Chicken @ The Butler, Reading 26/06/2016

You know this roast dinner strike thing?

Well, I’ve been speaking to Mrs T. She isn’t too happy with me. She isn’t even speaking to me. And you wouldn’t believe the amount of drinks that have fallen off my Margaret Thatcher coasters over the last week.

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We had to fight the enemy without in the Falklands. We always have to be aware of the enemy within, which is much more difficult to fight and more dangerous to gravy.

Yes. Yes. Yes. I am back off roast dinner review strike. If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman; if you want a roast dinner reviewed, ask a 60-year old pot-bellied transsexual virgin crystal-meth addict.

Pennies do not come from heaven. They have to be earned here on earth. And I didn’t have many of them so I looked for somewhere with a less-expensive roast, and decided upon The Butler in Reading. Each £9.50.

An over-looked pub on Chatham Street, so overlooked that I hadn’t ever been in 18 years of living here. Slightly dishevelled but welcoming, televisions in the corners so I could watch the football, with a variety of seating – including some rather psychedelic sofas near the back.

It was very quiet so I had a large choice of tables. Possibly not a good sign but I ploughed on and ordered the chicken. I was impressed that each had a different form of gravy – I was nearly tempted by the beef (cooked rare) but it came with an “& red wine gravy” – and I have bad memories of red wine gravy, not to mention the off-putting misplaced ampersand.

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Is that blurry or am I still fucked from the weekend?

They all sounded appealing so I sat down for 5 minutes whilst a fairly packed plate was microwaved.

I started with the cabbage which I didn’t finish. White and tasteless, this was the most pointless item for many a month.

The batons of carrots were fairly average, a little roughly cut, slightly on the soft side.

Speaking of soft – the broccoli had been long over-blanched, very soft and soggy, to the point of losing its colour. Any woman who understands the problems of cooking broccoli will be nearer to understanding the problems of making a roast dinner.

Not exactly anything over-enamouring so far but this changed with the cauliflower cheese which was rather wow. The strength of the cheese, with perhaps a hint of paprika gave it a kick – really, very impressive. If only I had had a whole bowl of it. You could do business with this cauliflower cheese.

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The new potatoes were fairly standard – four or five earthy morsels with enough bite.

Also standard were the roast potatoes – three, of course, standard, and sadly the standard roasted-earlier microwave standard. They were a touch chewy and bouncy inside. I’ve had far worse, but they were not massively appealing, after all, if you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to make fresh roast potatoes, and you would achieve nothing but good roast dinners.

There was a ball of stuffing – possibly homemade, after all the roast dinner had an endearingly homemade touch to it. Sadly it didn’t have much flavour to it – it seemed to have no herbs, perhaps more sausagemeat – possibly some nuts and onion, also a touch on the dry side.

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Some places (mentioning no names, Nando’s) offer out the most pathetic excuses for a half chicken that you could imagine. The Butler does not. This was a full-sized half a chicken. I’m assuming that it was cooked in the white wine that the gravy was made out of, as the chicken seemed oddly pale at first look.

It was a succulent chicken and I did struggle to finish it. The white wine flavouring didn’t come out overly strongly, but it certainly gets good marks.

There is no such thing as society: there are individual Yorkshire puddings, and there are families. The Yorkshire pudding was homemade and a good effort. Well-risen, quite soft on the bottom.

Being powerful is like eating gravy. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t. Well, it was special – not often you see an establishment make the effort so that their gravy stands out. This was filled with herbs, mostly parsley, and an unusual light cream in colour. I wouldn’t say that I loved it – the flavour wasn’t overly strong, it was thicker than water but being a northerner, I’d prefer it thicker. But I do very much appreciate the effort and inventiveness.

Overall it was a really mixed bag. Some parts excellent, more inventiveness than normal – but also some parts very average. The highlight was the wowtastic cauliflower cheese – the pointless cabbage the lowlight.

I’m going to give it a nice, round 7.0 out of 10. Or am I? Maybe a 6. Or a 5. To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning. It definitely gets a 7.0.

Iron out the imperfections and this could be a slightly unexpected go-to place for roast dinners in the centre of Reading. We are not exactly blessed with roast dinner venues in the town centre so I would certainly recommend giving this a try.

Next weekend I’m in Hull for a family wedding despite trying my hardest to offend the groom by repeatedly stating that all firemen are lazy, overpaid striking scumbags. I might be back in time but don’t count on it. The weekend after I’m going clubbing and considering I went clubbing this weekend and had a grand total of two bacon sandwiches in 48 hours, I’m sure that you can imagine that there is zero chance of me eating a roast dinner. The weekend after I might be away too!

