Turkey @ Bell & Bottle, Shinfield 13/12/2015

I only discovered the existence of the Bell & Bottle last winter, when I popped in for a pint after a countryside walk around Shinfield, to watch the second half of a football game in which my team were playing. We lost 3-0 in an abject performance.

I discovered that they did roast dinners, but I ploughed onto the excellent Black Boy up the road.

Recently, the random number generator insisted that I paid another visit for one of their roast dinners. I wondered if it might be a hidden gem – no website and a Facebook page that hasn’t been updated since 2010. Yet they offered home-cooked roast dinners. This is the main point of Roast Dinners Around Reading – to get you away from the obvious and average places, to the undiscovered gems.

It took the best part of two hours to get there, 50 minutes of walking, one train and one bus.

I arrived to see a big Fosters sign stuck on the outside of the pub. You know where this is heading, don’t you?

The pub was split into a bar area and dining area, like many are nowadays. Wonderfully tacky Christmas decorations, mingling with fruit machines and TV screens. The tables were sturdy – the chairs I sunk right into, not quite to the floor but I was much lower down than I would prefer.

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There was a warm welcome from the two ladies running the bar. The options were beef, pork or turkey – guess what I selected? It being Christmas, and all. The price was just £7.95 – one of the cheapest roasts around.

Upon arrival there was no shortage of food. Certainly not vegetables, anyway, with 4 different types of steamed vegetables.

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I started with the green beans. There were far too many of them, and they were disturbingly darkened. They tasted fine. Fine in a very average way.

The broccoli (I’m pretty good at spelling that now) had a bit of bite to it, but there really isn’t any more to say about it. The cauliflower was very ordinary, also very soft – it could easily have ended up mushy cauliflower.

I sensed a touch of butter on the carrots, and they were pretty pleasing. I’ve had carrots in most of the 49 roasts to date and I’m really bored of writing about them – you are probably bored of reading about them but my readers stats are holding up, despite the recent loss of my attempted sense of humour. Maybe I need to talk about crystal meth more.

One certainly needed a sense of humour for the roast potatoes. They had been roasted. I am not sure when. There were four roast potatoes, two of which had a good 3-4mm of brown on the bottom. It tasted of burnt oil. It was fairly horrendous – I actually had to cut it off and leave it.

Otherwise they were chewbecca throughout. These may win the award for the worst roast potatoes in the inaugural annual roast dinner awards coming when I can be bothered to write them. A true abomination.

Do you think Ricky Gervais reads this? Maybe I should tweet him?

The Yorkshire pudding was fine. Small, edible – possible an Aunt Bessie’s or similar.

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I quite enjoyed the larger than usual stuffing ball, which the lady that took my order seemed particularly excited about, but even that was rather dry and coarse.

The turkey was utterly forgettable. It wasn’t bad, except the small corner of gristle which was inedible. Three slices that were tender enough and tasted of turkey, but also reminded me of one of those Bernard Matthew’s turkey crowns.

Finally the gravy was watery. Very thin. I am trying to forget about my whole experience.

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On the bright side, I did however have a very nice pint of cider to rest on my Carlsberg beer mat.

The highlight was that I didn’t end up paying too much for it. I did enjoy the carrots too. The worst part was the shockingly bad roast potatoes. And to think Google told me it was a Gastropub.

I am probably being slightly generous giving it a 3.3 out of 10. It didn’t give me quite the level of disappointment as last week’s.

Next weekend is the big 5-0. My 50th review. So I’m going to somewhere good. I am going to get a good roast, even if I have to spend north of £20.00. I don’t care. It is going to be good.

By the way, does anyone else wish the Reading Business Improvement District would invest the Christmas money in giant inflatable Santa’s instead of all these posh-looking pretty white lights?

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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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Turkey Christmas Dinner @ Hilton Hotel, Bracknell

Turkey Christmas Dinner @ Hilton Hotel, Bracknell
Welcome to my unexpected Christmas special.
I didn’t intend to review my work Christmas dinner – it doesn’t
really count as a Sunday roast despite having most of the ingredients, however
this was something else.
Generally I loathe these types of gatherings – they seem
like something a cruel government would inflict on its citizens as punishment,
however I actually like a couple of my colleagues, there was gravy on offer, it
was free and included some free drinks. 
It being a Hilton, I was expecting the lovely Paris to be DJing, sadly
there was not even a hologram of her DJing.  Perhaps
our Christmas party budget does not stretch to £500,000 for the DJ.
Anyway, I straightened my hair, filled up my new hip flask
with vodka and I was reddehtegurrrr, as we say in ‘Ull.  By the way, it is a city in the north of
England.  No, it isn’t near Newcastle.
The starter was pate. 
I have to gurrrr back up north in 10 days so I thought best to reduce my
risk of being beaten up and declined to eat it. 
Otherwise I’ll be accused of being a Cockney again.  Urrrrgh yuv lost yurrr akkscent,
yurrahCockneh.
The main meal arrived. 
This I can eat.  Though whether I
should have done is another question.
 
