Monday, 15 December 2014

AGM at The Wheatsheaf, Shedfield, 11th December 2014

After another year of dedicated devotion to duty in 2014, the gentlemen members of the Pie Club gathered together at The Wheatsheaf Inn, Shedfield for their annual general meeting.  Our choice of venue was, of course, an acknowledgement of the very special place in our hearts occupied by the Wheatsheaf.  We will never forget that momentous pie we were served in 2012 which won the Pie of the Year Award that year. Add to that the excellent range of Flowerpots Ales available here at very low prices and we have what has become the spiritual home of the Pie Club and the gold standard against which all other pubs are measured.  Knowing that our hosts, Tim and Sally, had laid on another very special pie for us, we were eager to get the formal business of the day completed quickly so that we could get on with the much more important business of tackling another Wheatsheaf pie.

We agreed that in future our annual award for excellence would be "The Pie Club Pub of the Year" rather than "The Pie of the Year". This is a more accurate reflection of the fact that our award is based not just on the quality of the pie, but also on the overall experience of the pub visit.

We then went on to consider which pub should receive this coveted award for 2014. Here are the scores for each of the pubs that we visited this year:

  1. The Black Dog, Waltham Chase (27/11/2014): 22.34
  2. The Bucks Head, Meonstoke (25/09/2014): 22.32
  3. The Kings Head, Hursley (29/05/2014): 21.59
  4. The Brewery Bar, Botley (24/04/2014): 21.54
  5. The Ship Inn, Owslebury (23/01/2014): 21.13
  6. The Rising Sun, Swanmore (30/10/2014): 21.07
  7. The Hampshire Bowman, Dundridge (26/06/2014): 20.70
  8. The Queen Inn, Winchester (24/07/2014): 20.58
  9. The Brickmakers, Swanmore (27/03/2014): 19.98
  10. The Hurdles, Droxford (28/08/2014): 19.20

It was a very close contest, with the Black Dog in Waltham Chase winning by a very narrow margin. Our hearts go out to Nicki and Shaun at The Bucks Head, who must have thought that with their bold imaginative move of serving us 2 pies each they had the award in the bag, and perhaps in any other year they would have won, but they were just pipped at the post by Peter and Kathy at the Black Dog with their equally bold and innovative idea of offering us a Sausage, Bacon & Black Pudding Pie. Commiserations are due to all the other venues - there were no bad pies here, and everyone did very well.  

Congratulations to Peter and Sally at The Black Dog for a well-deserved win. We are looking forward to our next visit to The Black Dog, in March, when we will present the award.

Now on to more important matters.  While we were deliberating over our AGM, we were well assisted by the excellent range of beers which were available:

We found that these ales were a great help in our decision making. Meanwhile, Sally had prepared a special Steak & Kidney Pie for us. When it was brought out for us there was a moment of respectful silence followed by a buzz of appreciation as we saw just how good it was. 

We helped ourselves.  Made with short crust pastry, and served with perfectly cooked carrots, brocolli and new potatoes, with a jug of gravy on the side, this was as near perfect as a pie can possibly be.

The end result was inevitable - a full set of empty plates and very happy gentlemen:

To use our usual methods to evaluate this experience would be an insult to all concerned. This experience is sublime. It is beyond evaluation. Suffice to say, this pub will continue to be the spiritual home of the Pie Club, and sets the standard by which all other pubs are measured. We are looking forward to our next visit to The Wheatsheaf, which will probably be in December for our next AGM, unless we can think of some excuse for not waiting as long as that. 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Black Dog, Waltham Chase, 27th November 2014

Having been turned away by one of our local pubs, we felt the need to go somewhere where we would be rather more welcome so for our November outing we returned to The Black Dog, our third visit to this very popular pub in Waltham Chase. Our first visit to this pub (in July 2011) was okay but we felt that there was some room for improvement. When we visited again in October 2012, soon after the current landlord (Peter) had taken over, we found that it was much better, so this time we wanted to see if Peter had continued to improve the place as he said he would.

Several of our members are still on a bit of a health kick, so they built up a bit of an appetite and a thirst by walking the 2 or 3 miles to the pub. On arrival they were given a warm welcome by our hosts, Peter & Kathy, and offered a good choice of ales, some of which were new to us:

There was Black Dog Ale 3.8%  from a mystery brewery in Trent, Brains' Reverend James 4.5%, and York Brewery's Guzzler 3.6%, as well as Green King IPA. The Black Dog Ale was a smooth dark ale, very drinkable, but after a long walk several of us preferred the Guzzler, which was a light hoppy ale. Both beers were in very good condition and served well.