So you might have to wait 4 weeks for your next review. But I’ll try to do something for you, otherwise you’ll have to be patient – I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end. Gosh I might even do a feature. Well, it’s better than nothing?

Unless the 25 powerful Margaret Thatcher quotes website that happened to be a porn site that I clicked on at work this morning gets me the sack, in which case goodbye forever. Ooops.

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On Tour Episode 1 of Probably 1

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but not only has Edible Reading declined to provide you with a local restaurant review, I also were otherwise engaged this weekend – on retox. Not even Get Reading managed to accidentally bump into the managing director of an establishment to co-incidentally bring you yet another unsurprisingly gushing review of the local chicken shop. And Shit Things doesn’t eat out, except for the occasional bag of pork scratching.

That said, I did eat out quite a few times this weekend and I like to bore people more than a friendly game between England and San Marino so here are some words about eating out elsewhere.

First up on Friday night was a trip to Cau, in Reading, paid for by those people who fund my crystal meth addiction in return for me sitting at a desk 37.5 hours a week and not a minute longer, looking pretty and occasionally having an argument with a customer. It was the first half of our reward for achieving our year-end cash collection target. The second half of our reward being getting sacked.

In case you don’t know, this is a proper Argentinian restaurant in the Oracle, which despite being a chain, I had very high hopes for. If they can do a roast dinner in the 8’s, then they had to know their steak. Despite it being a steak restaurant, they do other meals too though I didn’t even bother looking. If I’m not paying then I’m having the most expensive steak feasible, which was the Asado De Chorizo steak. There was a feast option at around £85 but I decided that proper surpassed any feasibility study, unless Tony Page decided to take another long and expensive look at changing the IDR to a one-way system.

We sensibly decided that a starter would be too ambitious, but had some bread with humous which I don’t care to spell correctly – I actually have some in my fridge for reason that I am unaware of and probably should delete the sentence for. It was glorious, with some herbs and possibly mushrooms mixed in. If I wasn’t already a convert to glorified mushy chick-peas, I now was.

Then after a more-than-palatable 30 minute wait, a big lump of meat arrived. The waiter advised me against rare, as due to the size of it, the centre would be uncooked, and he was right, as the centre was pretty close to uncooked on a medium rare.

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The chorizo glaze was just magnificent and the steak was melt-in-your-mouth kind of fantastic. I did have a bit of a tough fatty side in places, but this was just a minor demeanour to a monstrous 500g steak. There were thick-cut chips too though I do not actually remember anything about them. Maybe it was the house Malbec – gloriously fruity such as it was, maybe they were just utterly unimportant.

A sensible person would have hoisted their imaginary white flag at this point (unfortunately my imagination was too slow to buy a Falklands flag from Ebay though I did look into it) – dessert was being paid for so dessert was being eaten. I had the cheesecake which was very nice, though again I’m struggling to remember much about it. I also tried the churros which were either poor, or everyone I’ve spoken to has talked up churros and they are not that great a dessert (or breakfast, as mi compañero Español insistes) – these were quite dry and seemingly not freshly made.

Service was exceptional throughout, very attentive and spirited – almost seemingly as excited to be there as we were.

I’ve had few better dining experiences in my life (though obviously most dining experiences are very average roast dinners) and I so highly recommend this place at a 9.2 out of 10.

Next up was a stinkingly striking contrast at the National Dining Rooms in the National Gallery.

Believe it or not, I have actually been to a couple of art galleries in my life. I tend to look at a painting for 2 seconds, decide it is nice, and look at the next one for 2 seconds, decide it is nice, then look at the next one for 2 seconds, decide it is nice and look at the next one for 2 seconds, decide it is nice and look at the next one for 2 seconds, decide it is nice and look at the next one for 2 seconds, decide it is nice and then wait 10 minutes for my friend to finish looking at them so we can move into the next room and repeat the process, then move into the next room and repeat the process, then move into the next room and repeat the process, then move into the next room and repeat the process. Feel like you are watching England vs San Marino yet?

I also went to the Tate Modern once and that was bewilderingly boring.

Minor hangover in place, there was no requirement to grow a beard and pretend to be cultured, so I just met my family at the restaurant. With much alcohol ahead of me, a main meal was required, though the menu was limited in that respect. I chose the fish pie.

Bad move. Those with nut allergies are generally advised on the menu which dishes have nuts included. Vegan and vegetarians are catered for as are those with gluten-intolerances. But what about those of us with pea phobias? And it isn’t just me with a pea phobia.

