Monday, 29 April 2013

The Barleycorn Inn, Bishops Waltham, 25th April 2013

Pieman is pleased to report that the two recently-hospitalised Pie Club members have been discharged from hospital and are recovering well from their traumatic experiences. The doctors have told them that a sound diet will help no end with their recuperation, and what could be sounder than a good traditional British Pie washed down with a few beers?  Well, probably quite a few things would be better, but despite that our two heroes resolutely insisted on joining the rest of us for our April outing, once again making a full complement of Pie Club members present for this outing.  Out of consideration for their delicate condition it was agreed that a revisit to a local pub was the best option as this would eliminate a potentially hazardous bus journey, so off we went to the Barleycorn Inn, a pub that we last experienced  23rd June 2011.

We felt that a revisit was justified as we had heard that the food side of the business had been taken over by new people, and that the food was much improved. As we approached the pub we couldn't help noticing this enticing sign outside:

Inside there was a welcoming selection of ales available, although it was apparently limited to a choice of only 3:

This being a Greene King pub, they were unsurprisingly all Greene King Ales: Greene King IPA 3.6%,  Old Golden Hen 4.1%, and  Old Speckled Hen 4.5%.  Although the choice was limited we judged that these ales were all in fine condition and eminently quaffable.  We  noted with approval that the Happy Hour was still running, although most of us arrived too late to take advantage of it. Sadly, there was no trace of Sean - wherever he may be, we wish him well.

They'd made a Steak, Ale and Mushroom Pie especially for us, which was nice of them, but we noticed on the menu that there was also available a Gammon & Peach Pie. Those of us with more traditional leanings opted for the Steak, Ale and Mushroom Pie, but some of us (those with a more adventurous disposition) couldn't resist the allure of something new and never-before tasted - the Gammon & Peach Pie.

This is the Steak, Ale and Mushroom Pie:

This is the Gammon & Peach Pie:

The pies came with an ample selection of vegetables, chips, mashed potato, all served in separate dishes, and extra gravy in a jug:

The end result was a good plateful, enough to satisfy everyone's appetite:

The gammon in the Gammon & Peach Pie seemed to have been shredded, which is okay, but we some of us prefer our meat chunky. The peach and gammon went well together but was surprisingly not very tasty, although the peach was clearly discernible  We think the pastry was some sort of suet pastry, and rather good, but we weren't so keen on the gravy, which tasted too bitter. The pie fillings were both packed full of meat and of good consistency, although some remarked that the steak in the Steak, Ale and Mushroom Pie was a bit chewy. But, minor quibbles aside, both pies were excellent and very satisfying, and good value at £8.95. There was hardly any room left for puddings, but we managed.

We noticed that the pudding menu was much  reduced compared with 2 years ago (and actually the same could be said for the main menu as well) but this is not necessarily a bad thing. It meant that between us we were able to sample most of the puddings:

These are good traditional puddings, and we noticed with approval the complete lack of any unnecessary garnishing (not like last time!).

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall): 
  • Pastry 4.06
  • Filling 3.53
  • Beer 3.78
  • Ambience 3.875
  • Value 4.125
  • Overall 19.37

So once again The Barleycorn leaps into 2nd place in our rankings for this year, although with a lower score than last time, which is perhaps a reflection of the experience that we have all gained as judges over the last two years rather than a reflection of the quality of this meal. Maybe the ambience was marked down because there was background music on, and they played Phil Collins twice! After this meal the Pie Club members adjourned to the garden of The Crown to bask in the spring sunshine.  

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

St James Tavern, Winchester, 28th March 2013

A small, slightly sombre group of pie lovers met on 28th March, somewhat subdued owing to the recent hospitalisation of two of our members. One was about to have an operation on his shoulder to rectify a problem which may have developed as a result of lifting too many pints of ale. The other was waiting for heart surgery to correct a problem which may have developed as a result of eating too many pies. To make up for the missing members we were joined by a very special guest, Denis, who had come all the way from Pinner to be with us. There was an unspoken understanding that our missing members would want us to continue with the meeting as normal, so, after sparing a thought for them, that is exactly what we did.

Our venue this time was the St James_Tavern, Winchester, which we had heard was a fine traditional city pub, and therefore a bit of a change from the usual country pubs that we frequent.

We were given a very warm welcome by the two charming young ladies behind the bar, and immediately faced the difficult decision of which ales to try first.

The choice was very good. This being a Wadworths pub there was a choice of Wadworth Bishops Tipple 5%,  Wadworth 6X 4.3%Wadworth Horizon 4%, and Wadworth Henry's IPA 3.6%. The guest ale was Two Hoots 4.2% from the Joseph Holt brewery in Manchester, whose motto is With Great Beer Comes Great Wisdom - a sentiment with which we all agree (obviously).  It was Denis who suggested that we should try them all, in turn, and we sensed then that this might turn out to be a good outing.

There was only one pie on the menu - an Irish Stew Pie served with mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes. We'd never had an Irish Stew Pie before so this sounded interesting, and we all ordered it (obviously).

The pie was an individual pie, not excessively large but large enough, filled with chunks of lean stewing steak, potatoes, carrots, and maybe some other vegetables. The pastry was short-crust pastry all around, and was very good, but was maybe a bit thin so after a while the pastry in the base became a bit soggy. The pie was accompanied by frozen peas, fresh broccoli, mashed swede, and mashed potatoes, with a small amount of gravy pre-applied, not served separately in a jug as we like. All in all, it was a very satisfactory meal, but there were some differences of opinion regarding the pie - some felt it was a bit small - others thought it was perfectly formed.

We all had room for pudding.  The Syrup  Pudding with ice cream was excellent.

The pub had a very nice ambience. It being a city pub it got quite busy around office lunch hour (remember those?), but the rest of the time it was just right. There was background music on, which we normally disapprove of, but it was actually quite pleasant. The service was very good, with fresh beers brought to the table by the delightful young ladies as soon as they were needed. The value for money was quite good as well (the beers were £3.20 - £3.70 per pint, and the pies were £8.90), so ignore any reviews you read about this pub in which there are complaints about how expensive it is. The ales were all in very good condition.

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 3.1
  • Filling 3.4
  • Beer 4.4
  • Ambience 4.1
  • Value 4.1
  • Overall 19.1

This is a respectable score, but clearly means that the St James Tavern is not bin the same league as our favourites, like The Wheatsheaf.  After the meal Denis needed to be shown the way back to the railway station, but we were still a bit thirsty so we stopped on the way, at the Westgate Inn, for a few more beers. This is a fine pub, but they don't do food. We heard that Denis managed to find his way home again eventually.