Now, for the main business of the day, the pie, we were in for a special treat! The chef had prepared for us something which we had never experienced before - A Sausage, Bacon & Black Pudding Pie! A few of us expressed some doubts about the wisdom of eating such a thing, but when the pies were served up we all agreed Who Dares Wins!

We couldn't help noticing that it was covered in green stuff, but despite that it was a superb looking pie and we couldn't wait to get stuck in. It was served with mixed vegetables and a choice of chips or mashed potatoes, with extra gravy served separately in a jug, just how we like it.

After we had finished loading up our plates with the vegetables and potatoes, the meal looked excellent, and we could barely restrain ourselves (so we didn't).

The pie filling was delicious - moist, with slices of sausage which we think we recognised as coming from a local butcher, bacon adding a salty piquancy, and black pudding complementing the whole ensemble.  In fact the filling was so good that when it came to the scoring, a few members awarded it an unprecedented 5/5. The short crust pastry was also very good. A few members suggested that it might have been better if we had been served individual pies rather than slices from a big pie, but the problem with this is that individual pies tend to have a higher ratio of pastry to filling, making the pie rather dry and stodgy. In this case perhaps we could have done with a slightly more pastry, but when the filling is this good, who cares?  The vegetables were all nicely cooked, and all too soon our plates were clear (and we'd even eaten all the green stuff).

Some of us still had room for puddings, so we chose from the pudding menu and found that the puddings were all up to the same high standard as the pie.

We all thought the meal was excellent, and we really appreciated the effort that our hosts, Peter & Kathy, and the chef made for us.  We would have personally congratulated the chef as we were leaving, but he was nowhere to be seen. The pub itself has a very good ambience (although we did notice some background music playing), and the service was very good. The food and beer very reasonably priced, with the beer at around £3.70/pint, and the pies at £9.95, so we felt it was very good value for money. Surprisingly, after such a good lunch, we managed to walk all the way back to Bishops Waltham, and finished up in The Crown, but that is another story. 

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 4.44
  • Filling 4.74
  • Beer 4.43
  • Ambience 4.03
  • Value 4.7
  • Overall 22.34

Congratulations to Peter & Kathy - we can see that you have put a lot of hard work into improving this pub, and your efforts have paid off. Your score puts you straight in at number 1 in our charts, a whole 0.02 points clear of the previous leader, and puts you in a very strong position to scoop the "Pie of the Year" award this year. And please pass on our congratulations to your chef.  

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

We've been banned!

It seems that our review of our last visit to The Barleycorn Inn in Bishops Waltham, back in April 2013, has upset someone, because when we tried to book a return visit there for our next outing, it was made very clear to us that we were not welcome there and they refused to take our booking. 

We find this difficult to understand because (1) it was actually quite a good review (otherwise we wouldn't have wanted to go back there for another visit), (2)  if they'd let us know just what was wrong with the report we might have been able to fix it, or at least publish their comments, and (3) why turn away good business?

We always aim to give honest reports, albeit written in a light-hearted manner. We are aware that for us it's just a bit of fun, but for the hard-working staff in the pubs that we visit it's their livelihood, so we strive to be fair and accurate, and if our hosts are not happy with our reports we will always either publish their comments or correct the report. All they have to do is tell us. 

If we have unwittingly offended anyone at The Barleycorn then we apologise. It is never our intention to be offensive. Similarly, we apologise for any factual inaccuracies.  If it is our opinions that were found to be objectionable then we stand by what we said.

So, sadly, we were unable to return to the Barleycorn for our November outing. Instead, we returned to The Black Dog, Waltham Chase.  This visit will be the subject of our next report.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Rising Sun, Swanmore, 30th October 2014

We had previously visited The Rising Sun, Swanmore, as our fifth outing back in 2011 when we were but a fledgling group with just 5 members. So we felt it was time to revisit this excellent pub.
As we are all in to fitness and health matters we decided to walk the 2 miles to the pub - this also helps to build up a thirst and offset the expected pie and possibly pudding intake. So in various groups, Nick, Trevor, Gordon, Stephen, Paul (Lord North) and Eric set off from Bishops Waltham, joined by Doug at Swanmore and at the pub by Joe who had elected to cycle over.