Yes the fish pie came packed full of peas. Not just one or two – but dozens of the bastards. I fished out the bits of haddock, and rare miniscule flakes of salmon, but sadly this was mostly inedible. I doubt I would have been impressed had it been pea-free either. Once finished, I sat there, desperate for a pea, sorry, pee, for a good 20 minutes, waiting for my opportunity to tell the waiter of my disappointment. I finally went to empty my bladder at which point they collected the plates.  Oh and I should mention the green beans, which was actually exceptionally soggy cabbage – holding more water than the Mosul Dam.

Despite my moderate incandescence, I soldiered onto dessert. I had a scone which was dry and slightly over-baked, though somewhat tempered by a tiny triangle of clotted cream and a large pot of strawberry jam.

The service took longer than some of the paintings, and throughout was exceptionally slow – drinks sat waiting on the bar for collection 10+ minutes each time. I might have forgiven had the really hot waitress been serving us – thankfully my sister had the gumption to refuse the 10% service charge…and nearly even collected our drinks from the bar.

A really disappointing experience, and we should have gone to a Wetherspoons – 2.5 out of 10.

In the evening I headed north-east to The Clapton Hart. This is an Oakford Social Club kind of place but a couple of notches up on the quality – a pub for a younger but chav-free crowd, with a suspiciously permanent queue for the cubicles and hardly anyone using the urinals, disco music farting out of the small, incapable 1940’s speakers with more tables than mis-matched school teacher’s room chairs. Oh but you do get served at the bar efficiently.

I originally had no intention of eating here, but a few flakes of haddock and a crap scone was not going to get me through to the after-party to spend hours watching people drunkenly mistake ketamine for cocaine, so I ordered burger and chips. The chips were the triple-cooked kind that all hipster places do – I was expecting them stacked neatly jenga-style but instead they were slovenly piled up. Nice chips though. The burger was in what I imagine a brioche bun to be without ever having had one – the burger itself fell apart ingloriously half-way through yet was a decent homemade effort, replete with cheap vinegar-based ketchup.

Decent but you probably read about it with as much interest as I ate it. 6.5 out of 10.

Last but not least was the Human Traffic experience – Sunday Lunch with the parents after a heavy night out – albeit I had had not gone clubbing or done any ecstasy.

The location was The Three Stags close to Lambeth – a small diamond of a boozer in a suitably rough location.

It wasn’t easy to find somewhere unpretentious to book in advance on Mother’s Day – many places we tried were fully booked. If only there was a roast dinner blogger in London. Maybe there will be one day, maybe there will. I’ve only been threatening to move there for 12 years now.

For £21.00 I had the roast lamb (I’ll also need a significant pay rise if I’m to review roast dinners in London!). It was well presented – sadly with too slightly crunchy vegetables, anaemic white roast potatoes (though actually roasted), a large yet slightly dry and rubbery Yorkie (a bit like the insides of my mouth), along with a slightly odd tasting gravy.

Of which, of course there was not enough.

On the bright side, the portions were plentiful, the cauliflower cheese very good, as was the meat – both the lamb and the beef were very nice – particularly the peppered beef – another ordering misteak from me as I clearly should have had the beef.

A 6.2 out of 10.

And then it was time for a walk in the hail to go catch a train to bed.

Hopefully you made it through my first and probably only episode of RDAR On Tour.

Next weekend I am back on duty and going to lunch with two boner fide hotties – no I’m not getting a threesome before you ask – two very good friends. And hopefully if Reading’s number one weather forecaster is right, we might even get sat outside in some pleasant sunshine for the first time this year.

More importantly, Edible Reading is back too – with a review of Cosmo. I have a sneaky suspicion that he won’t find it quite as abominable as she is expecting. I haven’t been invited to join he/she for what is the local culinary occasion of 2016.

I should finish by clarifying that I have not been sacked. Yet.

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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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Lamb @ The Nag’s Head, Reading 31/05/2015

Lamb @ The Nag’s Head, Reading 31/05/2015

I’d been living in Reading not far off 15 years before I went to The Nag’s Head for the first time.  Quite shameful for someone who consistently bemoans the blandness of the town centre chains.

So this is a little bit of payback for my earlier ignorance, for it is fairly unlikely that you are aware that they serve Sunday roasts.  The website doesn’t allude to it (it pretty much only tells you which the most recent Led Zeppelin track played was – not much use to a minimal techno fan), nor is there any board outside advertising food, there is certainly no mention of it on their Facebook page – and apart from pies, they don’t seem to do food during the week.

I was only made aware by a reader, some months ago.  I do listen to you.

In a town that can too often serve up pints of chemical in bland pubs, The Nag’s Head is a real pub, for real pub people.  The place has personality and a fantastic range of beers.

I really wanted to like this roast.    Though let’s face it, anything was going to be an improvement from last week.

