Monday, 6 August 2012

Wickham Festival, 3rd August 2012

Pieman  was at the Wickham Festival this weekend. Always on the lookout for pies, he happened to notice a fine-looking Chicken Balti Pie, which he couldn't resist trying. It was not bad for a £5 festival pie.

The vendor also does a good-looking range of other pies.

These pies are recommended. If you see them, try them!

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

The Brickmakers Arms, Swanmore, 25th July 2012

Those of us who still have functional memories often look back on the early days of the Pie Club with some degree of rose-tinted nostalgia. It may be a trick of our memories, but many of us have been heard to observe that pies today are not as good as they used to be in the good old days. So, by way of a trip down memory land, and to put this hypothesis to the test, we decided to return to  The Brickmakers Arms, Swanmore, the historic site of the very first Pie Club outing on 20th January 2011. It is only fair to point out that the pub has undergone a change of ownership since our first visit, and so was ripe for reassessment.

It being a fine sunny day, some Pie Club members chose to walk to the pub. For some this was easier than others. It was easiest for Doug, obviously, as he lives in Swanmore and counts The Brickmakers Arms as his local. Others chose the road route and a few hardy individuals chose the cross-country route. Needless to say, by the time we all arrived at our destination we had all worked up a fine thirst. We were greeted warmly by the landlady, who proudly showed us what she had to offer:

The excellent range of beers available included several of our favourites, including Bowman Swift One 3.8%
Bowman Wallops Wood 4.0%Hammerpot Woodcote Bitter 4.5%. At this point something struck us - we've grown (in more ways than one)! There were 3 of us present at the inaugural meeting, and now there were 7 of us. Only one member, Paul T, was absent.  On a fine sunny day, such was the allure of our favourite beer, the Swift One, that even the hardened lager and Guinness drinkers succumbed to its attractions and we ordered 7 pints of Swift One @ £3/pint. The landlady suggested that we might like to wait in the garden until the pies were ready, so off we went, to debate the important matters of the day.

There was only one type of pie available on the menu - Pork & Vegetable Pie, served with buttered vegetables and a choice of thin-cut fries, fat chips, or champ mash. All for a reasonable £10.95.

After our 2nd pint (or was it the 3rd?) we were shown to our table inside, and without much delay the food was presented to us. First to arrive was the pie with thin-cut fries:

The pie had the fully-approved home-made short-crust pastry (not Jus-rol!), and was filled with an interesting mix of shredded pork with carrots, peas, sweet corn, apple, onions and peppers. The accompanying vegetables were a seasonal mix of freshly-cooked steamed courgettes, mangetout, and cabbage, with a touch of butter added. The gravy was served in the approved manner, with a small portion pre-applied to the pie, and a larger portion served separately in a jug. We found the taste of the gravy very interesting - we had to ask to find out what the ingredients were, and found out that they included rosemary, calvedos, and ginger! All things considered, this was a very original pie and a far cry from the ubiquitous Steak & Ale pies, which, frankly, we're starting to get a bit bored with. It's a shame we don't award points for originality.

Next came the pies with fat-cut chips:

And finally came the pies with champ potato (again, an unusual offering):

We all agreed that all varieties of the potatoes very very good, and that the whole meal was very nicely cooked, very tasty, and well presented. The portion sizes were ample, but, unusually, we all managed to eat up what was put in front of us, and several of us still had room for puddings.  This is no reflection on the portion sizes, but rather reflects the ease with which we were all led astray by the sight of a tempting pudding menu:

We felt obliged to sample a selection of different puddings:

The puddings were all very good, but perhaps Doug made the best choice - The Love Puff Pastry Slices:

The ambience of the pub was judged to be very good. There was a TV and piped music in the bar area, but we couldn't hear the music in the (separate) dining area, and the TV was switched off. The pub is very clean and comfortable - there are even 2 sofas available, which is a very nice touch. The service was excellent. Another nice touch was that when we were presented with the bill we were also presented with a dish of home-made chocolate sweets, which were very tasty:

Scores for The Brickmakers Arms, Swanmore (Max 5 in each category - total 25 overall)

Pastry - 4.21
Filling -  4.57
Beer   -  4.13
Ambience - 4.32
Value  - 4.55
Overall  - 21.78

This was another excellent afternoon - another fine traditional pub, recently refurbished, with attentive staff, good beer, and another exceptional pie.  Surprisingly, despite having such a fine range of ales available, when it came to the scoring we had to mark the beer down slightly as it was served slightly too chilled (OK, it was a hot day, but anyone would have thought we were in Australia!). As it is, this score is sufficient to ease the Brickmakers Arms into 2nd place in our rankings, ahead of the Brewery Bar, and second only to the Wheatsheaf. But the competition is close, very close.

On our first visit to this pub in January 2011 we also had a Pork Pie, although the recipe was completely different. On that occasion our score for the visit was only 16.4, and yet, according to Pieman's recollection, it was a very impressive pie. Pieman imagines that as that was our first outing, perhaps we hadn't calibrated our scoring system correctly. Does this mean we're going to have to revisit all the pubs we've been to before?

Our normal monthly outing for August has been cancelled, in order to make way for our special first anniversary celebration, at a secret location on 26th August, when, for once, friends and wives will be invited. Look out for the full report in due course.