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.