On arrival at the Rising Sun we were greeted by the welcome sight of four beers on hand pump and were informed that there was also a beer in the barrel we could also sample - so a busy afternoon was anticipated!

We were all very impressed with the selection of beers, some that we had never tasted before. There was Sharp's Doom Bar 4%, Irving Best Irving Type 42 Best 4.2% from Portsmouth, That Old Chestnut 5.2% from  Weltons Brewery in Horsham, Tom Cat 4.7% from Red Cat Brewing, Winchester, and Golden Arrow 4.5% from Cottage Brewing in Somerset, so we got tucked in!

After a couple of pints we decided it was time for the pie which was a steak and ale pie served up with peas, separate chips and gravy with additional jugs of gravy - just as we like it. It was served with a sprig of greenery on top which was soon removed!

Overall, everyone felt it was a good pie with a nice short crust pastry and plenty of filling. Despite generous helpings some of us still had room for puddings! Those that participated chose:

Rice pudding with clotted cream

Lemon Cheesecake

Chocolate Brownie

Treacle pudding

Again all the puddings were well received and all plates cleared!
We then slowly finished off our beers, the last one very kindly on the house - thank you!
Overall a very good return to the Rising Sun and many commented that it was one of our best meetings in terms of the ambience and excellent discussion created by good food and good beer.
We then headed back to Bishops Waltham stopping off for some refreshment enroute at the Brickmakers!

The scores for the Rising Sun, gratefully compiled by Nick are:

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 4.25
  • Filling 4.06
  • Beer 4.53
  • Ambience 4.04
  • Value 4.20
  • Overall 21.08

The Rising Sun is currently in 5th place out of the 9 visits this year in what is proving to be a very close contest.

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Bucks Head, Meonstoke, 25th September 2014

We've often considered going for an outing to The Bucks Head, Meonstoke, having heard many good reports about it, but we've been put off by the difficulty of getting there. the simple fact is that unless a pub is in walking distance, there are no public transport links that allow us to visit any pubs in (or to the East of) the Meon Valley. We really should write to our MP about it.  This particular pub got flooded out during the storms last winter, and has recently re-opened under new management after a major refurbishment, so we felt it was time to make the effort.

In a fit of irrational over-exuberance brought on by the fine summer weather, most of our members decided to walk there, taking a cross-country route devised earlier by Nick.  Most such routes involve passing one of our favourite pubs, The Hampshire Bowman, but we knew that if we went that way we'd be quite unable to go past without popping in to sample their fare, and there was a good chance that we'd never come out again, so Nick cleverly worked out a route that avoided this hazard. It was a very pleasant 7km walk (or, according to Trev's pedometer, 11200 steps) which took us 90 minutes and (again, according to Trev's pedometer),  meant that we each burnt off 577 calories. We saw this as ample justification for what was to follow.

When we finally caught our first glimpse of our final destination the pace noticeably picked up as we had by now worked up quite a thirst and an appetite. 

On arrival we were given a warm welcome by our hosts, Nicki & Shaun, who had been expecting us, and were probably worried that some of us may have fallen by the wayside, exhausted by the undue exertion of the walk.

Happily we all made it to the pub, where we met up with Stephen, who had got there by some other means, probably not involving any exertion at all. This being a Greene King pub, we had a choice of Greene King ales: Greene King IPA 3.6%Old Speckled Hen 4.5%, and a seasonal ale Old Nutty Hen 4.5%.  We started with the IPA, which we all agreed was in exceptionally good condition, except for Tall Paul, who as usual stuck to Guinness, but he said that that was in good condition as well.  Later on we found that the other ales were also very good. Of course, we had just walked 7km in the summer heat, so we had worked up quite a thirst and we would have drunk anything.

As we were supping our first pint, Nicki explained what lay in store for us. They'd made some Game Pies and Pork & Cider Pies for us especially, but rather than expect us to make a difficult choice, each of us having to choose on or the other, they'd made small individual pies of both varieties for each of us. So we had two pies each! And this is how they looked when they were brought to the table:

The pies came with mixed vegetables and either mashed potato or chips, and this is how they looked on our plates:

The gravy was served in the approved manner, separately, in jugs on the side. To be honest, it was a bit of a plateful, and several of us left some of the pastry as there seemed to be quite a lot of it - an unintended consequence of simple geometry which shows that the ratio of pastry to filling increases as the pie gets smaller.  But the the chef assured us that the pies were hand-made using hand-made pastry, and they tasted delicious.