The options were beef, lamb, chicken (and stuffing!) and nut roast.  For just £9.00.  I asked the barmaid for her recommendation, which was the lamb, and sat down to read about the last days of Gordon Brown’s government.  Apparently he used to use a very rude 4 letter word beginning with ‘c’ quite a lot.

15 minutes passed before it arrived, looking presentable in a homemade way.  By appearance, it reminded me of my mother’s roast dinners.

The sliced carrots tasted rather on the buttery side, and were very much on the soft side.

The broccoli was less soft (yes I needed the spell-checker again), just two florets that were perfectly edible.

Unusually for the area, there were 4 large roast potatoes, as opposed to the usual Berkshire 3.  Soft and fluffy on the inside, and a hint of crispiness on the very edges of the potatoes.  Far from perfect but a decent enough standard.

Next up was the lamb – three reasonably thick slices.  Very ordinary tasting lamb, but that isn’t a criticism at £9.00 a portion.  I’d expect something more elaborate from a restaurant – this fits my expectations of a local pub.  There was a hint of pink, and it was on the tender side, very easy to cut.

As an Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire pudding connoisseur, I’d suggest that these were as such.  There is nothing wrong with that – I occasionally use them myself when I am short on time or willpower.

The most pleasing aspect of the lunch was not only to get gravy, but to get a whole gravy boat’s worth of gravy.  So many roasts have been ruined by bad gravy or a disgusting red wine jus.

This may have just been Bisto but it was actual gravy with a fair consistency to it too.

Overall, though it is nothing to start a blog about, it is a decent roast dinner, just like my mother’s, and you could do far, far worse.

They got absolutely nothing wrong, yet will not be in contention for any Roast Dinner Around Reading end of year awards.

Worthy of a solid 6.8 out of 10.

Next Sunday (unless I change my mind) I shall be going to a venue that I’ve been told is highly recommended, and by someone else, really disappointing.  I look forward to being the judge.

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Chicken @ Back Of Beyond, Reading 24/05/2015

Chicken @ Back Of Beyond, Reading 24/05/2015

So this is the first roast review of mine that Get Reading will be posting.  Probably not in it’s entirety as I do tend to waffle on tangentially at times, not to mention the occasional pea-influenced obscenity.

I decided I should kick off in style, and what better way to do it than review a Wetherspoons?

I am sure this is exactly what Get Reading readers are looking to read about.

Forgive me but I am not going to review all 3 Wetherspoon’s pubs in the town centre.  I chose the one with less clientele that appear to live there.  Did I manage to come across not to snobby there?!

The choices were chicken, beef, turkey and a vegetarian option.  For just £6.99.  And I got a pint of Stowford Press cider for just £0.99.  Quite why other places sell it for £4.50 I don’t know.  Also worth mentioning that you could have a large for £1.50 extra.  I declined, which is not the sort of thing I normally do.

Slightly off-tangent, but I went to the Purple Turtle yesterday, and ordered a slightly unusual beer and the barmaid said, “it is £4.50, you know?” in a do you really want to spend £4.50 on a beer kind of way.  £4.50 sounds a good price to me nowadays.  I have to say I do like what the Turtle are doing in terms of trying to bring something different music-wise to the town.  But that is a story for someone else to tell.

Anyway, back on topic and the barman serving me was exceptionally unwelcoming and made me almost feel a tad uncomfortable in ordering.  Every response was grunted with a real unwillingness to want to serve or even be polite.  Quite awful.  I did ask what vegetables it came with, and he nonchalantly suggested carrots and broccoli whilst looking in the other direction.  I always have to correct broccoli in the spell-checker.

Perhaps he just took a dislike to my bright purple chinos.

So I sat down, opened Facebook (not to check in, may I hasten to add), had a sip of my £0.99 cider and the dinner arrived.  It took just 3 minutes.  3 minutes.  They clearly wanted rid of such an undesirable as oneself.

I know what you are thinking, at least my regular readers, not the 7 and a half new followers that Get Reading have kindly sent my way.

Peas.

Apologies to regular readers for repeating myself but I have a phobia of peas.  I just cannot have them on my plate.  It’s all down to the lack of discipline.

I dealt with it my pouring my gravy on the Yorkshire pudding and then scooping the peas into the gravy pot.  I did consider pouring all the peas onto the table or the floor but decided it was probably a tad immature.

So after spending longer removing the peas, then it took them to “cook” my roast dinner, I tucked into the carrots.  Well, I had three of them, for they were cool, rubbery and just tasted of water.

The broccoli (YES!  I spelt it without the spell-checker!), was vaguely better.  Soft, floppy but slightly less-watery.

