Friday, 25 November 2011

The Bugle Inn, Twyford, 24th November 2011

After our disappointing experience last month, Trev and Si took great pains to ensure that we would not be disappointed with our next outing, even going so far to to undertake a reconnaissance visit to this pub earlier in the month. So, it was with some anticipation that we boarded the No. 69 bus to visit The Bugle Inn in Twyford.

Unfortunately Doug was unable to join us for this outing, so it was Trev, Si, and Joe who (perhaps surprisingly) managed to all catch the same bus. Nick already had some business to attend to in Twyford, so met us at the pub.

Some might say that this place is rather more of a restaurant and less of a pub, but as we were warmly greeted by the barmaid and shown to the comfortable leather sofas in front of the blazing log fire to sup our first pints of beer we all thought "this'll do nicely". The ales on offer were Bowman Ales Swift One 3.8% (our perennial favourite, at £3.25/pint), The Governor 3.8% (Marco Pierre White's own brew, from Manchester), Flowerpots Goodens Gold 4.8%, and Flowerpots IPA 6%. A fine selection of ales. We thought it wise to save the stronger ales until later, so we all settled down with pints of Swift One while we studied the menus.

As there was only one pie available on the menu, it didn't take us long to decide what to order. We had been hoping for a venison and port pie, but unfortunately it wasn't available as the local butcher didn't have any venison. So we all ordered the Steak and Ale Pie, or (to quote the menu) "freshly baked pie made with Hampshire beef and local Flowerpots Bitter, served with creamy potato and celeriac mash and fruity braised red cabbage £12.95":

Except Joe asked for his pie to be served with the rather more traditional peas and chips:

The first thing we noticed about the pies was that they were individual pies instead of slices from a large pie. In general we are not so keen on individual pies because if they are fully encased in pastry  (as they should be) then the ratio of pastry to filling tends to be too high. In this case, however, this was not a problem as the chef had introduced an interesting variation: the pastry was thin on top but with thick bevelling around the edge, and there was a thin layer of pastry extending down the sides. There was no pastry at the bottom of the pie. The second thing we noticed was that it was puff pastry, which we normally disapprove of. The third thing we noticed was the lack of any unnecessary garnishing - no unwelcome sprigs of parsley or other greenery.

However, the proof of the pie is in the eating, and here (with the possible exception of Nick) we were all very impressed. The pastry was delicious. The filling was near-perfect, "a complex fabric of complimentary flavours" to quote Nick. The vegetables were delicious. Joe was so impressed with his chips that he let us all have a taste, and we all agreed they were perfect.  Portion sizes were just right so we still had room for puddings.

The puddings were also exceptionally good. Nick had the fresh fruit pavlova with double cream, mint & coulis, which looked fabulous:

Trev had freshly baked gooey chocolate pudding with Jude's vanilla pod ice cream (delicious, apparently):

Si had Chocolate, Orange and Cointreau pot with amoretti biscuit and Jude's hazlenut ice cream. He thought the pot was a bit difficult to finish as it was so rich:

And Joe was content to have just a scoop of ice cream:

The general ambience of the pub was very good. It was modern, clean and comfortable. The service was excellent.  There were a few other customers there (mostly women), but not enough to spoil our enjoyment of what was an exceptionally fine meal.  There was background music, but it was tasteful, and we didn't even notice it until we retired back to the sofas for our last pint. At this point Si couldn't resist trying a pint of the Flowerpots IPA 6%, which was sufficient to render him comatose for a few hours when he got home.

The final bill came to £32.50 each, so it was not a cheap meal, and this is reflected in the scores for value-for-money.

A final small point of detail: the beer was served in glasses with built-in finger-grips! Attention to detail like that can make such a difference:

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 4.05
  • Filling 4.175
  • Beer 4.2
  • Ambience 4.375
  • Value 3.5
  • Overall 20.3
This puts the Bugle in 3rd place in our rankings, after the Bowman (21.5) and the Barleycorn (20.375).  This is rather a surprising result, given that we all enjoyed the meal so much. The poor score for value-for-money was clearly a factor, but what price do you put on quality?

There won't be a pie club meeting in December, to allow more time for members to sample mince pies. So the next meeting will be on 26th January 2012. At this time 2 pie club members will be in Australia, so we can all look forward to some reports on Australian pies!

