Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Dog and Crook, Brambridge, 25th October 2012

For this outing it was Si's choice of venue, and he allowed himself to be lured by sound reviews on Tripadvisor, and the prospect of a choice of several types of pie, including, for the first time, a fish pie. Si was joined by Nick, Trev, Joe and Paul T on the No. 69 bus bound for The Dog and Crook, which is a fine looking pub in the hamlet of Brambridge, between Colden Common and Otterbourne. 

We successfully managed to get off the bus at the correct stop, which is just a few hundred yards from the pub, although judging by the way that several of the gentlemen complained about having to walk so far anyone would have thought it was a major hike. As we arrived we noticed that there was a No. 8 bus stop just outside the pub, and someone observed that we could all have caught the No. 8 instead of the No. 69, thereby saving ourselves quite a long walk. At this point Si was duly contrite, and apologised for failing to carry out adequate research before organising this outing. 

As we walked in we were warmly greeted by Paul E, who had just driven back from Wales especially to be with us, and by Louise, the lovely landlady, who (seeing the state we were in after such an arduous trek) immediately offered us refreshments.

This being a pub tied to Enterprise Inns, the choice of ales was limited, but nevertheless quite satisfactory: There was Ringwood Best 3.8%Sharp's Doom Bar 4%, and Fullers HSB 4.8%. Knowing that we might possibly have a long session ahead of us we mostly opted for Ringwood Best or Doom Bar (apart from the confirmed Guinness drinkers among us), and we found these both to be very satisfactory.

From the extensive lunchtime menu there were 3 pies available. Two of us chose the Steak & Kidney Pie, two chose the Chicken Leak & Mushroom Pie, and two chose the Fish Pie (all at £9.95, and all with a choice of new, chipped or saute potatoes, and mixed vegetables or salad). Whilst our meals were being prepared we had another beer or two, and discussed important matters of the day. 

When the food was served we were surprised to see that the pies were rather unconventional, being in the form of a puff pastry bap, sliced in half horizontally, containing the filling. To be fair to Louise, she had described to us exactly what form the pies were in, but the idea was so unconventional that we all failed to fully comprehend it. 

The Fish Pie had loads of filling, and plenty of sauce (although this was not altogether to Trev's liking):

The Steak and Kidney Pie was served in a similar style, with lots of filling and plenty of gravy:

Likewise the Chicken, Leak and Mushroom Pie:

The vegetables (carrots, broccoli and red cabbage) and potatoes came in huge portions, and were served separately:

By the time we had all helped ourselves to the accompaniments, there was certainly a good-sized plateful for us to get through. The vegetables were very nicely cooked, and there were lots of them. This shows just how much filling there was in the Fish Pie:

This also shows the curious nature of the puff-pastry case, which some of us thought was more like a bread bap, made from the sort of bread that the French use to make croissants. Not everyone was very impressed by this, as it sort of melted in the mouth and didn't add very much to the meal. Call us old-fashioned, but we really do prefer short-crust pastry. Still, we all finished our meals with gusto, although we didn't manage to finish off the potatoes and vegetables. Then Louise sprang a surprise on us by offering us free puddings! We were mostly so full that we couldn't face any pudding, but noblesse oblige and some of us forced ourselves.

This was the Apple & Rhubarb Crumble with Ice Cream:

Afterwards, we all felt replete. The bill came to £30 each, which, considering the number of drinks we had, is good value for money. The bill was presented to us with some accompanying mint chocolates (always much appreciated). The service throughout was very good. The ambience of the pub was also generally very good - we were particularly impressed by the array of items for sale in the Gents toilets (Louise had to explain to us what some of them were for). Unfortunately the pub closes at 3.00pm, so we had to leave before we were ready. When it came to assessing the scores for this outing, there were some heated discussions and differences of opinion. Regrettably the unusual pastry cast a long shadow over the whole proceedings, and as a result the final scores were low.