The sprouts were anaemic-looking green balls which one
imagines could have been excreted by Dale Winton after a particularly long
greens-only diet.
Carrots.  It is hard
to do carrots wrong and they were mass-cooked and microwaved in standard format.
Parsnips.  Uncooked.  At least they were defrosted.
Was there any chance perhaps of some nice, crispy roast
potatoes?  Ho Ho Ho.  3 small soggy items with a rough edge, kind of like a fine sandpaper.
And finally, the piece de resistance – the turkey.  Now turkey can be dry when cooked but this
was extra dry.  I didn’t taste any turkey
and can only assume that it was some recycled cardboard reformed and injected
with turkey stem cells.  MacDonalds
chicken nuggets have a closer resemblance to meat than this turkey did.
You may also have noticed some gooey thing on top of the
processed things.  I couldn’t quite
decide what this was – imagine stuffing, but in a jelly texture that tastes of
bacon.
The gravy, sorry, I mean shiny brown water, was invisible when my
dinner arrived.  However they had a gravy
boat especially for me so I could drown my reformed manufactures.  Interestingly, the remaining gravy in said
gravy boat actually had some consistency to it an hour later.
Now I have had a worse meal before.  A group of us went to Island Bar many years
ago and some food was actually still frozen upon arrival.  At least this dinner was defrosted and
microwaved.  Not sure when it was
microwaved as I do not recall any particular warmth.
When I was at university, I did once just complete the name
section on an exam paper to see if I got a mark for it.  I didn’t.
In a similar kind of way, I feel that the Hilton hotel does
deserve at least some credit for not serving frozen food and also not giving me
food poisoning.  Not quite a whole point
though.
So I give it a 0.8 out of 10.
I did enjoy the bread roll. 
And yes I did get chucked out of university.  Voluntarily.
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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
better.
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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Turkey & Beef @ Toby Carvery, Reading 28/09/2014

Turkey & Beef @ Toby Carvery, Reading 28/09/2014
Roast Dinners In Reading is back.  There will be at least one roast a month from
now on.  Maybe.
And a real domain name. 
Maybe a Facebook/Twitter page too.  I might even amend the name slightly.
So after a nice walk near Ascot on Sunday just gone, I decided that I
required a big pile of food on a pre-payday budget.
Toby Carvery was the choice.
It wasn’t as cheap as I had thought it would be – £9.49 for a carvery
and an extra £1.50 to go KING SIZE.  I
went KING SIZE.
KING SIZE gets you two chipolatas, an extra Yorkshire
pudding and a bit more meat.
Either normal size or KING SIZE gets you up to 4 different
meats – turkey, gammon, pork and beef were the choices.  The pork didn’t looked like it had been there for a few hours, so I chose
beef and turkey.
The vegetable choices were pretty basic – carrots,
cauliflower ‘cheese’, peas, runner beans, onions. 
There were 3 different types of gravy – vegetarian, mint and meat.  I drenched my plate in meat.
So onto the food.  And
boy was I hungry.
The beef was ok, it tasted like the turkey, which was so
thinly sliced that the server should really have a job at Bernard Matthews
doing their wafer-thin turkey slices. 
The potatoes were ok, they tasted like the turkey.  The stuffing tasted like the potatoes, but at
least had a different texture.  The
sausages did taste like sausages but the cauliflower ‘cheese’ tasted like the
beef, or the turkey, or the potatoes. 
Certainly not of cheese.

The gravy was brown water.
The crackling was inedible.
Thankfully a dining experience isn’t all about the food.
The waitress was very helpful (and quite hot), the wait for
a table was just 10 minutes or so and the clientele were friendly, though the
two ladies near us seemed a little confused as to why Muslims tend not to have
western names such as Harry or Fred.  I
considered suggesting that neither do the French or Germans but decided
against.
The beer choice was not great – I plumped for Amstel but it tasted of chemicals.
Thankfully the company was excellent.
Things can only get better. 
Malmaison next weekend?!
A more-generous-than-their-meat-serving score of 3.5 out of 10.
Oh wait a minute, the Yorkshire pudding were pretty good.
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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
made.
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
exciting.
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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