Lamb @ The Rose And Olive Branch, Virginia Water 22/11/2015

Yesterday, I had good intentions of getting up at 8am, doing a few hours studying, going for a bike ride and then going on a mission to the pub south of Reading picked by the random number generator – maybe even fitting a shortish country walk in too.

Instead I woke up at 10am, accepted my food delivery, made breakfast and went back to bed until 1:30pm. I didn’t even drink that much on Friday night and yet I was still suffering yesterday. In fact I am still suffering today as I write this. I guess it might have something to do with not going to bed (properly) until Saturday night.

So none of the components of my original plan happened. But I wanted to get out of Bracknell…nothing new there. And I recalled reading that Virginia Water had become the first place outside of London where the average house price topped £1m. What a great contrast, from Great Hollands to the greatly expensive Virginia Water. Great. Let’s get on a First Great Western train….oh no it’s a South West Train. Not so great.

It was just turning dark when I left my house and not for the first time, I was questioning my sanity. Cold, creaky, tired, not really that hungry. Why the hell was I doing this? I got the train to Virginia Water, and then switched Google Maps on. I was under the impression that the pub of choice was just 10 minutes’ walk away. No, it was 28 minutes’ walk away. I was in no mood to keep walking.

But my only other choice was to go back to Bracknell. I kept walking.

I was under the impression that there were lots of lakes in Virginia Water, but apparently not. Not that I could see much in the dark except lots of ridiculously large houses. Some of them had staircases larger than my whole house. Some of them had chandeliers larger than my bedroom.

I’m not jealous. Fair play to anyone who does that well for themselves. I measure my life satisfaction on happiness, enjoyment and the thickness of gravy.

8 paragraphs in and I am pretty close to talking about food. For do rich people have access to roast dinners as good us commoners? That is the question I am here to ask.

Contradictory, the roast dinners were cheaper than any I’ve had for a while at £9.95. I had rung up in advance to check (always wise especially on a mission with no back-up close by) and though they normally do chicken, beef and lamb – they only had lamb left.

During my 28 minute walk, I had started to worry in case they ran out, as I turned the corner half-way, I then sighed as I saw the name of the road was something Hill. Oh joy. Thankfully not too steep a hill, but the lamp-posts did stop and I feared the pavement doing the same as cars flew by, but it didn’t. Albeit it wasn’t easy at times to see the difference between verge, pavement and road.

Oh why was I putting myself through this?

And then I arrived. I was instantly charmed. A fairly small horseshoe-shaped bar, around 10 tables of varying sizes. The menu’s read delightfully, including a list of around 8 really interesting homemade pies, a menu full of wellingtons, not to mention a delicious-sounding specials board – sadly I realised too late that they had a lamb shank roast on specials. Doh. Sometimes it is good to take your time.

They didn’t take their time as I only had enough time to pop to the loo, check the train times and my dinner had arrived, accompanied by a rather poor-tasting pint of Kronenbourg – the only let down of the pub itself was the common choice of draught – Strongbow, Fosters…you know the score. Maybe I’ll get into ale one day like a proper northerner.

In fact, the last time it had been microwaved that quickly was the Wetherspoons. Ahhh the memories.

A mixed vegetable medley was offered, a medley of presumably steamed vegetables as they had kept their taste despite their slightly disfigured colouration. Gosh, colouration actually is a word.


There were sizable amounts of both broccoli and cauliflower, including their stalks, including their vitamins and taste although they were exceptionally soft and almost dissolved upon being forked. The handful of leeks were a nice touch too.

Not so generously portioned was the one long strip of carrot, one baby sweetcorn, one slice of courgette and one green bean. Yes, one green bean. I have very little to say about any of them, I am not entirely sure how I can judge one solitary green bean. All on the slightly soft side, all seemingly steamed.

No shortage of roast potatoes with eight, yes 8, roast potatoes, albeit all small roast potatoes, and of course not crispy. There were signs of earlier roasting, though once warmed up in the microwave, the outside were more soft than crunchy. Inside were towards fluffy. Considering that they had been heated, they were a good effort.

I’m really not sure what had happened to the Yorkshire puddings. Two wonky affairs, perhaps they had risen at some point but they had clearly gone all floppy. Spot the accidental innuendo. That said, they worked as an accompaniment to the lamb, the structural deficit not impairing edibility.


The lamb really was plentiful. It had a robust, earthy taste to it – quite a strong flavour. I would have preferred it to have been at least a touch pink – alas it was cooked medium, perhaps even a touch on the well done side. But it’s a minor point in a generous supply of very enjoyable meat, especially when taking in the low price of £9.95.

Then there was a lump of home-made stuffing. Personally I wouldn’t put stuffing with lamb (maybe I’ve lived down here too long) but this was really good herb-filled stuffing, possibly some of the best pub-made stuffing that I’ve ever had.

And then the gravy. Oh the gravy. Thick, copious – exactly how it should be. A simple meat stock affair, with a very slight hint of mint, though that could have been my imagination. I was so happy. Actual, proper gravy. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeha!

Yes, it was worth the effort to get here. What a little treat this place is. So, rich people not only get a cheap roast dinner but a really good roast dinner too. And thick gravy. Oh the irony.

I’m going to give it a 7.9 out of 10. Highlight was the gravy. Lowlight – well I don’t like baby sweetcorn, and more than one green bean would have been nice. I’d like to give it a Harrogate on the Yorkshire-Surrey scale (Harrogate being the poshest place in Yorkshire) but I think it is more of a Pontefract.

This place is definitely worth a visit – and I’d love to go back for either one of their wellingtons or pies. In fact, I could happily go back so often that I might move to Virginia Water. I’ve even found somewhere I can rent for £23 a week. Granted, it is a garage.

Until then, back to my own 6 bedroom mini-mansion in Bracknell.

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