So for this week, I went to The Bull in Wargrave. A gorgeous pub with an open fire in a gorgeous village.
I can see your minds whirring. “But hasn’t he reviewed this before?”.
This week was my birthday roast dinner. Yes I am one of those poor souls that has a birthday in January (not for a few days yet but I’m in London next weekend), and is stubborn enough to insist on celebrating it. So, given that it is my birthday, I trawled my list of friends, Facebook friends, stalkers, politicians and ex-lovers, and tried to persuade a couple to come out for my birthday roast dinner.
It being my birthday means that I can break as many rules as I like, which includes going back to somewhere I’ve already reviewed. I didn’t want to risk a bad roast dinner on those still willing to associate with me. Sadly I’ve lost my crack pipe so this was about as risqué with rule-breaking that I managed.
Back to having a birthday in January and you may want to grab your violin if it is handy. Some people say that having a birthday on Christmas Day, or around then is the worst. But at least people are in the mood to celebrate and spend money they don’t have.
I think I had roughly 600 people interested in coming to my birthday roast at one point during last year. More realistically, 40-50 had verbally agreed – so many people were up for it. Come invite sending time, I’d managed to get 25 confirmed at one point. Down to 18 when I booked and paid the deposit. Down to 13 by time I woke up yesterday.
I feared the worst. The landlady called me when I was on the way to question where we were – some confusion over the booking time. I mentioned 5 had cancelled and she mentioned that is why she took her deposit. I hadn’t even arrived and it had cost me £100. Great.
Things didn’t get any better on arrival where I did that invisible bloke at the bar thing, waiting 10-15 minutes whilst those who arrived after me got served in front of me.
But that is where things stopped going wrong. Slowly but surely my guests arrived, with a handful of very funny birthday cards and a couple of gifts – including, most importantly, a proper gravy boat. Of all the things I don’t have in my life that I feel I should have – a house, a car, a wife, 2.4 children, a gun, a duck house, a castle with a moat, a modelling contract, stockings and suspenders, a criminal record, regular blow jobs – I actually didn’t have a gravy boat. Until now.
One by one, the dinners arrived – quite some time after all guests had arrived but this is always a good thing – it means freshly cooked food.
As it was my birthday, I decided against having any of the copious red cabbage that was supplied. Or wonky red cabbage as they now call it, due to some reviewer calling it so. Erm…oops.
The carrots were polluted with peas, so again, it being my birthday I deemed it unnecessary to try to fish out the carrots from the peas, just in case. Given that I am getting increasingly desperate to find ways to describe carrots, this was probably a blessing in disguise for my readers.
I did, however, have pretty much a full plate of cauliflower cheese.
A very large bowl was provided, with the offer of more – well, hell of course we want more! It looked as marvellous as it tasted. Freshly cooked, quite soft but not too soft, a hint of cheese and very creamy. Delicious.
Next up for me were the roast potatoes. I only had three and they were medium-sized at a push, delicately fluffy on the inside, quite crispy on the outside but they could have been crispier. And I wish there had been more. I should emphasise again though – FRESHLY COOKED!
Last time here, the Yorkshire puddings were the only disappointment but I’m pleased to say that this time they were improved. Two medium-sized Yorkies, with a fairly standard taste and texture – yes I’ve had better elsewhere but they were on the good side of average.
There was plenty of meat. Jayne normally serves beef and pork, sometimes lamb and can do chicken if ordered in advance. The beef looked absolutely gorgeous, culminating in some deep bloody pinkness in the middle. I was truly envious. I should have asked for all three meats with it being my birthday. Doh.
I also tried some of the pork, which was possibly the tastiest of the three, marginally.
For myself, I had the lamb – my favourite – my birthday. There was so much of it, thickly sliced, tasting of…hmmm…the cream from the cauliflower cheese. A touch fatty occasionally but nicely pink in the middle. I couldn’t really ask for more.
Finally the gravy. It was still a little thin for my personal tastes, but a decent home-made meat stock gravy nonetheless. And rather creamy tasting…because of the amount of cauliflower cheese on my plate.
On the Yorkshire-Surrey scale, it rates a Goole (please don’t even think of going there). The highlight has to be the cracking cauliflower cheese. The lowlight…I’m struggling here but an extra roast potato or two wouldn’t have gone amiss.
I enjoyed it just the tiniest fraction less than last time, and therefore I’m going to give it an 8.3 out of 10. Still absolutely very much one of the best roast dinners in the local area and all of my guests thought it was fantastic.
Thankfully, Jayne kindly relented from charging me any of the deposit, assumedly upon seeing my beauty. The service, bar the wait at the bar at the beginning, was excellent throughout, very friendly waitresses, Jayne also took time out to introduce herself.
As I’d had a few drinks, I also introduced myself and let the mask of anonymity slip. Oops. Apparently business on a Sunday has grown significantly over the last 6 months or so.
For some reason, people actually take notice of the crap I write. So if you are a pub landlord/landlady and you haven’t been reviewed yet – get your roast potatoes sorted out quick sharp.
For the next roast, the random number generator has picked somewhere reasonably close to Bracknell, but far enough away to hopefully be a good roast dinner. Whether or not it will be next Sunday depends on how much I spend in London. Erm…and how much I drink.
By the way I am sure that you all want to give me a birthday present, but I don’t ask for much. Just use that ‘invite friends’ button on the Facebook page (it’s on the menu where the three dots are). Retweets and shares are good too – but using the invite friends button is a proper 36 candles on the cake kind of present.