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Farmers Home, Durley, 27th October 2011

We had planned to use our bus passes on the No.7 bus to Durley then walk the last half mile to the The Farmers Home, but it was raining, and Doug's wife offered us a lift as it was on her way to somewhere or other, so, despite our avowed intentions of being self-sufficient and not dependent on our good ladies to any extent,  we took her up on her kind offer.

Unfortunately, Joe had to drop out of this Pie Club meeting, so it was Trev, Nick, Doug and Si who trudged through the rain all the way from the car parked on the streeet outside, into the pub, to be welcomed by a friendly barmaid and shown straight to our table.

First impressions were good. There was a nice friendly welcome, a cosy looking pub with not too many customers, and a choice of Steak & Mushroom Pie (£7.95), Creamy Chicken & Bacon Pie (£7.95), or Steak & Kidney Pudding (£8.95) on the menu. But we noticed straight away that the choice of ales was limited to Ringwood Best 3.8% or Gales HSB 4.8%, which was a bit disappointing, and maybe a warning of things to come.

Expecting a long session ahead, we decided to steer clear of the HSB. We settled down with pints of Ringwood Best while we considered the difficult matter of choosing our pies from the menu. This was complicated by the fact that there was a special deal available whereby you could have two courses for £8.95 if you chose your main course from the lunch menu (which included the two pies, but excluded the Steak & Kidney Pudding, as that was on the Specials menu). In the end, Trev and Nick both chose the Creamy Chicken & Bacon Pie, and Doug and Si opted for the Steak & Kidney Pudding.

We had barely started our second pints when the food arrived. Fast service!

The Creamy Chicken & Bacon Pie looked good, despite only having a shortcrust pastry topping instead of being fully enclosed in pastry as it should be, and despite being adorned with a totally-unnecessary sprig of parsley:

The Steak & Kidney Pudding looked good as well, being amply proportioned, but again having a totally-unnecessary large sprig of parsley:

The pies were served with an ample helping of nicely-cooked vegetables comprising mashed swede, brocolli, and carrots:

Doug, Trev and Nick all had a big helping of new potatoes with their meal:

Si thought that this showed dangerous signs of people going for the healthy option, stuck to his principles, and chose to have chips. This resulted in quite a pleasing visual effect:

As we ate our pies it became apparent that all was not well. The food was alright, but not great. The shortcrust pie pastry and the suet pudding pastry were both disappointing. The Steak & Kidney Pudding filling was thin, with not a lot of meat, and what meat there was was finely chopped instead of being chunky. But the main problem was that the beer was not going down very well. It was settling heavily in the stomach and putting us off our food. By the end of the second pint most of us had had enough, although some of us did manage a third pint. The beer was certainly too cold, which may explain the problem. We couldn't even manage any puddings.

The general ambience of the pub was initially quite good, but as time went by the place filled up with more and more  people (mostly pensioners, probably drawn there by the special offer), and it got quite noisy. We quite like not having to share a pub with too many other customers.

So we ended up having quite a short session. We had intended to get the No.7 bus back again, but it's an hourly service and we'd just missed a bus, and it was coming on to rain again, so (despite our reservations) Nick persuaded his good wife to pick us up and give us all a lift home. She's very kind.

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 3.25
  • Filling 3.375
  • Beer 2.925
  • Ambience 2.875
  • Value 3.875
  • Overall 16.3
This puts The Farmers Home in 6th place (out of 7) in our rankings. The only pub worse than this was The White Horse, Beeches Hill (which has since had a change of landlord).

The next Pie Club meeting will be on 24th November. Trev to decide the venue.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Ship Inn, Kingswear, 8th October 2011

Whilst taking a well-earned short break in Devon, Simon had a good meal at The Ship Inn, Kingswear.

To make a change from fish (almost compulsory in this part of the world) Simon opted for the Cow Pie (this being the first time he had come across a Cow Pie on a menu anywhere). It was a great pie, let down by the puff pastry topping, as can be seen below:

The filling was perfect: 1" cubes of tender lean beef in a delicious gravy with nothing extraneous added, and lots of it! The accompanying vegetables were fresh perfectly cooked. The chips were hand-cut and cooked perfectly. The accompanying ales were excellent: there was a choice of 5, including the ever-tempting Otter Amber Ale 4%, which was nicely served at the correct temperature. The pub landlord, Colin,  and the staff were very friendly and welcoming. The general ambience was very good.  Value for money was fair, with the beer weighing in at only £2.80/pint.

