Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Queen Inn, St Cross, 31st January 2013

For our first outing of 2013 Nick suggested a visit to The Queen Inn, in St Cross, Winchester. This would be our first outing to Winchester. Unfortunately, due to travel and other commitments, only a few gentlemen were able to join Nick on this venture, so only Doug, Si, and Paul E were able to meet up with Nick in the square at Bishops Waltham on a cold but sunny winter day to catch the 69 bus to Winchester.  We had to rely on Nick to tell us when to get off the bus, as nobody else had any idea, but we managed okay, despite an unseemly squabble about who should press the bell to tell the bus driver when to stop. After a short walk we soon arrived at our destination:

This is a fine looking pub near Winchester College, and directly opposite the college cricket ground (although sadly a fence obscures the view, otherwise we'd be able to sit watching cricket while eating our pie and quaffing our ale, and it doesn't get any better than that). We were given a warm welcome by the bar staff and immediately confronted by a difficult choice of which ale to drink. This being a Greene King pub there were Greene King IPA 3.6% @ £3.40/pint, and Abbott Ale 5.0% @ £3.90/pint to choose from, and also a couple of guest ales: Elgoods EP (Pageant Ale) 4.3% @ £3.70/pint, and  York Brewery Yorkshire Terrier 4.2% @ £3.70/pint. Most of us chose to start with the weakest ale, with the clear intention of working up to the strongest. The IPA and the Yorkshire Terrier were both served well, at the right temperature, and very good.

As we were supping our first pint our attention was drawn to the extensive selection of whiskies on offer (at very reasonable prices) and some of us made a mental note to sample some of them later:

There was only one pie available on the menu, a deep-filled chicken & leek pie served with freshly-cooked seasonal vegetables and either mashed potatoes or chips, all for £9.50. So after not a lot of thought, we all ordered deep-filled chicken & leek pie served with freshly-cooked seasonal vegetables and either mashed potatoes or chips. When it arrived it looked fabulous:

The vegetables were perfectly cooked. The mashed potatoes and chips were very good. The gravy was pre-applied (no separate jug, so at least 0.1 point deducted) and a bit thin and watery, but still good enough. The pie was massive, at least 8cm deep, and packed solid with big chunks of well-cooked chicken and thick creamy sauce, and some greenish bits which we assumed were leek, but we couldn't really taste them. The pastry was thick and generous. Instead of our preferred short-crust pastry we determined that the pastry was actually Hot Water Crust Pastry, as used traditionally for pork pies, game pies, and other hand-raised savoury pies. Strictly speaking, this is the correct type of pastry to use for this type of pie (see cookipedia), and we liked it, although we found that the pastry (and the near-solid pie filling) were very filling. In fact, we felt so stuffed after eating the pie that we could only manage 2 puddings between us:

We felt obliged to try the Bread Pudding with Custard, and it was lovely, but we felt so stuffed that we  couldn't really appreciate it. At this point we realised that we'd overdone it, and despite only having had 3 pints of ale, we decided it was time to leave.  As we were settling up we noticed that there are plans afoot to improve the pub:

 We felt that the pub was fine as it was, although a little more room to stand at the bar would be appreciated, and obviously the addition of a new mini-brewery will be of great interest to us, so it's quite likely that we will want to make another visit to this pub some time soon.  There's also a good reason for coming later in the afternoon:

Someone suggested that a short walk to The Wykeham Arms, just down the road, might help the pie settle in our stomachs and make room for a few more pints, so off we went. When we got there we tried a pint of the always excellent Flowerpots Perridge Pale 3.6%, but even this didn't do the trick so we gave up and went home. Interestingly, we noted that a shot of Talisker Whisky is £5.25 in The Wykeham Arms, but only £3.20 in The Queen Inn (same size shot - we checked).

For the first time ever the gentlemen were defeated by a pie!

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 3.825
  • Filling 4.375
  • Beer 3.625
  • Ambience 4.5
  • Value 4.5
  • Overall 20.825

 Congratulations to the landlord, Clive. I'm sure we will want to make a return visit to this pub after the renovations have been completed and when the new brewery is in full production. You got the better of us this time, but next time we'll come prepared, and we'll be sure to want to take full advantage of your "buy 10 get one free" deal!