If you look carefully at the mash, you can see the almost perfectly rectangular edges which suggest how it was packaged.  It was edible, but my disdain for it was almost on the level of the barman’s disdain for service.  I had one bite which was enough.

Onto the roast potatoes.  Which would be a trade descriptions act offence.  They more resembled potato croquettes,  There were 4, one of which was pretty much uncooked, the others were cooked but perhaps more likely put in a deep fat fryer 10 days ago, frozen then microwaved 10 seconds after Mr Miserable pressed the send button on the till.  They were awful.  I really do not see how they could have been worse.

The Yorkshire pudding was ok.  Think Aunt Bessies 4 minute in the oven job, and you are nearly there.  But not quite that “good”.

And penultimately onto the roast half chicken, seasoned with black pepper.  It was perhaps the driest chicken I have ever been served in my life.  Think back to Christmas 15 years ago, when your Grandma over-cooked the turkey, and you were still eating it a few days later.  That level of dryness.

It was quite abominable.

The gravy wasn’t too bad.  It was at least, gravy.  Though by time it was on my plate, it was very much of a watery-consistency.  In hindsight it may have been better to dip the food in the gravy whilst it was in the pot.  Then again, in hindsight, the Iraq War might have been better if we had sent more troops.

Or maybe, just maybe, in ultra magical hindsight, it was better just not to go in the first place.

Gosh, that was a good analogy.

Sometimes I say, please share just for my own vanity.  But this time, I ask that you share this review for the sake of your fellow human.

I am trying to think whether it is worse than The Pheasant Inn.  I think when it comes to the quality and taste of the food, it was marginally better than the totally abominable Pheasant Inn.  However the overall experience was generally heinous – at least The Pheasant Inn was hilariously bad, and had cute barmaids, this was just dreadful from minute one.

There is scope to be worse, but this was the worst roast dinner I have ever reviewed.  It gets a 0.8 out of 10.

There are so many better places to try – even if you have to go to a Wetherspoons for budgetary purposes, please just save a little extra money and go somewhere else, then go to Wetherspoons for a drink.

Next week will be somewhere town-centre based as I will be short on time again.

I  did quite like the design of the plate.  Oh and I did throw a few peas on the floor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was only one solution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you get it?! Plumped…turkey…

Moving on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you imagine the joy on their face?

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Corn-Fed Chicken @ Malmaison 15/02/2015

Corn-Fed Chicken @ Malmaison 15/02/2015

It being Valentine’s weekend, I had planned on going to the most miserable venue imaginable.  But as happened last week, my original plan was subverted and I had a romantic offer that I could not refuse for five guys.

No, not the burger chain in the Oracle, but five of us guys decided upon a romantic Sunday roast in the Malmaison.

Upon initial inspection, it isn’t the cheapest at £19.95.  However this includes unlimited starter, the roast itself and dessert.

This is a roast dinners review page so I will not go into detail on the starter and the dessert, however they have to be taken into consideration as it is a full 3-course meal on offer – there was no option to pay less and just have the roast dinner.

The starter was a buffet spread, with bread, olives, cured meats, posh sausage rolls, smoked salmon – even a whole blimmin’ salmon.  The chef was also on hand to prepare a salad, if one so desired.  Unlimited starter is dangerous.  I wouldn’t say it was especially special.  It wasn’t anything I couldn’t have prepared myself by opening a packet of sliced cured meats from Sainsburys.

What was special was the dessert.  There were several options, none of which massively appealed until I heard about the dessert de jour – until then I was about to select the cheese and biscuits as default, which did include a gravestone biscuit.

The dessert de jour was…drum roll…chocolate cheesecake.  Did I build up the suspense enough?  It was pretty immense in taste, with 3 distinct sections, though a rather tough biscuit to cut with a spoon.  It was the icing on the…cake.  It was also an impressively generous-sized slice too.

What wasn’t so impressive in size was the roast dinner.

I had the choice of beef with Yorkshire pudding or corn-fed chicken with stuffing and a sausage wrapped in bacon, but no Yorkshire pudding.  WTF?  I requested the chicken dish but with a Yorkshire pudding to be included as my Valentine’s gift.  She was clearly charmed by my beauty as I was successful in my request.

When the main course arrived (we waited a reasonable length of time between courses if you are reading dear Edible – at least 15 minutes between taking away our starter plates and bringing the main course), the main plate consisted of a piece of chicken, one smallish Yorkshire pudding, two small round slices of stuffing and one small chipolata wrapped in bacon.  With just two vegetable medleys between five guys.

And just the tiniest drizzle of gravy.  Can you see it?

My granddad taught me to save the best until last, so let’s start with the mixed medley of vegetables, as is traditional, which really were a mixed bunch.

