reason why everything tasted the same?  The gravy. 
We did ask how thick the gravy was before ordering, and the waitress
said it was quite thick this week.  I
like a good consistency.  The thicker the
This was a good consistency. 
It looked promising and we got extra gravy upon request – not sure why
it wasn’t poured in the Yorkshire, which is close to a criminal offence, which
by the way seemed very similar to a slightly-larger than normal Aunt Bessie’s
frozen Yorkshire pudding.  But the flavour
of the gravy was so over-powering – again a tomato-based taste, as you can see
from the hint of red.  I really don’t get
this wannabe-fancy different tasting gravy. 
Just some beef or chicken stock will do. 
Hell, even serve me Bisto granules if you have to.
So overpowering that I had to have a rest halfway through,
despite not having eaten anything prior to this.
Had the gravy been reasonable, then it would have pushed the
high 6’s.  A decent amount of food and the quality was fine.  As it is, it was marginally
better than The Moderation and it receives a score of 5.4 out of 10.
All that leaves me to say is, if moo enjoyed my review, please
share, like and invite.
Sorry.  That was worse
than the gravy.
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The Trio Of Roasts @ Griffin, Caversham 16/03/2014

The Trio Of Roasts @ Griffin, Caversham 16/03/2014
When a trio of meat is on offer – there is no decision to be
The Griffin does very good food so I was particular hopeful
and expectant of a cracking roast, sat in the very pleasant early Spring
sunshine, beer on table, in their sizeable garden area.
It arrived in good time and there was a decent portion for
the £10.50 paid for the roast.  A
reasonable sum in Berkshire.
There were many other options, ranging from £7.99 to £13.99 – the menu is here.
Starting with the vegetables – carrots, broccoli and
cauliflower.  All decent, but nothing
The potatoes were rather on the soft and soggy side – they looked
good but didn’t quite meet hopes, no crispy edges.

The Yorkshire pudding was a decent size and there was unlimited gravy on offer –
none of this poncey thin runny stuff but not too thick to scare your average
southerner either.
Finally, the meat. 
Beef, pork and turkey (if I recall correctly!).  The pork was disappointing – it was just
slices of cooked pork.  The beef and
turkey were standardly average.  There
was enough meat but it was crying out to be a little more special – just the
odd herb perhaps?!
There wasn’t anything bad about the roast but I have eaten
at the Griffin several times and their food is normally very, very good – the roast
was only ok.
I wouldn’t recommend the roast – stick to the other meals as
they are far nicer.
6 out of 10 – distinctly average.
I expect I will return and would definitely consider the Sunday Best as they look rather more interesting.

The quest for the perfect Sunday roast in Reading continues…if you want to join
me or have a recommendation then please post below.
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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 Pork @ The Moderation 07/04/2013

Roast Pork @ The Moderation 07/04/2013
3rd in my occasional series of local roast dinner reviews.
I haven’t been to The Moderation for some time, it is a nice, modern pub just about in Caversham.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the roast dinner listed for only £9.00 – I am sure it used to be a higher price.
Pork, chicken and beef were the options on the menu.  Except they only had pork left.
We didn’t have to wait too long, around 15 minutes – the pub was moderately busy for a Sunday early evening, plenty of seating available.
The roast dinner was well presented, if a tiny bit on girlie size (or is that just my above-average belly talking?).  A very impressive looking Yorkshire Pudding.
The cauliflower and broccoli were fine, a little tougher than I personally prefer.  The carrots however were sensational, some of the best I have ever had – if only there were more than 6 thin strips of carrot.  Not often I say that.
Good roast potatoes.  Roast potatoes at a pub seem to be the easiest thing to get wrong but they were good.
Onto the important bits – the pork was nice and tender however with only two slices, this was a little disappointing.  It seemed like it was an attempt to conserve the meat as they were running out.  Decent bit of crackling, and the Yorkshire Pudding was excellent.
Finally, the part you have all been waiting for – the gravy.  It was one of those homemade gravies which doesn’t really sit naturally with a Northern palette, but this was a good gravy, a decent consistency and there was plenty enough on the plate.
The empty plate would suggest that it gets the James Winfield seal of approval as a roast with good value for money, with room for improvement.
7.7 out of 10.
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