Venison @ The Butcher’s Arms


Woohaaaaaaaaaaa! Wowzers! It’s time to stick 100 candles on a roast potato.

No I haven’t got laid – something even more unexpectedly glorious than that – Wetherspoons are no longer doing roast dinners.

Take your tops off and have a dance. Alas, they are still serving “food” and people still choose to go there over a well-run homely country pub, but bit by bit, we can change the world. I’m taking full credit for this wonderful achievement, which is almost as important to society as when dear Maggie took away that dreadful school milk that the communists tried to feed us. Though I guess you can have a bit of credit too, especially those who like, share, retweet and invite their friends (hint hint) to follow my literary masterpieces – if the first Harry Potter book only sold a few copies, there wouldn’t be a whole series of them nor hundreds of people milling around making King’s Cross train station even busier than it need be just to get a photo of some platform sign.

Speaking of well-run country pubs, this week the random number generator picked The Butcher’s Arms in Sonning Common. Not Sonning. It is not in Sonning. Until yesterday, I had assumed that Sonning Common was just another name for Sonning. It definitely is a different area.

Do you want to see my nipples?

I fancied an adventure and it sure was an adventure. Setting off from Bracknell at midday – no trains so I took the bus. Buses really are not very easy to code websites on. But they do have much better wi-fi than the shambolic South West Trains’ effort – and also have USB charging points. A bit different to the buses of fear that I used to catch in Hull as a child.

Back on track, I then had a near two-hour walk to the pub, in the pleasant late winter sunshine. The roast needed to be good. Is needed really a word?

The pub itself is set slightly off a country road, with a large garden area perfect for the summer, and also a children’s play area – thoughtfully separate from the nice garden.

A warm glow from the open fire permeated my cold hands upon arrival. The pub itself was split between a main bar area, quite rustic and old-looking, and a slightly more modern restaurant area, yet they didn’t feel distinct from each other like these pub/restaurant splits often can.

I was soon sat down with a menu – I could have got away without booking in advance but always quite risky to do so after a long journey. The options were venison, beef, pork and chicken – they all sounded good, particularly the pork and the chicken, yet there was only one option really open to someone who constantly bemoans the lack of creativity in Berkshire roast dinners.

Not only that, but the menu made a point of advising the freshly made roast potatoes, along with 7 different vegetables – a record that will not be beaten, and plenty of gravy.


Prior to arriving, I’d had no expectations – I always try to resist the temptation of checking Trip Advisor. Now I had high expectations.

Right. Where to start?


There were 4, maybe 5 thick slices of carrot, with a slight hint of butter and more crunchy than your average carrot. Not much to say about the broccoli, it was a standard steamed chunk.

After that the vegetables started to get more interesting. The swede and carrot mash was mushy.

The red cabbage was really good. Either I’m growing to like it or they had a special trick to make it more appealing, to add to the fruitiness of it – I’d suggest nutmeg but I’m really not sure.

There was a piece of cauliflower cheese, which as often happens, was more creamy than cheesy, and even seemed a tad neon.

The spring greens really worked with the gravy, but the pick of the bunch of vegetables was the leeks – soft, buttery and just gliding onto my tongue. Close to leeky perfection – why don’t more places do leeks?

So far, so good. But we all know what comes next. Roast potatoes.

Now they were freshly made, and soft on the inside. But only one of the three had elements of crispy edges. Good potatoes but not roasted enough.

The YP was homemade, it hadn’t risen much but I’m not overly fussed on that. Good texture, it held the gravy well and didn’t end up too soggy for it. Good.

Portion size was clearly not something they scrimped on, which is useful when you have a hungry northerner on your doorstep, and there were a good 3 large and thick slices of venison. Probably too much for some.


Venison is not a meat that I often have – probably the first time I have reviewed it and I found it rather earthy at times. The taste seemed to vary depending on what part of the slice I ate, sometimes kind of a cross between rabbit and beef, other times close to liver – one little bit was somewhat unappealing but mostly it was very enjoyable. Also very tender and easy to pull apart.

I actually have a friend who is a butcher. He offered me 8 legs of venison for £40.

Is that two deer?

Moving on quicker than Bambi, the gravy which was a very nice home-made meat stock affair, had a good consistency for southern standards, it wasn’t especially thick but enough to please, yet was simply very good gravy.  Saying there was plenty of gravy is like saying there is plenty of food in Zimbabwe, but a wink and a nod later (and maybe one or two threats from my Zanu-PF henchmen) I had a boat all to myself.  A gravy boat that is, not a proper boat.  Speaking of corrupt bastards in southern Africa, have you seen Zuma’s mansion?


And that was that. Or it would have been had I not been tempted by a dessert. Normally I’m not fussed but there are one or two things that I find hard to resist, and strawberry white chocolate cheesecake is one. Homemade heaven. By far the best dessert I’ve had all year.  Ooooh crossing into Edible Reading’s territory – next thing you know I’ll be doing a monthly vegetarian roast.  A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha get in the cement mixer.


So for £14.95, I’d had a very well portioned and tasty roast dinner. I’m going to give it a 7.9 out of 10. The highlight was the leeks – the lowlight was probably the carrots if I’m forced at gunpoint but nothing at all was bad about the roast. It was in fact, a very, very enjoyable hour I spent there – I wish I could have visited in the summer instead, and had a couple of pints in the sunshine.  On a Yorkshire-Surrey scale – it gets a Leek.

