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 Crown, so 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.