But the whole thing was let down by the puff pastry topping. It wasn't even good puff pastry. It was dry and tasteless and stuck to the roof of your mouth. It was like eating a dry cream cracker, only not as tasty.

To make up for the disappointment of the first course, Simon had another pint, and some pudding - very good fruit crumble with custard:

After the meal Simon remonstrated with Colin about the poor quality of the pastry. The landlord was very apologetic, and explained that they'd tried using proper short-crust pastry but there were too many problems with it. Apparently it's something to do with the re-heating. To which Simon's only reply was "Huh!".

PS Simon was accompanied on this trip by his good wife Jean, who had Whole Plaice and Chips, which she said was excellent.

PPS On this same trip Simon visited The Cherub Inn in Dartmouth with Jean:

It's a fine pub, but when Simon asked "What's the Pie of the Day?" the answer was "Fish Pie". Enough said.

Please note that Simon visited the pub without any other members of the Club, so opinions expressed above are purely personal and not representative of the Club.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Australian Pies

Pieman has recently received this photo of a typical Australian gourmet pie from an associate currently working down under:

It looks pretty good, although Pieman has his doubts about the dollop of ketchup on top, and, what's more, he thought Australian pies were traditionally served upside down, and surrounded by a generous helping of mushy peas (what the Australians charmingly refer to as a "pie floater").

Some Pie Club members will be visiting Australia early next year, so expect to see some pie reviews from down under soon.

All Australian beer is rubbish, of course, so there's no danger of the Aussies doing better than the Poms in our ongoing quest for the perfect Pie/Pint combination.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

An expedition along the No. 17 Bus Route

Whilst researching possible venues for the next Pie Club outing, Pieman (accompanied by his long-suffering wife) undertook the hazardous task of visiting all the pubs on the No 17 bus route, which runs from Bishops Waltham to Petersfield, to try to find a pub that serves a pie worthy of our attention. The results were mixed, and largely disappointing:

The Bakers Arms, Droxford

May be worth a visit because we know the food here is seriously good, but there was no pie on the menu when Pieman visited, although their web site says there is a Chicken & Mushroom Pie with mashed potato at £12.95 (expensive).

The Bucks Head, Meonstoke

Possibly worth a visit. One "big and hearty" Steak & Ale Pie with shortcrust pastry @ £9.50

The Shoe, Exton

Doubtful, and expensive. A Steak & Wine Pie with mash and puff pastry @ £12.50. The service here is still as bad as ever, even on a quiet day.

The George & Falcon, Warnford

Might be interesting, but it's a large pub with poor ambience, and expensive. Their "Pie of the Day" when Pieman visited was Pork & Apple with a puff pastry lid and shortcrust pastry lining @ 12.50 

Thomas Lord, West Meon

Nice looking pub, but no pies. Disappointing!

The Olde George Inn, East Meon

Nice looking pub, but no pies. Disappointing!

The Isaac Walton, East Meon

No pies

Seven Stars, Stroud

Doubtful, big family pub with poor ambience. Steak & Ale pie @ £9.45

The Good Intent, Petersfield

Pub closed down.

The Square Brewery, Petersfield

Nice pub, but no pies

The Folly, Petersfield

Nice pub, but no pies

Other pubs in Petersfield

There was not enough time to visit all the other pubs in Petersfield, but a quick tour failed to find any that would justify the long bus trip from Bishops Waltham. It didn't look as if any served pies.

Friday, 29 July 2011

The Black Dog, Waltham Chase, 28th July 2011

On a warm sultry summer's day, Nick, Trev, Si undertook the arduous 2.1 mile walk to The Black Dog, Waltham Chase. They were joined halfway by Doug, and a lively conversation ensued as we worked up a fine thirst. Unfortunately Joe was unable to join us for this outing as he was enjoying his usual summer break in Canada.  The Black Dog is a nice looking pub (tied to Greene King) with extensive gardens:

We could have sat outside in the garden, but opted instead for the cool interior.  There were 3 ales available: Ruddles County 4.3%, Greene King IPA 3.5%, and Old Speckled Hen 4.5%. We felt that after such a long walk, through all the heat, this was a difficult choice. After some hesitation Doug chose the IPA, and the others chose the County. The beers were quickly served up by the very attractive barmaid, and very enjoyable they were too, being served at exactly the right temperature - just what we needed after that long walk. For our second pint we all moved on to the IPA, and we stuck with that for the rest of the session (We felt that the Old Speckled Hen might be a bit too heavy for the summer conditions).