We were so stuffed that we weren't going to bother with puddings, but then we looked at the pudding menu:

This is quite an unusual menu, and when we noticed the "Sweet Temptation Platter" we ordered 2 of them, to be shared between the 8 of us. This is how they looked when they were served:

There was a bit of difficulty, and some argument, when we tried to share these out equally, but we all agreed that the puddings were delicious.

We all thought the meal was excellent, and we really appreciated the effort that Nicki, Shaun, and the chef made for us.  The pub itself has a very good ambience, having recently been refurbished very tastefully. The food and beer very reasonably priced, with the beer at around £3.70/pint, and the pies at £10.50, so we felt it was very good value for money. Clearly we were in no fit state to walk all the way back to Bishops Waltham, and we just had time to finish up our beer, and pay the bill when our taxi arrived. 

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 4.3
  • Filling 4.55
  • Beer 4.34
  • Ambience 4.53
  • Value 4.6
  • Overall 22.32

Congratulations to Nicki & Shaun, with your bold innovation of presenting us with 2 pies each you've raised the competition to a whole new level. Your score puts you straight in at number 1 in our charts, a whole 0.7 points clear of the previous leader, and puts you in a very strong position to scoop the "Pie of the Year" award this year.  Don't forget the helpful hint that we gave you just before we left, when we suggested that the only way you could have improved this meal would be if you have left a decanter of port on our table at the end, as one of your competitors did earlier in the year!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Hurdles, Droxford, 28th August 2014

As Pieman was unable to attend this month's trip to The Hurdles in Droxford, mini Pieman (also known as Porky Pie) stepped into the breach to bring to you news of our latest venture!

The Hurdles has a very good reputation in the area as an excellent Bar/Restaurant so we felt it was about time we paid them a visit to savour their pies.

So, Nick, Paul (tall), Paul (Lord North), Doug, Eric and Trev met outside the BW Tandoori to board our taxi for the short trip to Droxford. The taxi was spot on time, thank you driver Tony, so we arrived at the Hurdles in plenty of time to sample their beers before the main event. Gordon, a new member, who has recently moved to Meonstoke joined us there. There was some discussion between some of the members whether Gordon should be allowed to join as he does not live in Bishops Waltham but if nothing else we are a fair bunch and respect equal opportunities for all so we welcomed Gordon into the fold. Also 2 other members live out of the area!

We received a friendly welcome when entering the pub and we were all highly impressed by the pleasant ambience.

There were two real ales on offer, Bowman Ales Wallops Wood 4%  and Goddard's Fuggle Dee Dum 4.8%. Tall Paul went for his usual Guinness and the rest of us opted for the Wallops Wood, a beer we were all very familiar with and always in good 'nick'. Unfortunately, the beer was not in good 'nick' and after much patience by the barmaid it was discovered that it was the end of the barrel and she scuttled off to put a new one on. In the meantime we settled for a pint of Fuggle Dee Dum which was fine. The new barrel of Wallops Wood was also fine.

We were very pleased to be offered a choice of pies, a Steak and Kidney Suet Pudding or Chicken and Chorizo. Three of us went for the former and four the latter. The pies came with cabbage and mashed potato or you could opt for large chips or french fries as an alternative to the potatoes. Additionally, individual jugs of gravy were provided, which we like.

Steak and Kidney Pudding

Chicken and Chorizo

Both pies were substantial with very good fillings. The Chicken and Chorizo pie had a short crust pastry bottom and sides with a flaky pastry top which was excellent. When you cut into the pie it was a bit surprising to see a 'flood' of gravy pour out of the pie! However, this did not have a detrimental effect on the taste of this pie which was very good indeed. Those who opted for the Steak and Kidney Pudding were rather surprised to see it arrive with a baked suet crust rather than the traditional soft suet casing and felt it did not really work with this type of pie. However, most of the plates were cleared and after a beer break we duly moved on to the pudding menu.

There were a good choice of puddings and the group went for the following selection:

Bakewell Tart with Clotted Cream

Banana Crumble with Ice Cream

Cheese and Biscuits

....and especially for Nick a very interesting looking Mint & Chocolate Chip Ice Cream!

Everyone agreed the puddings were excellent and we just had time to finish up our beer, pay the bill as our taxi arrived. On returning to Bishops Waltham some of us retired to the Crown to contemplate life!

