Slow-Cooked Pork Belly @ The George, Winnersh Triangle 22/02/2015

This week’s roast location was chosen as it is within walking distance of a couple of good friends that I hadn’t seen for a while – just a short train journey from Reading to Winnersh Triangle.

Pedants amongst us (I include myself) will note that this is a Chef & Brewer pub – and has pretty much the same food offering as The Griffin, which I reviewed last year.  If not identical.  Pedant I might be but I have not checked each menu to see if they are exactly the same.

Upon arrival I advised that I had booked a table for 3, using the online booking form that morning.  This seemed to cause some confusion at first but I was seated soon enough.

And I remained seated for around 15 minutes before my friends arrived.  Nobody thought to ask if I wanted a drink, or to offer me the menu to take a look at.  I did consider drinking the water from the small vase that a rose was perched in, to make a point, but the sobriety that my month-long detox has impaled upon me meant that I just continued to sit there quietly and read an article in the Economist about the recovery in the manufacturing sector in London – did you know that the manufacturing sector in London grew by 15% last year?  Manufacturing is growing faster in London than any other region in the UK.  Albeit from a low base.

I think I may have digressed.  But if I have to wait for a drink, then you have to wait for me to manufacture the review.

So when my friends arrived, we continued to wait a bit for some attention but it was not forthcoming.  If only my teleportation device was as successful as my invisibility cloak.  We went to the bar to order to be advised, “You know you can order from your table”.

I do like having something to moan about.

Now the roast at The Griffin was distinctly average, however I had ordered from the standard menu without realising that they had a Sunday Best menu – I allow myself to repeat reviewed pubs if there is a reason, but I do not allow repeat mistakes.

The Sunday Best options were slow-cooked pork belly, slow-cooked rib of beef or slow-cooked lamb shoulder – which unnervingly we were advised was taken off the menu due to not being of the required standard.  Did that mean that they had high standards for their customers, or does that mean that their supplier was crap?

I ordered the pork belly with sage & onion stuffing, along with a side of cauliflower cheese.

Dinner arrived, sans cauliflower cheese after a reasonable wait of around 15 minutes, and the dinner looked reasonable.

Vegetables first and they were a mix of cauliflower, carrots and broccoli.  All were your fairly standard mass-manufactured vegetables, though I was a little confused as to some of the carrots being warm and others cold.  A decent standard, there really isn’t much to say about them.  No cauliflower cheese yet though.

Let’s talk Yorkshire next.  The Yorkshire pudding was a kind of medium-large size though seemed more like a slightly larger Aunt Bessie’s affair – it wasn’t much to write home about.  Still no cauliflower cheese.

The pig in blanket was good.  A chunky pork sausage with one thin rasher of bacon around it.  A far larger sausage than the Malmaison managed.  Perhaps I should have ordered a few of them as side-dishes rather than the cauliflower cheese.

Now the pork belly.  Upon first tasting I was impressed – it just glided onto my fork and melted in my mouth.  It seemed that I had struck meat-gold.

But this was not repeated.  Perhaps I had struck oil instead as most of the pork belly was fat.  I guess that is the risk that you take with pork belly as it is a fatty joint but this was not enjoyable.  And what should have been crackling on top was just soft, squidgy and fatty too.  I was actually a tiny bit queasy afterwards which is very unusual for me.

How about the sage and onion stuffing?  Well how about it indeed.  Apparently it borrowed my invisibility cloak.  Unless it was infused into the pork belly?

The gravy was non-distinct.  It didn’t really have a particular taste and was a slightly runny consistency.  Averagely average and I don’t have many words for average.  I did ask for extra and was brought some fairly quickly – in one of those tiny cups that they bring the milk out in with a cup of tea.  Clearly lost in translation once again.

Do I need to spell out that I am from up north when I ask for extra gravy?

Next Sunday I am kind of expecting to receive my extra gravy in a thimble.

I can finish on a high though.  And a surprising one at that.  My regular readers will know that I consistently complain about “roast” potatoes.  Well, these were roasted.  They had crispy edges.  They were actual roast potatoes like I would make at home (without the herbs and pepper than I cook with).  Not warm but I don’t want to be too critical, after all, somehow they managed to do what almost every place so far has failed to do and make actual roast potatoes.  Possibly the best roast potatoes I have reviewed.

Oh wait a minute, I forgot something.  And I wasn’t the only person to forget.  Do you know what I am talking about?

I hope you are liking this interactive review.  Or should I say, are you enjoying this interactive review?

The answer is cauliflower cheese.  It arrived when I had eaten around two thirds of my dinner.  It wasn’t worth waiting for – creamy but not cheesy.  If only it was a pig in blanket.

So there you go.  I guess you have worked out that it isn’t going to be challenging for roast of the year come December.  It was hugely let down by the poor piece of pork, and the service issues.  However it was also partly my fault as I tried some of the beef too and that was really excellent – a very smoky tasting rib and a furlong better than the pork.  In fact, it was a mile better.  Had I chosen the beef and had extra pigs in blankets, rather than the cauliflower cheese, then I would have been talking a rating of at least 7.0.

As it is, I feel that a 5.8 out of 10 is fair for an £11.99 roast.

Next Sunday I am heading out into the sticks.

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