On arrival we were given a warm welcome, and presented with the choice of ales, which we found was a bit limited.
However, Bowman Ales is a fine local brewery (actually, very local in this case) and a firm favourite of ours, so we didn't find the limited choice too much of a problem. The pub was very busy, and seemed to be fully booked, but despite that we were very well looked after by the attentive staff. We noticed a number of nice small touches which added to our enjoyment. For example, on our table there were personalised menus for us:
As can be seen, we had a choice of 3 different pies, all individual pies made with short crust pastry and served with potatoes and mixed vegetables. Although the menus specified mashed potatoes, we were able to request sauté or chipped potatoes instead. As we sat at our table, we were presented with another nice small touch: delicious warm bread served with unsalted butter and separate sea salt.
We were also given a jug of chilled water and some glasses, but we weren't sure what to do with those, so we left them. It was a nice thought, though. And we were given a set of sauces to go with our pies, including English mustard, French mustard, and ketchup.
These were another nice touch, but in the event our pies were so tasty that I don't think anyone used them. As this is the height of the game season, most of us ordered the Game Pie, but some had the Chicken and Mushroom Pie, and some had the Fish Pie. Externally, the pies all looked the same, and they were served with the same selection of freshly-cooked vegetables, but The Game Pie and Chicken and Mushroom Pies came with different gravies, just as they should, and of course the Fish Pie came with no gravy. The gravies were served separately, in individual jugs, just the way they should be.
The vegetables included small portions of carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, and celeriac puree, and they were all very nicely cooked. Although the vegetable portions were small, the pies were of a good size, and packed with meat (or fish), and the whole meal was very satisfying.
The game in the Game Pie was a mix of venison and pheasant. The Fish Pie contain a mix of several fish including Salmon and some (unidentified) white fish, in a white sauce. The pies all had ample filling with just the right degree of moisture, but perhaps it was a bit difficult to taste the pastry because the filling was so good. The ratio of filling to pastry wasn't quite right.
Most of us were quite full after eating all this, but a few of us felt able to try the puddings.
The puddings were all extremely good.
Although the pub was busy, we were very well looked after by the staff, who never kept us waiting for food or drink. We all loved the ambience here, and the facilities were clean and tidy. Our main courses were £13.95 each, the puddings were £5 each, and the ales were $3.40/pint, so although this wasn't a cheap meal, it didn't end up being outrageously expensive, the total bill amount to £33 each (including service). And there was a final nice little touch - we were given a bowl of jelly babies with the bill!
Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):
- Pastry 3.82
- Filling 4.22
- Beer 4.42
- Ambience 4.56
- Value 3.88
- Overall 20.91
This score puts The Bakers Arms in 3rd place out of the 10 pubs that we've visited so far this year. The competition this year is so tight that the top 5 pubs are separated by a mere 0.6 points, so this score for the Bakers Arms is by no means a bad score. What caused a lot of anguish was the scoring for "Value": Which gives better value for money? A top quality pie for £14, or an average pie for £11? Pieman is of the opinion that here there were so many nice little touches that it was worth paying a little bit extra, but of course, Pieman has to remain impartial and is not allowed to influence the judging in any way.
Our next meeting will be the Pie Club AGM, held (as is traditional) at the pub which was the winner of last year's Pie of the Year Award, The Wheatsheaf, Shedfield. Among other items on the agenda will be a heated discussion to decide the winner of this year's Pie of the Year Award. It could be contentious.