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 3.5
  • Filling 4.15
  • Beer 3.25
  • Ambience 4
  • Value 4.25
  • Overall 19.15

An enjoyable time was had by all with excellent service. The score of 19.15 out of a possible 25 is a good score and may well have been higher if there had not been for an initial hiccup with the beer and the steak and kidney pudding had had a traditional casing. However, as always, this is down to personal taste. The lunchtime offer of 2 courses for £13. 50 is excellent value for money.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

The Queen Inn, St Cross, 24th July 2014

A short while ago Si visited the The Queen Inn in St Cross, near Winchester.  He had an excellent lunch there, found that there was a choice of 7 ales, and they still had a "buy 9 pints get 1 free" offer on ales. On this basis he suggested to Pieman that this would be a good venue for our next outing. We last visited this place on 31st January 2013, when it scored 20.825, and at that time we agreed that it would be worth visiting again after they had completed their improvements, and installed their micro-brewery, which they have done. Si asked them to bake a pie specially for us and gave the chef a copy of our report of our last visit, and asked him if he could try to do better this time, and he seemed to be quite ready to have a go.

After due consideration, Pieman gave his approval and authorised 6 of us to go for an official visit, so off we went on the 69 bus to Winchester on a hot summer's day, hoping for a great pie. The Queen Inn is a nice looking pub right by the Winchester College cricket ground (but unfortunately lacking a view over the cricket pitch - if we could have sat outside drinking our beer, eating our pie and watching the cricket it would have been perfect, but some things are not to be).

We walked inside and were immediately impressed by the wide range of ales available.

We noticed that the micro-brewery was installed, so naturally we were keen to sample some of the home brew, but there wasn't any available as the landlord (Clive) was too busy to make any beer (apparently he has just taken over another pub). "Never mind", we thought, "there are still seven other ales available so we'll try some of those".  

Our next choice was Bowman Ales Eldorado, a perfect ale for such a hot summer's day. But this had reached the end of the barrel and was off. Likewise the Titanic Ale was off.  Eventually we settled on Castle Rock Harvest Pale Ale 3.8%, which we found very acceptable.  In fact all the beers we tried here were in very good condition, but it's a shame that our first 2 choices were off.  Of course Tall Paul wanted Guinness, but was disapppointed to discover that they don't sell Guinness - they sell Belhaven Black Scottish Stout instead, which Tall Paul quite liked.

The Pie was a Chicken & Leek Pie, served with freshly-cooked mixed seasonal vegetables (peas, french beans, cabbage) and a choice of mashed potatoes or skinny chips.  The pie had been made to order for us, and was (by request) a single large pie, for us to share between us, rather than a set of individual pies. Unfortunately when the chef tried to divide it up for serving, it exploded, so our initial impression was not as good as it might have been. It would have been better if we had been presented with the whole pie, and left to divide it up ourselves, or if we had requested individual pies.

But never mind, the pie was excellent, and there was a lot of it! The pastry was very nicely done short-crust pastry. Because of the way that the pie was divided up, some people got more pastry than others. The filling was very tasty, of a thick consistency but not too dry, and full of chunks of tender chicken. The vegetables were nicely cooked, and everyone ate their potatoes up. As on our previous visit, we found the pie so filling that nobody had any room for pudding.

On a hot summer's day we really appreciated the extensive seating available in the garden, with lots of shade, and we noticed a nice touch: a fridge stocked with chilled water for people to help themselves to. On the other hand there was no table service for drinks - we had to go to the bar for each round. All the pub facilities were clean and tidy, so no complaints there.  Prices were much as before. The pies were £10.50 each, and the ales averaged around £3.50/pint, so everything was quite reasonable.

As before, 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. And after that we moved on to a few more places.

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 4.15
  • Filling 4.48
  • Beer 3.85
  • Ambience 3.86
  • Value 4.24
  • Overall 20.58

Sadly the overall score shows a decline from the January 2013 score (down from 20.825 to 20.58) but still, congratulations to the landlord, Clive, and his team, for providing us with another excellent meal. It's a shame we weren't able to try your home brew, but surely we'll be back another time to try it. And congratulations to the chef, whose pie actually scored better than the one we had before (up from 8.2 to 8.63). We really appreciate the effort you made. 

