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.