The carrots were sensational.  The tastiest ordinary carrots I have reviewed so far.  The green beans were good too – slightly flexible but still crunchy, and tasted superb with the gravy.  I never get mine that good.

The parsnips were not so impressive – parsnips really should be roasted.

And speaking of what should be roasted – potatoes.  Why can nowhere do decent roast potatoes?  They were average, at best.  The kind of deep-fried efforts that fall apart – with a solid outside as opposed to roasty-crispy goodness.

Thankfull you cannot really go wrong with pigs in blankets, and this was a high-grade chipolata wrapped properly in some tasty bacon.

The stuffing wasn’t so high-grade – it was how I would imagine a £5 coin to be, in terms of thickness and a consistent circumference.  It seemed factory-made and a little out of place – though it worked well when mixed with the Yorkshire pudding and chicken.

The Yorkshire pudding was a little anaemic, and a little little too.  Too strong a taste of vegetable oil and really not one of the best offerings I have had.

I had always kind of assumed in an I’m from up north what’s wrong with burning coal to heat your house kind of way that corn-fed chicken was something that only rich yummy-mummy vegetarian lesbians had.  Why feed corn to a chicken?

Well it turns out that average-income childless carnivorous non-lesbian blokes really appreciate corn-fed chicken too.  It was so plump and succulent – it tasted like chicken is actually supposed to taste like.  There was ‘only’ a chicken breast but aforementioned plumpness usurped any desire for more.  An excellent piece of chicken.

I did have a bite of the beef too – it looked amazing, though it only tasted very good.

And finally, the dribble of gravy.  All five of us requested extra gravy.  We received one miniature gravy boat’s worth.  So we requested extra gravy again.  And received one miniature gravy boat’s worth.  Either they weren’t getting us, or we weren’t getting it.

It was however a really good gravy, chicken-stock based with a reasonably thick consistency.  Good work.

Overall it was a good roast but it is a difficult one to rate.  Do I take into unlimited starter and the dessert?  Due to them being included in the price, I feel that I have to, to some extent as £19.95 for just that roast dinner would have been extortionate.

Plus service charge.  Which four of us thought was reasonable though far from spectacular service, however the Canadian amongst us was unimpressed.  Apparently you get far better service over the pond.  But do you get good gravy?

This is a roast dinners in Reading blog and therefore the rating is focused on the roast dinner part.  Had I been reviewing the whole 3 courses in that context, it would receive a slightly higher rating.

As it was, I feel that a 7.4 out of 10 is appropriate.  Full marks for meat and carrots, low marks for ‘roast’ potatoes and yorkies.

Next Sunday I am heading east.

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Chicken @ Oakford Social Club 11/01/2015

Chicken @ Oakford Social Club 11/01/2015
Around 5-6 years ago, myself and our friends used to go to
the Oakford Social Club almost every Sunday. 
This was the era when they had crayons, paints and canvasses on the
tables for budding artists to draw pictures of bearded dwarves conjoined to tables over
a nest of wasps.
It was always busy, sometimes we had to wait for a
table.  We always had a roast dinner –
sometimes they were very good, other times they were fairly awful.  Generally the staff were hopelessly forgetful
and looked like they were on some form of tranquilizer.  It was a great place to spend a hungover
Sunday.
Then they stopped doing the art.  They stopped doing the roasts.  And assumedly stopped doing the tranquilizer
as the service is much better nowadays. 
The really cute girl with short hair left.  We stopped going.
Myself and two close friends actually set off to go to The Blagrave
Arms yesterday, having heard good things about their roast.  Alas it was closed so we went around the
corner to our old home, the Oakford. 
Sadly I had left my fake beard at home but did have coloured trousers on
so I didn’t stand out too much.
I was a little pushed for time, having just 40 minutes until
I had to meet someone – thankfully there was no kitchen queue.  The menu offered a choice of beef, chicken or
something vegetarian that I took absolutely no notice of.  No beef left so chicken was the only option
for an anti-vegetarian such as myself.
Despite there being no kitchen wait, it still took 30 minutes for the roast to arrive.  I have to say that I was not especially hopeful
for a good roast dinner.  I really like
the Oakford as a pub but just had a feeling that the roast was going to be
awful.  My expectations were not changed
upon arrival.
The vegetables were a seasonal root vegetable mix.  All quite soft and soggy, with a
little microwave-warmth.  Swede, carrot,
parsnip, onion, possibly some curly kale were in cube-like evidence.  Edible but not enjoyable.  Actually I quite liked the parsnip.
5 minutes later our separately-ordered cauliflower cheese
arrived, and my extra gravy.  The
cauliflower itself was fine but the cheese was runny and messy – I do prefer
more of a sticky kind of feel to the cheese on cauliflower cheese.
The roast potatoes were the worst I have reviewed so
far.  The word “roast” would be
unjustified – they were cold inside, as if they had been reheated in the
microwave.  Which they had been.
The Yorkshire pudding was burnt.
I do have something good to say.  There was a lot of chicken – a whole half of
a chicken.  It was a touch on the dry
side but more generous than I have experienced elsewhere.  I particularly enjoyed the breast.
And the gravy was a reasonable effort too.  One of those red-wine efforts that kind of
taste like tomato.  A meat stock-based
gravy would have been far more welcome but it did have a good consistency –
this and the chicken rescued the roast – to an extent.
I am saddened to give such a bad review.  There is a lot to like about the Oakford –
the staff are friendly, the burgers are excellent, the range of beers is one of
my personal favourites in Reading – the crowd is generally good and music far
more interesting than most places in the town centre offer.
It’s uniqueness does seem to have been faded by central
office control over the years, and the roast dinner is a particularly disappointing
example of this.  What might work in an
inner-city pub in Stoke does not transfer to a hipster-style pub in
Berkshire.  Horses for courses.