There was a Steak & Ale Pie (with puff pastry) on the menu, but we were rather put off by the puff pastry so, in a radical departure for the Pie Club, and despite the warm sultry conditions, we all chose to have the Steak & Kidney Pudding with Suet Pastry, served with fresh vegetables (brocolli and home-grown carrots) and hand-cut chips: 

This was an excellent choice. Notice in the photo above how Nick is rubbing his stomach in eager anticipation of the delights that lie ahead.  The pudding was massive. The suet pastry was near-perfect - thin, light, crisp and tasty. The filling was maybe of not such a high standard: It was tasty but didn't have enough large chunks of meat, and had rather too much gravy (although to be fair, some pointed out that maybe steak and kidney puddings are supposed to be like that. This being our first experience of a steak and kidney pudding we have no basis for comparison, so we shall have to wait and see). The ratio of filling to pastry was very good. The vegetables were cooked perfectly. At first sight it seemed that the vegetable portions were rather small, but in fact, given the massive size of the puddings, we could not have managed any more. The meal was served with gravy already applied (generally not a good idea), and we couldn't help noticing that the puddings had a sprinkling of finely chopped parsley on them, which was impossible to remove.

Afterwards we were all so full that we could not manage any pudding, although there was a tempting choice of 9 puddings available.

The ambience of the pub was not cosy but very pleasant: The pub was busy but not too crowded; the table service was good; the pub was clean; there were flowers in the loos and on some of the tables; there were no fruit machines but unfortunately some background music appeared halfway through the session. At 2:45 the pub was due to close so we were asked to settle the bill and finish our drinks outside in the garden, which we were happy to do.

We thought the value for money was about average: The meals were £9.35 each. Puddings (if we had had any) were £4.35 or £4.95 each. A pint of ale was £3.35.

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):

  • Pastry 4.575
  • Filling 3.4
  • Beer 3.975
  • Ambience 4.0
  • Value 3.7
  • Overall 19.65
This puts The Black Dog in 3rd place in our rankings, after the Bowman and the Barleycorn. Nevertheless, this was a good meal out.

During the course of the meal we discussed various possible amendments to the Pie Club constitution, but we agreed that nothing could be decided unless all members were present, so we deferred any decisions until Joe returns to this country. The issues discussed included:

  1. drinks: beer only, or should cider be allowed?
  2. year-end award to the best pie (or best overall score?)
  3. touring
  4. new members/guest days/affiliated pie clubs, eg Botley
  5. penalties
  6. members' pie competition in November for charity

Friday, 24 June 2011

The Barleycorn Inn, Bishops Waltham, 23rd June 2011

After many unfortunate delays Trev, Nick, Si, and Joe met for the 5th meeting of the Pie Club at The Barleycorn Inn, Bishops Waltham, a fine local pub which we should visit more often. 

Doug failed to turn up for this meeting, offering some excuse about having to go to hospital, so he will of course have to pay the usual forfeit at our next meeting. 

Trev and Joe arrived early at 11.30 in order to take advantage of the happy hour, which runs from 11:00 to 12:00 every weekday. Simon arrived at 11:58, just in time to buy the 2nd round of Ringwood Best 3.8%. at the reduced price of £2.50/pt (normal price £3.20). We all agreed that this was a fine pint of beer, and stuck with it for the remainder of the session (other beers available were Old Speckled Hen 4.5% and Greene King IPA 3.6% ), although unfortunately the barman Sean was quick to point out to us that we weren't able to buy beers in advance at the reduced price for consumption after 12:00, and once the clock turned 12:00 we had to pay full price. Despite this, we were very impressed by Sean, who continued to give good service at all times.

Nick joined us at 12:30. After a 3rd pint we ordered the pie. There was only one pie available, but it had been especially prepared for us that day after a request from Joe. It was a minced beef with stilton pie, made with suet pastry:

It was served with (frozen) peas and chips (or mashed potatoes) and gravy, to make a fine looking plateful:

The food was brought to our table by the excellent Sean, and it was piping hot. Inexplicably, the pie was garnished with a sprig of parsley: Most of us didn't know what to do with this - Si was the only one to eat his (He was brought up to eat whatever is put in front of him).

