Beef @ The Baskerville, Shiplake 13/03/2016

In years to come, I expect that you’ll look back on this period of your life as a rather special couple of years, thanks to my almost-weekly roast dinner reviews.

For what else can provide you with such joy, love and ecstasy on a Monday? This Monday being an exception, of course, assuming your partner realises that it is the 14th March (Google ‘14th March’ if you are not aware of what I’m on about). Given that I was completely unsuccessful with my offer of buying dinner for someone on Valentine’s Day, I have not attempted to find anyone to cook me steak tonight. I did, however once watch a dwarf give himself a blow job at Manumission in Ibiza.

Which leads me nicely onto yet another utterly grim experience that I put myself through this week for my beloved readers – a rail replacement bus.

I could have got the modern, Reading buses bus from next to my house but no, for the sake of saving £2.15 I walked 30 minutes to Bracknell train station to catch the rail replacement bus and was apparently the only one to buy a ticket. I sat upstairs and immediately was overcome with fart. Right behind me were a group of troublesome tossers, assumedly from the shithole that is Ascot.

The random number generator chose The Baskerville in Shiplake, which I had hoped would be provide a good roast dinner, as I had a guest in tow this week, not to mention it was on the pricey side at £18.00 for the beef, £17.00 for the lamb and £15.00 for the pork.

The Baskerville is split into a small bar area showing a non-existent sport, with a much larger restaurant area with sturdy tables and chairs, candles and weird stick things in small vases. For some reason it seemed as though the ceiling was much higher than it was.

A 10-15 minute wait ensued once we were seated, having arrived quite some time before our booking – the roast was supplied on a plate with a relatively small bowl of vegetables to be shared – though more was forthcoming upon request, for free.

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Starting with the more ordinary vegetables, the large clumps of cauliflower were quite on the crunchy side – the smaller bunches of broccoli being a little on the soft side. Both very ordinary but acceptable.

Then came the honey-roasted carrots and parsnips. Too strong a taste of honey for me, too strong a taste of thyme for my dining partner, yet I don’t want this to detract from the extra effort that had gone into this part of the dish. All too often carrots are served so boringly. Boring these were not.

Almost slightly complex in taste, I enjoyed them but couldn’t eat too many of them. The honey perhaps not complimenting the parsnips so much and they were also quite under-roasted – the carrots being close to perfection in that regard. I definitely appreciated the herbs – maybe my dining partner had simply enjoyed too many ‘herbs’ already during the weekend.

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I really am getting worse at photography.

Sadly the roast potatoes were of the “if only I had booked a table for midday” variety. Roasted, yes but not recently, and hence were rather rubbery in texture. Only 3 but I wouldn’t want any more.

Saviour came with the Yorkshire pudding which was the best I’ve had in well over a year. As close to perfect as they get down here, a fairly large size with a crispy enough texture on the edge, soft but not too soft on the bottom. And somehow the taste was just divine. I don’t know how they managed it – there was just something different about it.  Wow.

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And the beef was, thankfully, excellent too. My brows on fleek were raised somewhat when I saw that it was medium cooked rather than my preference of rare but this didn’t detract from 3 very pleasant slices of good-quality matured beef.

My accomplice originally requested the leg of lamb but they had run out – so had to replace it with lamb shank.  What a delightful disaster as the lamb shank was packed full of meat – a proper bone from a proper animal, pink and just delightful to taste.

Finally the gravy was fine.  A thin meat-stock affair that was totally inoffensive.  Us Northerners have to accept that you lot don’t like your gravy to resemble cement so as long as it is gravy, I’ll accept without much complaint.

So, a good roast dinner – poor roast potatoes, amazing Yorkshire pudding.  On the Yorkshire-Surrey scale it rates around a Stanton-On-The-Wolds.

In fact, the drug-ravaged beauty that accompanied me to dinner, even managed to finish all of her dinner.  If you can stomach a full roast dinner after a very fun weekend of nightclubs and after-parties, that is a sign of a good dinner.  I had no difficulties in stomaching mine after spending 80% of my waking time coding websites.  Which should be less fun but I seem to enjoy it a lot.

I’m going to give the roast dinner a 7.6 out of 10 – a notch higher too due to the excellent service that we had throughout.  It was a very enjoyable dinner, with imperfections, but a super host from Tadcaster.  Now that is a proper town.

And then I got a rail replacement bus back which was built in the 1960’s, probably by British Rail and stank of damp (well British Leyland made trains so why not the other way around?).  Apparently people want the return of British Rail.  One assumes these people never travelled by train or bus before privatisation.  Before I go I would like to leave you with a tourist tip – the city of the future is Hull.  Make sure you get your holiday booked.  They still have these buses in Hull.  It still smells of fish in places.  And occasionally, chemicals.

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This may or may not be the bus that I caught back to Bracknell.

Next weekend is my turn to be a drug-ravaged beauty.  The random number generator has picked somewhere quite abominable but I think I might over-rule it.  Or maybe just stay in bed smoking viagra so I can…no that is a step too far even for me.