The roast dinner being bad isn’t down to the chef – it is down to what the pub
is supplied with by central office.  The
course is right but the horse is wrong.
A sad, lonely 2.8 out of 10 for what is my favourite Reading
watering-hole, my favourite burger joint – and now my least-favourite roast
dinner joint.
Sorry.
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Chicken @ The Lyndhurst 28/12/2014

Chicken @ The Lyndhurst 28/12/2014
The Lyndhurst used to be my local.  It always had a warm, welcoming feel to it, a
good range of beers and good food. 
Always.
So it was a surprise when it closed earlier this year.
Thankfully it has been re-opened, the kitchen has been
refitted and roast dinners are back on. 
Served until 6pm so as not to compete with the pub quiz at 8pm and at an
efficient price of £9.95 – the cheapest roast I have reviewed to date.
The welcome was voluminously complaisant – warmth and humour
exuded from the host and hostess, invigorating my slightly fragile mind and
body, which was immediately endearing and I dearly wished to be able to give a review as
warm as their welcome.
Beef and chicken were the options, I had reviewed lots of
beef recently so it had to be chicken. 
But wait a minute, there is a lamb shank available – oh yes please.
Actually, oh no there isn’t.
It is still panto season isn’t it?
When the roast arrived, my immediate impressions were of a
home-cooked roast dinner, it looked similar to something my mother would make.
Sadly there was only one vegetable – peas were also due to
be served however as they are the anti-Christ of the vegetable world due to
their lack of discipline, I was left with just one rooty delight – carrots.  And they were fine.  Nothing more, nothing less.
The potatoes were real home-cooked roast potatoes, sadly no
crispiness but these were an improvement on most of the offerings in recent
reviews.
Two Yorkshire puddings were served – small in size and soft
throughout.  They really should be
soft-bottomed only with a somewhat crispy outer shell.  Far from perfection but better than the over-cooked
offering from London Street Brasserie.
There were several generously sized slices of roast chicken,
along with two wings.  It was definitely
from a real chicken, it was tender, nicely cooked – however I felt it was a
little ordinary in taste – some lemon infusion or some herbs would have greatly
increased the score.
It being a chicken roast, I was disappointed that there was
no stuffing offered.
Finally, the gravy.  Good
marks for consistency, it was actually gravy-like consistency, however there was that tinge of
something like tomato that a lot of places seem to feel necessary to spice up a roast dinner
and ends up making the gravy, and hence the roast dinner, a touch tiresome.
I still asked for extra.
 
It’s a tricky one to give a rating to.  My heart wants to give a higher rating than
my belly does, due to the very warm friendly welcome, and general excellent
service – it seemed as though nothing was too much effort.
There was nothing wrong with the food and the home-cooked
feel was particularly endearing, however there is plenty of room for
improvement.
6.3 is my rating.  I do
recommend a roast dinner here.
And I have a feeling that if I go back in a few months,
which is inevitable, there will be a higher score.
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Beef @ London Street Brasserie 07/12/2014