A number of comments were made about the pie:
  1. The suet pastry was lovely, but it was a controversial choice.  
  2. The filling was lovely, but the use of minced beef instead of chunky meat was another controversial choice.
  3. The taste of the Stilton was barely discernable.
Despite this, we all thought that the pie was delicious, so perhaps we were just being a bit too traditionalist. We need to keep an open mind about such things. The vegetables were fine, and the gravy was very tasty. The servings was more than ample in size.

There was a huge array of puddings available. The ever-excellent Sean even brought us a supplementary pudding menu to consider. Despite being full of pie, we couldn't resist them.

Trev had flaked chocolate cookies with ice cream:

Nick had Hot Whisky & Marmalade Sponge with Custard:

Joe had cheese & biscuits:

Si had good old Spotted Dick with Custard, inexplicably garnished with a sprig of mint (which he didn't eat):

The puddings were all very large and delicious.

The ambience of the pub was very good:our hosts Marie and Pete came and chatted with us, which is always a nice touch; the pub was busy but not too crowded; Sean the barman gave excellent service; the table service was good; the pub was clean; and there were no unnecessary distractions such as music or fruit machines. We especially liked the Happy Hour. We didn't get an itemised bill. but the puddings were around £4 each, and the pies were around £8 each We felt that was very good value for money.

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):

  • Pastry 4.375
  • Filling 3.75
  • Beer 4.125
  • Ambience 4.25
  • Value 3.875
  • Overall 20.375
So The Barleycorn leaps into 2nd place in our rankings, just behind the Bowman. Well done Marie, Pete and Sean.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Speculation about Pie Man's identity

Pie Man's true identity has to remain a closely guarded secret in  order to protect him from possible corruption by over-eager pub landladies, some of whom will stop at nothing to secure improved ratings for their pies.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Current Rankings

After our first 4 outings, The Hampshire Bowman is clearly in the lead:
  1. The Hampshire Bowman (21.5)
  2. The Rising Sun (19.25)
  3. The Brickmakers (16.33)
  4. The White Horse (16.2)
Some comments have been made about some of these reviews:
  • The Rising Sun was quite expensive and their pies were very salty so perhaps we were over-generous in our scoring.
  • The Brickmakers was our first outing, and perhaps we should have been more generous in our scoring.
Clearly we need to revisit some of these pubs!

The Hampshire Bowman, Dundridge, 21st April 2011

On a fine spring day it was with mounting excitement and high expectations that Trev, Nick and Simon set off for the long walk across Dundridge Meadows (in searing April heat and blistering sunshine) to one of their favourite local pubs, the Hampshire Bowman:

We were greeted outside by Doug, who had been patiently waiting for us there, having overcome problems with electricians to join us.

Joe was unfortunately unable to join us for this meeting, on account of having family problems back in Canada. You have our sympathy, Joe. After a brief discussion it was agreed that this was a reasonable excuse for his absence, and he needn't buy a round of drinks next time because of this.

After such an arduous cross-country hike, we had (of course) worked up a bit of a thirst so we went straight into the pub, to a warm welcome from Heather (the landlady). We were immediately impressed by the fine choice of ales available:

Doug very kindly bought the first round because (1) he'd already got himself a beer while he was waiting for everyone else to arrive, and (2) he'd driven there. Whilst this was not strictly necessary according to the rules, it was much appreciated by the others. Nick started with the Wallops Wood 4%, and the others had Swift One 3.8%. Both fine ales from the local brewery.

Heather offered us a choice of 3 pies: a Country Harvest Pie @ £7.95, a Chicken & Ham Pie @ £7.95, or a Lamb & Redcurrant Pie @ £9.25, all served with a selection of fresh vegetables and a choice of potatoes (baked, new, saute, or chips). On being told by Heather that the Lamb & Redcurrant Pie was freshly-baked and straight out of the oven, there was only one choice for all of us: We all ordered the Lamb & Redcurrant Pie, and had a second pint while we waited at our table in the garden outside.

Nick had new potatoes with his pie:

Everyone else chose the less healthy option of saute potatoes:

The vegetables and gravy were served separately, with a full selection of condiments:

When put together, the end result was a lovely-looking meal:

We all agreed that the fresh vegetables and the potatoes were very nicely cooked. The gravy was actually more like a redcurrant jus, and was delicious. We also agreed that the pastry was near-perfect, being of the approved short crust variety, and fully enclosing the filling. The filling was also near-perfect, the firm succulent pieces of lamb being accompanied by some very tasty onions. Portion sizes were average, and certainly adequate. Afterwards we all felt very full, and nobody could manage any pudding.