Go. Give it a try. You’ll be glad you took notice of me.

Next weekend is start of my retox, following 36 days without booze and crack.  I’m intending on getting absolutely smashed all weekend and the chance of there being anything to review next Sunday, is even more minimal than the music I play (minimal techno).  I’ll most likely be back the week after.

Do you think I should shave my chest hair off before I start showing off my nipples?

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Lamb @ Bird In Hand, Sonning Common 27/12/2015

I hope you all had a very nice Christmas, or at least enjoyed the free days off if you are not a devout Christian.

There was no rest for the wicked, or the jumped-up tin-pot Trip Advisor reviewer, as you may know me, and I travelled back down on the Sunday especially for my readers, to ensure that they didn’t miss out. Quite what Edible Reading’s excuse for not reviewing anywhere until 15th January is I do not know.

A roast dinner was actually the last thing that I wanted on Sunday, after a massive Christmas dinner, an even larger Boxing Day roast, not to mention the 6 hour journey down from Yorkshire (which paled into insignificance to my journey up there where my train broke down and was stuck there for 4 hours, oh joy of joys).

You know that blurred la la land that you get from spending hours and hours in a car? Or minutes and minutes reading my reviews? I had that. And not even a tinge of hunger. But the show must go on. Until I give a mafia establishment a bad review. Can you imagine – RDAR has been shot. I do occasionally dream about being shot, or arrested.

I cannot actually remember why I picked the Bird In Hand, in Sonning Common. Was it my random number generator, or did I actually pick it out?

It wasn’t an entirely auspicious start, as the proprietor was expecting us at the final table for 4pm, though I was certain that I had booked it for 4:30pm. He asked us to order quickly and there was some initial gruffness. Maybe I was in the wrong – as we say in my line of work, the customer is often wrong.

Otherwise the venue was very pleasant, some nice subtle decorative touches, a log fire, perhaps a touch on the poncey side for my Yorkshire upbringing, but that is just me. And an absolutely gorgeous in-house dog.

Betraying the descriptive elegance of the menu, the choices for the roast were pork, chicken, beef and lamb, priced between £14.00 and £18.00. I plumped for the braised lamb on the bone, at £16.00.


We waited for around 15 minutes, and discussed the appropriateness of importing AIDS drugs into America during the early 1980’s.

There was quite a medley of vegetables. Some simple broccoli – there isn’t much to say about it. I particularly enjoyed the greens mixed with halved sprouts – they complimented each other particularly well.


Carrots are best roasted, and these had seemingly been roasted, thin and long slices which brought out their succulence.

A true highlight was the parsnips. As close to perfection as I’ve ever tasted – they were so delicately sweet, yet had a slight nutty edge to them. Very impressive.

All good so far, but disappointment is often not far away when it comes to roast dinners around Reading, and disappointment is often not far away when it comes to Roast Dinners Around Reading.

I would suggest that I had roast potatoes but they actually more closely resembled chips. They were not quite chips – along the lines of oven-baked potatoes. They had a slightly oily outside and were slightly more robust internally than I’d prefer – acceptable but didn’t fill me with joy.

The Yorkshire pudding was a bit of a failure in that the sides didn’t rise. If they had, it would have been a cracking effort – sadly it more resembled a flat pancake. Though not a patch on the disaster that I made on Boxing Day, I think I actually made my worst ever YP – it ended up a small splodge of oily batter. Oops.


Redemption was forthcoming. And redemption was supreme. The lamb was cooked close to perfection – falling off the bone as the fork approached, quite pink inside but not excessively so – the hints of balsamic and particularly the ale shone through. It had been…arrrrgh what is the word I’m looking for…not charred but that will have to do, charred on the outside before being braised. Delightful stuff.

There was plenty of lamb too – although my accomplices seemed to have even more on their plates. Not that I was hungry. But I was envious. I wasn’t vaguely hungry but I wanted more.

It was a red wine gravy that had been supplied, with a little bowl of extra gravy already on the plate. Did he recognise me? Despite the initial frostiness, we did receive good service afterwards, along with a goodbye and a wave from the ever-so-cute dog.

Oh yeah, the gravy. It was slightly more of a gravy than a jus, on thickness standards anyway although far from what I would even consider to be thick. It had a very strong taste to it, almost over-powering. Many would love it – I wasn’t keen. But that’s a simple man from Yorkshire thing.

Unquestionably this gets a Chiddingfold on the Yorkshire-Surrey scale. There was nothing northern about it at all. The highlight was the exquisite lamb, closely followed by the parsnips. The lowlight the roast potatoes that weren’t roast potatoes and weren’t chips either.

Ahhhh chips and gravy.

I’m going to give it a 7.6 out of 10 just because of the lamb. Go there for the dog, if not the exceptional lamb – I do hope to get chance to eat off-duty here one time soon. I fully intend on going back. Just to clarify – they do not serve dog, they just have an adorable dog.

Next Sunday I have a suspicion that I’ll still be hanging from New Year’s Day (too many idiots go out on New Year’s Eve for my liking) so I’m assuming it will be somewhere easy to get to that I end up. The random number generator picked somewhere which is horrendous to get to from Bracknell.

So, I wish you a great new year. I only have one plan for New Year’s Eve and that is too eat some gravy.

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