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