Various people ensured that we sampled each of the ales on offer, including the Warbler 4.8% and the Palmers 200 5%. All were up to the same high standard as the first 2 ales.

The ambience of the pub was also near-perfect: Heather gave us a nice welcome when we arrived; the pub was busy but not too crowded; it was easy to get served at the bar; the table service was excellent; the pub was clean; there were no unnecessary distractions such as music or fruit machines; and the weather was brilliant. The total bill came to £20 each (including service, and 4 beers each), which we felt was good value for money. 

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 4.625
  • Filling 4.375
  • Beer 4.25
  • Ambience 4
  • Value 4.25
  • Overall 21.5
Congratulations to Heather. We set off with high expectations and we were not disappointed. Your pies have earned our highest score yet. We'll surely be back for more!

Next meeting arranged for 2nd June (to be confirmed).

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The White Horse, Beeches Hill, 31st March 2011

Trev, Nick, Si, Doug, and Joe met for the 3rd meeting of the Pie Club at The White Horse on Beeches Hill, just outside Bishops Waltham. After a brisk 15 minute walk to the pub we were all looking forward to a pint of Bowman Swift One (one of our favourite beers) but we were disappointed that this was off, having just had a barrel change. So we had a pint of Sharp's Doom Bar 4% instead, at £3/pint, while we considered the menu. If the Swift One had been available it would have been £2.60/pint.

Nick bought the first round as penance for causing this pie club meeting to be delayed by a week. There was some discussion about a possible amendment to the constitution, making a round the penalty for any future delays.
There was a choice of 3 pies: Steak, Ale & mushroom Pie (£8.95), Lamb & Mint Pie (£9.25), or Chicken, Ham & Leek Pie (£8.95), all served with chips, carrots, french beans, swede, and gravy.

After another pint, Nick, Si and Doug opted for the Chicken, Ham & Leek Pie:

After being told that there only only 2 portions of this pie available (another disappointment) Nick graciously switched to the Steak, Ale & Mushroom Pie along with Joe:

 Trev was alone in choosing the Lamb & Mint Pie:

We all agreed that the fresh vegetables and the chips were very nicely cooked. For some reason the first two pies were brought to the table with gravy pre-applied, and the last 3 were not, but there was plenty of extra gravy available in 2 jugs. We also agreed that the pastry was excellent, being of the approved short crust variety, and fully enclosing the filling. A minor point, but we found the sachets of mustard difficult to open.

Trev seems to have made the best menu choice as he thought the Lamb & Mint Pie was excellent. Nick and Joe were also very pleased with their  Steak, Ale & Mushroom Pie. Doug & Si were not so impressed by the Chicken, Ham & Leek Pie, thinking it rather dry. Si complained about there not being much chicken or ham in his (apparently it was all in Doug's portion). It seems that the Chicken, Ham & Leek Pie was home-made (by the landlord, who was absent and unable to be held to account for this), and had possibly been on the menu for quite a long time, but the Lamb & Mint Pie was a recent addition to the menu. We enquired as to the origin of the other 2 pies, but the barman was unable to help. We may need to do more research in this area.

You can tell that Doug enjoyed his pie by seeing the state of his plate afterwards:

Portion sizes were a bit smaller than on earlier pie club outings, but still adequate, and we should bear in mind that the prices were also lower than on earlier pie club outings. Afterwards we all declined the offer of pudding except Nick, who couldn't resist the Spotted Dick with custard:

It was nice and tasty, with a good hint of spice, but the custard was not over-generous.

The ambience of the pub was disappointing: there were only 2 or 3 other customers; the log fire wasn't lit; there was a temporary barman on duty who didn't seem to have much idea of what was going on; there was only one beer on in a 2-beer pub. It might have been better if the landlady had been behind the bar. But the pub was clean and comfortable, and the service was good. The total bill came to £20 each (including service), which is very good value for money when compared with the £35 each we paid on our previous outing (although remember that Nick paid for the first round - thank you Nick - so that wasn't included in the final bill). 