Monday, 30 June 2014

The Hampshire Bowman, Dundridge, 26th June 2014

Doug's choice for our June outing was another visit to one of our favourite local pubs,  The Hampshire Bowman.  Doug probably thought that this would be a safe choice as this pub won the coveted Pie of the Year award for 2011, and did very well on our last visit on 28th November 2012.   On our last visit the pub had just been taken over by a new landlord, Mark, and we were a bit suspicious of him, but of course we were prepared to give him a fair chance to make a go of things, and he was very reassuring to us, so we gave him the benefit of the doubt. And now we had a chance to see how he was getting on.

It being a very pleasant summer's day, we decided to walk there from Bishops Waltham.  Past experience has told us that this walk is just right: long enough to work up a bit of an appetite and a bit of a thirst, but not so long as to get us all exhausted.  So, we arrived fresh, and raring to get on with it. Externally, the place hasn't changed a bit.

As we walked in we immediately felt the welcoming atmosphere that this pub has always had, and suspected that we might be in for a long session.

As before, a glance at the beer board confirmed that the ales available here are up to the usual high standard that we've come to expect from this pub (or at least most of them are), and we were pleased to see that the prices hadn't gone up since our last visit:

Mark had kept true to his promise that there would always be at least 5 real ales available, so, as is customary, we started at the top of of the list and worked our way down, except for Tall Paul, who, as usual, preferred to stick to Guinness. So except for Paul we tried the Bowman Ales Swift One 3.8% first.  This has long been one of our favourite ales, so we were a bit disturbed when we noticed that it didn't taste the same as usual. We didn't think the beer was off, but it certainly tasted different.  We don't know if this was just a one-off glitch, or a permanent change. Pieman has raised a query with the brewers, and is awaiting a response. The other ales (Bowman Ales Wallops Wood 4%Stonehenge Ales Eye-Opener 4.5%Fullers ESB 5%, and Elgood's Black Dog 3.6% (a dark mild)) were all sampled and found to be very satisfactory. Tall Paul reported that the Guinness was "very good here", which means that it must have been exceptionally good, because he can be a difficult man to please sometimes.

For the pies, we were offered a choice of Chicken & Bacon Pie or Lamb & Leek Pie, served with seasonal freshly-cooked vegetables and mashed or chipped potatoes.

We had Lamb & Leek Pie last time we visited, and we were pleased to see that the pie prices hadn't gone up at all since our last visit. Here's what the Lamb & Leek Pie looked like this time, served with chips:

And this is what the Chicken & Bacon Pie looked like, served with mashed potatoes, which were very nicely presented:

As before, the pies had short-crust pastry all around, holding a filling crammed with meat and plenty of tasty gravy, but once again we noticed that the gravy had been pre-applied, whereas we prefer it to be served separately in a jug. The accompanying vegetables, and mashed potato were very nicely cooked, but the chips were perhaps a bit overdone.

Those of us who had room for puddings had a choice of Lemon Posset, Bread & Butter Pudding, or Summer Berry Crumble. They were all consumed with much pleasure.

The ambience of the pub was generally very good, although it was a very quiet mid-week lunchtime so there weren't many other customers around, and we sat outside for the meal, so really there was no ambience apart from the one we made for ourselves, but still, the weather was good it was very pleasant. Mark gave us a warm welcome as always; it was easy to get served at the bar; the table service was good; the pub was clean; and Mark has resisted the temptation to add unnecessary distractions such as music or fruit machines. It's still a dog-friendly pub, which can be a  problem for some, but the dogs were all well behaved.

On value for money the score was good. The pie was only £9. The beers are all very reasonably priced, and we were pleased to see that the prices haven't gone up over the last 19 months.

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 4.10
  • Filling 4.13
  • Beer 3.92
  • Ambience 4.11
  • Value 4.43
  • Overall 20.7
Congratulations to Mark. This was a very enjoyable outing for us all. You have continued to maintain the high standards that we have come to expect at the Bowman, and you'll be relieved to hear that we no longer have any doubts about you.

The score of 20.7 is consistent with our previous score for the Bowman in 2013, which was 20.6, and is highly commendable (but stilll below the 21.5 they scored in 2011, when they won the Pie of the Year Award). Once again this means that the Bowman currently ranks 4th in the pubs we have visited this year. 

The next meeting would normally have been on 31st July 2014, but as several members will be at the Test Match that day (no doubt sampling the pies at the Rose Bowl), it has been brought forward to 24th July 2014.