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