Beef @ London Street Brasserie 07/12/2014
It’s probably my last roast dinner review before
Christmas.  Next Sunday I am cooking the
house Christmas roast dinner and the weekend after I am away.
So I decided to treat myself to one of the more expensive
options on my to-do list, London Street Brasserie.
I forgot about the idea of booking ahead and we were lucky
to get a table in the bar area – otherwise it would have been a 2 hour
wait.  It is a popular restaurant for a
good reason or two.
It was a slightly confusing pricing structure.  Having looked at it online, I had concluded
that it was £16.50 for two courses, with a surcharge of £3.95 if you wanted
cauliflower cheese.
However on closer inspection, it was actually £16.50 for two
courses and a £3.95 surcharge if the main course you desired was the roast
dinner.  Or £12.80 plus a £3.95 surcharge
if you just wanted a roast dinner.  My
friend asked the waitress for an explanation of the pricing structure and was
given a rather curt “how many bloody times do I have to explain this” kind of
response, a rather inauspicious start.
Apologies for the repetition but I had to review roast beef
again – it was the only roast on offer.  As
far as I can tell they only offer one option each week.  It was my intention not to repeat meats but I’m
not the first person from Hull to break a rule.
Our roasts arrives in a timely manner after a 15 or so
minute wait, along with the apparently slightly ungenerous medley of vegetables
to share between 3 of us, though this notion was dispelled when the cauliflower
cheese arrived 2 minutes later, with an apology for it being late.  Definitely enough vegetables overall.
 
The medley of vegetables contained carrots, green beans and
mange tout (appropriately-named vegetable considering the DJ “Eats Everything”
played in our town on Friday night), topped with parsley.  My
imagination seems to recall some broccoli in the mix but the photographic
evidence does not concur.  The vegetables
were on the right side of crunchy, the mange tout perhaps a little much so.  Personally I cook my vegetables a little
softer, but…carrots for courses, as the saying goes.  A real food critic would probably appreciate
the crunch more than myself.
There were just two potatoes.  Decent size, cooked through but without a hint
of crispiness.  If you are only going to
give us two roast potatoes then surely they could be on the crispy side?  It isn’t too difficult – Jamie Oliver taught
me – just chuff them up (his words, not mine innit pukka bruv).  I
am however content with the quantity as the plate didn’t lack depth – especially with
the size of the Yorkshire pudding.
Controversially ignoring my usual order and skipping back to
the vegetables – the cauliflower cheese was really nice.  Soft cauliflower with a creamy mild cheese – I
cannot tell you which cheese – I can tell the difference between Red Leicester
and Cheddar but that is about my limitation.
 
It does look quite superb doesn’t it?
The Yorkshire pudding, however, was not so impressive.  It looks impressive but so does Blackpool
Tower.  It was overcooked – more crunchy
than the vegetables and not even soft-bottomed given the lack of gravy.
  

Now is probably a good time to talk gravy.  It was that discoloured water-based
concoction which foodies probably salivate over but confuses us northerners.  It tasted nice, but there was very little of
it and had a viscosity possibly lower than superfluid helium.  We asked for more gravy but it still didn’t
satisfy requirements – however the little flat hipster-style gravy pan was pretty
funky.
Thankfully I am finishing on a high.  The sirloin of beef consisted of two large
slices, around 4-5mm thick, cooked perfect to my tastes – quite rare on the
inside, medium on the outside with a slight crisp to the edge.  It really was excellent beef.
What else?  Apart from
the initial curt response, the service was good, the staff all smartly dressed
in black – there did seem to be an abundance of fairly young good-looking
girls, which kind of reminds me of Waitrose in Bracknell where all the staff
are fresh-faced and good-looking.
I like the restaurant, there is a good feel in there or ‘ambience’
as my posh southern friends from Bracknell might say.  At £16.95 it was the most expensive roast
that I have reviewed so far and not the best.
Expectations can be problematic in life.  Like when you pay a load of money to go see a
really good DJ/band/opera in London (or whatever your thing) that you are
really excited about – and coming back with a slightly flat feeling for you may
have had a better night out than the night before down your local when you went
out for one beer and had a ton of fun but it doesn’t seem like it because you
expected so much more.  So trying to tie
in the slightly unexpectedly disappointing analogy, I had high expectations and
these were not met.
But it wasn’t a bad roast.
I have had really good meals in there in the past – a quite
exquisite lamb shank particularly sticks in the memory.  Really, really good.
If you are going to go on a Sunday then I would suggest
choosing another option – £16.50 for two courses at lunch is a good deal for
what is a very good dining experience.
It scored a respectable 6.6 out of 10.  I dearly wish I could have rated it higher and I will definitely be back to eat there.  But not for a roast.
Oh gosh I forgot to mention the Watercress.  How could I?!  It had a rather tangy taste to it.  Or maybe it wasn’t watercress?  Forgive me if I’m wrong, we don’t eat salad
where I come from.  It was less pointless
than the side-salad at Sweeney & Todd but I still didn’t understand it.  Maybe I should just be quiet and appreciate
something different?
All being well, I will be back in 3 weeks.  I wish all my readers and enjoyable festive period.
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