Saturday, 28 February 2015

2014 Pie Club Pub of the Year Award

After another year of dedicated devotion to duty in 2014, 10 of the gentlemen members of the Pie Club gathered together on 26th February 2015 at The Black Dog, Waltham Chase for a formal presentation to Peter, the Landlord, of the 2014 Pie Club Pub of the Year certificate, in recognition of the outstanding Sausage, Black Pudding and Bacon Pie which we enjoyed there on 27th November 2014

Peter seemed very pleased very pleased to receive the award, and wasted no time in displaying it in a prominent position next to the bar. Quite an understandable reaction when you think about it.

To celebrate the occasion we had a few beers and enjoyed another excellent pie - this time it was a Game Pie. It was another very good pie and served to maintain this pub's reputation as a provider of top-quality pies, but in accordance with Pie Club traditions we viewed this outing as a celebration of past achievements, so did not subject this pie to the usual scrutiny and assessment.  We just enjoyed it instead.

Congratulations to Peter, and the chef, and long may you continue to maintain such high standards. 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Woodman Inn, Lower Upham, 29th January 2015

We've often travelled past the Woodman Inn and often thought about paying it a visit. The pub looks lovely from the outside, with masses of flowers handing from its window baskets, looking every inch the perfect country pub. But it had had the same landlord for more than 40 years and been rather neglected over those years, nobody had ever recommended it, and worst of all, it served no food.

That's all changed now. It's recently re-opened after being taken over by a new landlord with close links to the highly-regarded Brushmakers Arms, and now they serve food. And what is more, they specialise in pies, supplied by the (also highly-regarded) Upham Pie Company. So of course we had to pay a visit.

So on a cold winter's day those of us who were still on a bit of a health & fitness kick decided to walk the 2.5 miles to Upham. It's actually quite a pleasant walk, or would have been if it hadn't been so cold. The pub is also on the 69 bus route from Bishops Waltham with a bus stop just outside, and those of us not feeling so energetic managed to get there on the bus without too much trouble, although the bus was running late so by the time they arrived at the pub, the walkers had already started sampling the ales without them.  

This being a free house, there was a good choice of 4 real ales available. Seeing as how it was January, we mostly started off by sampling the January's Ale (3.8% - from the Wychwood Brewery), which was generally considered to be very good, and served in perfect condition. In due course we tried all the other ales: Jennings Cockle Warmer 4.2%Ringwood Boondoggle 4.2%, and Banks's Bitter 3.8%, and they were all found to be very good too.

For the pies we were offered a choice of Steak & Ale, Chicken & Leek, or Lamb & Mint. Unfortunately we were only allowed one each (not like when we visited The Buck's Head!), but at £7.95 each we couldn't complain. The pies came with vegetables and a choice of mashed or julienne potatoes, and gravy was served separately in a jug on the side, just as we like it.

The pie fillings were very tasty, packed full of meat but not too dry, and encased in short crust pastry that was very nicely cooked, but there is always a potential problem with small individual pies that the ratio of pastry to filling can be a bit too high, and some of us felt that in this case there was a bit too much pastry and not enough filling. The vegetables and potatoes were very nicely done. Portion sizes were maybe a bit small, but for only £7.95 each we couldn't complain, and those of us still on a bit of a health & fitness kick certainly couldn't complain. All in all, we felt that this meal was a bit like Kylie Minogue - small, but perfectly formed and very tasty.

A few of us felt able to tackle some pudding, which was Apple Pie with Custard (no choice, although we noticed some other diners had Sticky Toffee Pudding with Custard - presumably there was none left by the time our turn came).

We all thought the meal was excellent, and we had a really good time in this pub.  The new landlord is still in the throes of refurbishing this place, so it is perhaps a little unfair to judge its ambience right now, but we will anyway. The pub is divided into 2 bars - one was empty and had a TV on permanently with the sound was turned down. The other bar was busier, and had no such distractions except for a blazing log fire, which was much appreciated on such a cold day. Off this other bar was a dining room, where we ate.  The pub was surprisingly busy, but despite that the service was very good, and the barmaid was quite charming.  The food and beer were very reasonably priced, with the beer at around £3.70/pint and the pies at £7.95, and the quality was good, so we felt it was good value for money.

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 4.47
  • Filling 3.86
  • Beer 4.51
  • Ambience 3.97
  • Value 4.14
  • Overall 20.96