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 3.7
  • Filling 3.4
  • Beer 2.9
  • Ambience 2.6
  • Value 3.6
  • Overall 16.2
Next meeting arranged for 21st April.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Rising Sun, Swanmore, 1st March 2011

Trevor, Nick, Simon, and new member Doug met for the 2nd meeting of the Pie Club at The Rising Sun, Swanmore . Joe had to duck out at the last minute, which was a shame as he missed some excellent pies. There was a choice of  Steak & 3 Mustards Pie, or Steak, Guinness & Chestnuts Pie, each served with chips, peas and gravy. After much debate, Nick and Simon opted for the Steak & 3 Mustards Pie:

Trevor and Doug chose the Steak, Guinness & Chestnuts Pie:

The portions were very generous. The Steak & 3 Mustards Pie was enclosed in short-crust pastry which was perfectly cooked, not too thick, and tasted excellent. The Steak, Guinness & Chestnuts Pie  seemed to have a short-crust pastry base and sides, with a flaky pastry top, which was equally satisfactory.
The fillings were packed with large pieces of tender lean meat and just enough gravy to keep it all together. Our only concern was that we all agreed that the fillings tasted very salty.  The chips and (frozen) peas were all nicely cooked.

There were 4 ales available: we tried Sharp's Doombar 4% (excellent), Hopback Summer Lightning 5% (also excellent), and Jenning's Cross Buttock 4.5% (not bad). All the beers were served well at the correct temperature, and went well with the pies. Ringwood Best was also available.

We don't usually bother with puddings, but on this occasion they looked so good that we couldn't resist them. Nick and Simon had Spotted Dick Currant Pudding with Custard:

Trevor and Doug had Treacle Pudding with Custard:

Extra custard was provided. The puddings were very enjoyable.

The general ambience of the pub was excellent.  On arrival we were given a warm friendly welcome. and found there was a log fire blazing in the bar area (very welcome on such a cold day). It's obviously a popular pub as there were several other customers there enjoying their meals, but noise levels were not intrusive (at least until we arrived). The service was good, and the pub was clean and nicely furnished (there is even a 3-piece suite in the bar area which we were able to retire to after we had finished our puddings). There was a commendable lack of background music, fruit machines and other distractions.

We felt that overall the portion sizes were very satisfactory, the quality was excellent, and at £10.95 the pies were good value. The total bill, including puddings, drinks and service came to £35 each, which is a little high, but we were generous with the service as we were a little drunk by then so impressed by the place.

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 3.75
  • Filling 3.375
  • Beer 4.25
  • Ambience 4.375
  • Value 3.5
  • Overall 19.25
Congratulations to our hosts Sue & Mark. Your pies have earned our highest score yet. We'll surely be back for more!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Brushmakers Arms, Upham, 24th February 2011

Simon went for an evening meal with some friends at The Brushmakers Arms, Upham , where he had a traditional Steak & Ale Pie, accompanied by chips and mixed vegetables, with a pint of Upham Ale 4%. Unfortunately, Simon was driving so his beer consumption was limited.

The meal was generally very good, not least because of the good company, and the general ambience of the pub, which was excellent. The pie was tasty, with a good meaty filling and proper short-crust pastry, but let down by 2 things: (1) The filling was far too hot when served (Simon scalded his tongue at the first taste), and (2) the pastry, though of good quality, was only a topping and not a full casing (it might also have been slightly overcooked).  The accompanying vegetables were fresh, tasty and nicely cooked. The chips were not bad. Portion sizes were ample. The ale was ok, but not as good (in Simon's opinion) as Upham Nectar 3.8%. At £10.50 for the meal it was average value for money.

Simon was disappointed to notice that Steak & Kidney Pudding was on the menu, but "sold out".

Please note that Simon visited the pub without any other members of the Club, so opinions expressed above are purely personal and not representative of the Club.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Folly Inn, Whippingham, 3rd February 2011

Simon stopped for lunch at The Folly Inn and opted for the traditional Beef and Ruddles Ale Pie (just a small portion as he knew he was going to have a big meal later in the evening) accompanied by a pint of Goddards Scrumdiggity 4%.

The pie was disappointing as there was too much pastry and not enough filling. The short-crust pastry was good but soon became soggy from the gravy (which had been pre-applied). The filling was tasty, but perhaps rather too much gravy and not enough solid meat. The accompanying vegetables were fresh (apart from the frozen peas), tasty and nicely cooked. The chips were very good. The ale was the best part of the meal. At £6.79 for the meal, and £2.35 for the pint of ale, it was good value for money. The location (right by the water's edge) was good, but the ambience was let down by the presence of fruit machines and background music.

His companion had British Ham Hock and Broad Bean Pie with mashed potatoes and Colmans Diane Sauce.

Simon wished that he had ordered that instead.

