Lamb Shoulder @ The Packhorse, Mapledurham, 04/01/2015

I decided to head north for this episode.  The Packhorse in Mapledurham was my chosen
destination.  I was impressed by the up
to date website, and the temptation of lamb shoulder was too much to resist.  Not only that, they serve food from midday until 9pm on a Sunday.
I walked there – via Mapledurham House, through some woods, alongside
a golf course and by time I was on the A1074 I was hungry, thirsty and tired.  At 15 minutes’ walk away, I saw the Pack &
Saddle, and strongly considered just going there instead.
Perseverance pervaded through my legs and I arrived to the
smart, warm country pub that is The Pack Horse. 
I can see it being a really nice location for a drink in warm sunshine.  It was busy, I probably should have booked
ahead – there were no tables in the restaurant but there was seating available
in the cosy bar.  Which was warm – except
when some morons decided to hold the door to the garden open and have a
conversation for several minutes.
I had high hopes for this roast.  There was something about the menu – the fact
it was updated online that morning impressed me (it’s the small things
sometimes), the font and clarity of the menu helped too.  £16.95 for the lamb shoulder seemed pricey –
there were several other options that were cheaper.
Upon roast arrival, my first reaction was “is that it?”.  It didn’t exactly fill the plate – then again
I filled my plate at Toby Carvery and that remains the worst roast in Reading
so far.
And then I saw the vegetable offering.  Red cabbage – which I have never enjoyed,
some strange mustard-coloured paste and greens – which mainly consisted of
cabbage.  And just 3 roast potatoes.  Again. 
What is it with the roast potato limit around here?
Undeterred, I got stuck into the red cabbage, mixing it with
the paste – which from taste seemed to be like pureed swede – I could be wrong
on this.
It ended up a bit of a taste sensation, certainly compared
to expectations.  It was the first time I
had actually enjoyed red cabbage, and mixed with the swede was quite special.
Mixed greens were next, these were fairly standard – mostly
consisting of cabbage, with one solitary pea (I forgave them for this
indiscretion), one mange tout, one cube of green bean and one slice of
carrot.  Tastier than expected.
All good so far. 
Potatoes.  They were a tad crispy
on the outside, just a tad, and soft and fluffy on the inside.  Deceptively small as they took 3 bites to
consume – I do not have a small mouth.
The Yorkshire pudding was excellent.  Exactly as it should be – crispy sides and a
soft, slightly soggy base.  As close to
perfection as I have reviewed so far.
Then the meat.  The
lamb shoulder was so tender, pieces glided off it like a skier on the
snow.  It was supremely tasty and there
was a lot of it – far more lamb than I was expecting.  Again – deceptively small.
And the gravy?  It
arrived as just the usual southern trickle but more was forthcoming upon
request.  It doesn’t win top marks for
consistency, it was acceptable to my desires however the taste was most
excellent.  A real meat stock-based gravy
that I just wanted more and more and more of.
Was anything wrong? 
Well, the service was perfunctory at best – it would be nice to at least
be acknowledged when saying goodbye.  I
also thought it was standard to be asked how one’s meal was.  But there are far more marks to be gained
from good gravy than good service.
Dear friends and readers – this was the best roast dinner so
far of 2015.  This is the standard to
A truly excellent roast. 
8.5 out of 10.
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