We were immediately confronted with a bewildering choice of ales: Marston's Pedigree 4.5%, St Austell Tribute 4.2%, Jennings Lakeland Stunner 3.9%, and the ever popular Bowman Ales Wallops Wood 4.0%. There was nothing for it - we were going to have to try them all, starting with the the lightest, and working our way up to the heaviest.
While we were doing this we considered our next difficult decision - we had a choice of Pies! We had a choice of traditional Steak & Ale Pie (nobody chose this), Venison Pie (there were only 4 of these left, so 4 of us chose this), or Chicken, Bacon & Tomato Pie (the rest of us those this). All came with mixed vegetables (cabbage, beans & carrots), and a choice of Mashed Potato, fat chips or thin chips.
This is a venison pie with mashed potato:
This is a venison pie with fat chips:
This is a Chicken, Bacon & Tomato Pie with fat chips:
This is a Chicken, Bacon & Tomato Pie with thin chips:
The gravy was served separately, in jugs, just the way we like it, and there were actually two different gravies served up - one to go with the Venison Pie, and the other for the Chicken, Bacon & Tomato pie. We were also provided with (for the first time ever) a jug of vinegar for the chips, and two jars of mustard.
The Venison Pie was judged by all who tasted it to be very good, although Trev remarked that "it was a bit deer" (geddit?). But there was some difference of opinion about the Chicken, Bacon & Tomato Pie. Some felt that the tomato taste was a bit overpowering, and couldn't taste the chicken or bacon. In fact it tasted a bit like a pizza topping, and could almost have been a calzone. We also noticed that although both pies had a short crust pastry, they were different. The pastry on the Chicken, Bacon & Tomato Pie was shorter. We queried this with the chef, who was kind enough to explain that both pastries were made with identical recipies, but one (the Venison Pie) was made using plain white flour from Sainsbury's, but the other was made using plain white flour from Lidl. So in future we're going to have to make a point of finding out the provenance of the flour in the pastry!
The portions were a good size, but not excessively large, so we all managed some pudding, and there was quite a range available:
After pudding, we were offered a free chocolate brownie to share between us (a nice touch), and we had free mints presented with the bill (another nice touch), which came to £266 between 8 of us (including 10% service which had already been added to the bill). The pies were £12.50 each. A pint of Wallops Wood was £3. So value for money was about average, but the service was very good, the pub was clean, busy but not too noisy, and overall ambience of the pub was very good, and it was a most enjoyable outing.
Scores for The Brickmakers Arms, Swanmore (Max 5 in each category - total 25 overall)
Pastry - 3.89
Filling - 4.18
Beer - 4.23
Ambience - 4.08
Value - 3.61
Overall - 19.98