Please note that Simon visited the pub without any other members of the Club, so opinions expressed above are purely personal and not representative of the Club.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The White Lion, Soberton, 22nd January 2011

Simon had a good meal at The White Lion but was slightly disappointed by the Steak & Wine pie because it had a puff pastry topping (Simon would have preferrred a full shortcrust pastry casing) and it had a Steak & Wine filling, which clashed with the beer. Admittedly, this would not have been a problem if he had been drinking wine. Otherwise the meal was very good, although Simon felt unable to have any of the (usually very excellent) puddings because he was anticipating a cream tea in the afternoon, and a curry in the evening. The Upham Nectar was particularly good - so much better than Upham Ale in Simon's opinion.

Please note that Simon visited the pub without any other members of the Club, so opinions expressed above are purely personal and not representative of the Club.

Incidently, Andy the landlord disclosed that the pub is now up for sale, as he is finding it very difficult to make enough money from it. He is now working full-time as general manager at the Upham Brewery to try and make ends meet. Apparently there is talk in Soberton of locals getting together to buy the pub. Let's hope that happens. We wish Andy well.

Monday, 24 January 2011

The Brickmakers Arms, Swanmore, 20th January 2011

The inaugural meeting of the Pie Club got off to a good start at The Brickmakers Arms,where the 3 founder members met to agree a constitution and sample their first pie. It being a quiet Tuesday in January there was only a limited menu available, with a choice of Pork & Cider Pie, or a Ploughman's Lunch with cold Pork Pie. We all chose the Pork & Cider Pie.

The short-crust pastry was perfectly cooked, not too thick, and tasted excellent. The filling was packed with diced pork meat, with a thin cider gravy, and traces of mushrooms and shredded carrots. It also tasted excellent. The fresh vegetables (new potatoes, carrots, sugar-snap peas) were nicely cooked, and (importantly) served in a separate dish so as to not contaminate the pie.

Nick drank Ringwood FortyNiner; Trevor & Simon had Bowman Ales Wallop Wood. Both are fine beers, served well at the correct temperature, and went well with the pie.
It was difficult to judge the ambience of the pub, as we were very nearly the only customers there, but the service was good, and the pub was clean and nicely furnished. We all felt that it was much improved, compared with how it was a few years ago, and we have learned that the clientele has improved.
We felt that overall the portion size was about right, the quality was excellent, but at £10.95 the pie was a little expensive. The total bill, including drinks and service came to £25 each, which is par for the course.
Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):

  • Pastry 4
  • Filling 3.5
  • Beer 3.2
  • Ambience 2.7
  • Value 3
  • Overall 16.4

Rules of the Club

The inaugural meeting of the Gentlemen's Pie Club of Bishops Waltham (hereinafter referred to as "the Club") was held on Thursday 20th January 2011, at the Brickmakers, Swanmore. The 3 founder members (Nick Crossley, Trevor Croucher, Simon Dorey) were present, and agreed the following rules:-
  1. The Club is committed to the tasting and enjoyment of savoury hot pies, puddings and pasties.
  2. Membership will be by invitation by the above named founder members.
  3. The 3 founder members to agree a name for the Club.
  4. The Club will meet monthly at an agreed venue with the choice of venue alternating between members. There will also be special ‘ad hoc’ events.
  5. Venues should be within 1 hour walking distance/travel by other means from Bishops Waltham unless otherwise agreed by the members.
  6. There may be occasional ‘one-off’ meetings in conjunction with the Bunch of Grapes Public House where member(s) will provide pie(s) for tasting by other members and invited guests.
  7. The dictionary definition of pie is "a baked dish of ingredients encased in or topped with pastry". All dishes complying with this definition shall be eligible for consideration by the Pie Club, but for clarification the following dishes are specifically eligible: Sheppard's Pie (even though it has no pastry), Steak & Kidney Pudding (even though it is not baked). Cold Pork Pies are of such importance that they are to be judged in a class of their own.
  8. Any member who ever suggests eating a quiche may, by a majority vote of the founder members, be dismissed from the Club.
  9. Initial ratings of the pies and visited establishments will be conducted using a score of 1-5 (where 1 is poor and 5 is excellent) and will rate each of the following 5 areas:
  • Pastry (or topping)
  • Filling
  • Beer – quality and range
  • Ambience of establishment - including service, clientele, facilities
  • Value for Money - i.e. price, quality, and size of pie