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

  • Pastry 1.39
  • Filling 3.43
  • Beer 3.75
  • Ambience 3.57
  • Value 3.97
  • Overall 16.11
As we left the Dog and Crook someone suggested catching the No. 8 bus back to Bishops Waltham, as the bus stop was just outside the pub. Thus started another adventure: The No. 8 bus does a tour of the whole of southern Hampshire, taking forever to get to Bishops Waltham via Colden Common, Fair Oak, Horton Heath, Moat Park, Hedge End, Grange Park, Marks & Spencer Hedge End, Botley, Curdridge, Waltham Chase, and Swanmore before arriving at Bishops Waltham. This was despite a lot of encouragement from us to the driver, urging him to go faster and take a few short cuts. The driver did his best to oblige, but really, we could almost have walked home more quickly. When we arrived in Bishops Waltham after more than an hour on the bus, obviously some of us were close to bursting and felt the need to make full and immediate use of the facilities offered by The Crownso in we went. And then some of us went on and made full and immediate use of the facilities offered by The Bunch of Grapes.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Black Dog Inn, Waltham Chase, 27th September 2012

In a rare break with tradition we decided to re-visit the scene of one of our earlier outings,  The Black Dog Inn at Waltham Chase.  Our previous visit on 28th July 2011 was not altogether unenjoyable and the pies scored a commendable 19.65.  We'd heard that the pub had gone through a recent change of ownership, employed a new chef, and had a new menu, so we thought it was worth a return visit.

It being a pleasant autumnal day we thought that a good walk there and back would help us all to work up a good thirst and a healthy appetite, so off we all went.  Joe and Paul E met up at at  The Crown (if they had a quick pint there first they're keeping quiet about it) then set off at a brisk pace on the 2.1 mile walk to The Black Dog. Nick & Si set off from their homes at about the same time, saw Joe & Paul a few yards ahead, and struggled to catch up with them as they seemed to be doing some power-walking. Or were they just thirsty? Certainly they seemed to speed up as we got closer to the pub. We all walked straight past  The Chase Inn without any hesitation as it seems to be a particularly uninviting pub. We met up with Doug near his home in Swanmore, and met Paul T joined us in the Black Dog.

This is still a very pleasant pub, with large well looked-after gardens, two covered heated gazebos for the smokers, lots of beautiful hanging baskets, and a warm welcome inside from Peter, the new landlord, who has obviously made a considerable effort to improve the place.

This being a Greene King pub, there was, of course, Greene King IPA 3.6% available on tap. Tempted as we were by this fine ale, we couldn't help noticing some other interesting ales on offer.   There were two another Greene King ales, Abbott Ale 5%, which we felt was probably a bit strong for a session ale, and Bonkers Conkers IPA 4.1%, a seasonal ale. The guest ale was Everards Equinox 4.2%. The ales were all priced at around £3.40/pint, which is reasonable. 

We decided to start by sampling The Equinox and the Bonkers Conkers out in the garden, then, as we were getting a bit peckish, we moved indoors and had another one while we waited patiently for the food to arrive.

As we were waiting, and without any asking, the delightful waitress, Chelsea, brought us a warm baguette with butter for us a share as an appetiser. We thought this was a nice touch.  As there was only one pie available on the menu, we all ordered the same food: Steak & Stilton Pie with chips, watercress garnish, and mixed vegetables, at £7.95 each. Again, the price seemed very reasonable.  When the food arrived, the pie looked very appetising.

The pastry was a lovely golden short-crust on top, with a thin layer underneath that was perhaps a bit too thin as it had gone a bit soggy, although some people like it that way. There was plenty of filling, with large pieces of lean tender steak, plenty of juice with onions and mushrooms, and a thin layer of Stilton on top. Some of us felt that there could have been more Stilton, but there was just enough to add a subtle extra taste to the filling - any more might have been over-powering. Instead of the usual salad garnish, there was a generous helping of watercress, which was much appreciated: Pie Club members are well-known for their liking of healthy foods, and watercress is certainly good for you.

We were presented with two large platters of assorted freshly-cooked vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, mangetout) and chips. These were ample for the 6 of us, nicely cooked, and tasty. We were also given an extra jug of gravy, just as we like.

We all managed to clear our plates with gusto. The servings were generous, but we felt we still had room for a bit more - maybe it was the walk that did it, or maybe we felt we needed to build up our strength in readiness for the long walk back home, or maybe we were just too easily tempted by the pudding boards:

We chose a selection of puddings, all brought to our table by the delightful Chelsea:

Afterwards, we all felt replete. The bill came to £30 each, which, considering the number of drinks we had, is good value for money.

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

  • Pastry 3.7
  • Filling 4.55
  • Beer 4.31
  • Ambience 4.15
  • Value 4.27
  • Overall 20.98

Our congratulations go to Peter, the new landlord. Compared with the scores from our previous visit, these scores show a considerable improvement, and we wish you well in your new venture.

Unlike our previous visit, this time we all managed to walk back home without resorting to public transport. We walked straight past The Chase Inn without any hesitation again, but stumbled at the next hurdle, The Barleycorn. Then some of us went on and stumbled again at The Crown. And then some of us went on and stumbled again at The Bunch of Grapes.