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Beef Sirloin @ The Plowden Arms 01/03/2015

Beef Sirloin @ The Plowden Arms 01/03/2015

With Vladimir Putin flexing his muscles, I thought that I should do the same on Sunday and took a long walk to Shiplake, via Sonning Beach.

It was a pleasant 2.5 hour riverside walk, though the mud ensured that this was more of a pleasant spring walk than a March march.

The Plowden Arms was my destination, chosen by random number generator, my favourite way to make a decision.

They actually found me a couple of months ago and suggested to me on Twitter that they had a very good roast.  I had to check it out.  If any pubs/restaurants around Reading are reading please do make yourselves are to me.  Unless you do a bad roast – in which case you might not want to.  I don’t take any prisoners (of war).

The pub itself was a quaint traditional village pub with some very old music playing – it reminded me of the kind of music they would play in the war to keep up morale.  Wait a minute, were the Russians advancing?

Two choices on the menu for roast fans – pork shoulder with crackling or beef sirloin.  As I had pork last weekend, I had no choice but to go for beef.  As I am trying to lose excess weight, under orders from my sergeant, so I chose just to have the main course for £16.00.

I have to say that the whole menu looked really interesting with various more adventurous offerings than your local Wetherspoons.  But I am here to talk roasts, and roasts only.

Dinner arrived within 20 minutes and I was immediately pleased to see the home-cooked nature.

The vegetables arrived in three separate dishes.  I am pretty sure that one dish would have sufficed.

Carrots first.  They were slightly unusual tasting but in a good way.  So many places just seem to serve up standard boiled carrots when it is so easy to turn an average vegetable into a taste sensation.  Honey and caraway was the flavour – I’m not a fan of honey but it was just a hint enough to be enjoyable.  I have no idea what caraway is.  This is not a northern ingredient.

The cauliflower cheese was good. Tender cauliflower with creamy cheese over it.  A vast improvement from the place I reviewed last week.

King cabbage was…cabbage.  I didn’t eat too much of it.  Cabbage is cabbage.  I just don’t really know what to say about this.

The roast potatoes were very good.  Not quite as soft and fluffy on the inside as would have been ideal, more firm that soft.  But look at those crispy edges.  And they were of a good size too.  A good spud.

My mother would make similar Yorkshire puddings to the one which was delivered.  It wasn’t the biggest, or the best but it was a good home-cooked Yorkshire pudding.  But my mother would have given me three Yorkshires, not one.

However my mother would not cook similar beef as she seems to think pink meat is bad.  I love pink meat.  The waitress did advise upon ordering that they cooked their beef pink, which I thought was a good touch – as my mother would not have been keen.  In fact the service was good throughout and it only dawns on me now that I forgot to leave a tip.  Hopefully this good review will go some way to compensate. My mother doesn’t like my hair cut either.

So back onto le beouf, and it was succulent tender sirloin beef.  A really nice piece of beef.  I was a tad disappointed with just two fairly thin slices of beef as I do love my meat.  But quality is more important than quantity.  Oh there is one thing to mention though – I had a butter knife to cut the beef.  Now it wasn’t exactly difficult to cut such good quality, tender beef – but it did seem odd.

Gravy.  I didn’t need to ask for more gravy as I mentioned it on my online booking with the special consideration of ‘gravy’.  They understood.  Not only was there a reasonable amount on the plate but there was an accompanying gravy boat too.  Maybe they knew who I was?  Maybe my cover has been blown?  Oh and it was a good consistency, a touch of thickness and a meaty taste.

I did really enjoy the meal and was disappointed that I couldn’t stay for dessert as I had changed my mind by this point.  I had to rush off to get the hourly train back to barracks and knew that there was heavy rain on the way (you may also know me from Weather Forecast for Reading).  Also I didn’t want to risk catching trenchfoot.

I’m going to give it a good round 8 out of 10.  I do recommend it if you are willing to take a trip out into the countryside – it is along the A4155 or a 25 minute walk from Shiplake train station.  Or a 2.5 hour walk along the Thames.  Sunday lunch is served midday until 330pm.

Next weekend I intend on going to a nice country pub and sitting in the garden to enjoy a roast and a pint.  My month-long detox will be over and I shall be having a nice vodka or two.  Unless it is on war embargo, in which case it will be a nice pint of cider.  In the sunshine.  I cannot wait.

I’m ready for you Mr Putin.

Innnnnnnnn 1.  We have the disputed territory of Abkhazia.
Innnnnnn 2.  The newly conquered Crimea.
Innnnnn 3.  The gangland of strip of Transnitia.
Innnnnnnn 4.  The exclave of Kaliningrad.
Innnnnn 5.  Another Georgian territory of South Ossetia.
Innnnnn 6.  The war-torn Chechnya.
Innn 7.  A £7million loan to the National Front in France.
Innnn 8.  The newly captured Donbas region.
And Bully’s Special Prize.  Tonight you can win 8,000 nuclear weapons, 1,800 of which active for use straight away.  And a caravan.
Yeah…maybe I’ll stick to reviewing roasts.
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