Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Robin Hood, Durley, 28th May 2015

It was Eric's turn to organise our May outing, and he decided to take us all to The Robin Hood in Durley, We had previously considered visiting this pub several times, but we had always been put off by their standard menu, which features a Steak & Ale Pie with a puff pastry lid, which (as everyone should know by now) is anathema to Pie Club members - we think if a "pie" is not fully encased in short crust pastry then it is not a proper pie at all.  But Eric assured us that he had done a deal with the landlord and we were in for a treat, so we gathered outside The Crown on a fine spring day and set off on the short (40 minute) cross-country walk to Durley, with Nick leading the way because he had brought a map with him. 

40 minutes is a good length for a walk as it allows you to build up a good appetite and thirst without getting too exhausted.  Just as people were starting to wonder "Are we nearly there yet?" we saw the welcoming sign.

And soon we were welcomed in and confronted with a good choice of ales:

This being a Greene King pub the "Robin Hood Ale" turned out to be a Greene King ale, possibly Greene King IPA 3.8%, but we're not sure. On sampling it we found that it was very acceptable. The other ales available were Hogs Back T.E.A. 4.2% and Sadler's Worcester Sorcerer 4.3%.  In due course we tried both of these and found them both to be very acceptable as well.

As we were quenching our thirst we had a good look at the menus on display in the bar area and noticed that they were very tempting, featuring an extensive choice of mouth-watering dishes, but we were not going to allow ourselves to be distracted from the pie, which was soon brought to our table.

It was a twice-cooked Wild Boar Pie, served with mixed vegetables and a scoop of Mustard Mash, and it looked delicious, so we wasted no time in tucking in.

We were presented  with portions of pie cut from a single large pie, which must have been very large if it was to satisfy 10 hungry men. Generally we prefer portions of pie cut from a single large pie rather than individual pies because it means that the ratio of filling to pastry is higher, but it does mean that unless the chef is very skilled some people get bigger portions than others, and some people get corner portions with more pastry, and some people get mid-side portions with less pastry. However, we were all too hungry to care about any of this, so we all got what we were given, and got on with it.  

We were unanimous in agreeing that the filling was near perfect, containing just the right balance of lean tender meat and a juicy and very tasty gravy. We noted that we hadn't been provided with any additional gravy in jugs on the side, so a slight demerit here, but we didn't really need any, and no doubt some would have been provided if we had asked. We were provided with some extra mustard when we asked for it.

Unfortunately the filling was let down by the pastry, which was a puff pastry. Now, we are broad-minded about such things and we were prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt, but it had gone soggy at the bottom, and (compared with the best short crust pastry) it was tasteless.

The vegetables were cooked nicely, and the Mustard Mash was delicious - it was a perfect accompaniment to the pie.

We all managed to clear our plates without any difficulty, although some people didn't eat all of their mash, presumably because they wanted to leave room for some pudding, for which there was a good choice.

The puddings looked delicious, and those who had them reported that they tasted very good as well, and we could see tat the portions were large.

The beers ranged in price from £3.60/pint to £3.90/pint and the pies were £11.95, so this is not a place to come for a cheap meal, but the puddings were quite reasonably priced, and the quality of the food was top notch  (it is just a shame about that pastry). We liked the pub very much: It's clean and nicely furnished, with a couple of very comfortable leather sofas near the bar where we were able to relax before contemplating the long walk home. The service wasn't quite up to scratch though - even though the place was not very busy we had to go to the bar to order each new round of drinks (we know it is not usually done this way, but we have got used to the bar staff taking our drinks orders at the table), and we had to wait a long long time for the puddings to be brought to the table after we'd ordered them.

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):

  • Pastry  3.00
  • Filling  4.44
  • Beer  4.28
  • Ambience  3.90
  • Value for money  3.96
  • Total  19.58

All in all this was a very pleasant experience and provided ample justification for the good reputation that the Robin Hood has locally, but it was spoiled by the pastry, which just wasn't to our taste. So the final score means that this pub leaps into 4th place in our rankings of pubs visited so far this year, not far below The George & Falcon, which we visited last month.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The George and Falcon, Warnford, 30th April 2015

This month's outing was organised by new member Gordon, who very wisely chose to visit a pub in his neck of the woods, The George and Falcon in Warnford. After lying derelict for several years this pub was refurbished a few years ago, and we've been meaning to visit it ever since, but we were put off by the difficulty in getting there. There are no buses from Bishops Waltham to Warnford, and it's too far to walk, so on a fine day in April we all bundled into a couple of taxis and off we went. We were honoured to be joined on this outing by a Lord North's guest, Mike.

First impressions on entering the pub are that the restorers did a very good job. It's a large pub with a huge bar area that has several little alcoves where rowdy groups can enjoy themselves without disturbing the other customers, and a good selection of leather sofas for relaxing in after a large meal. Just right for us then. 

We were given a warm welcome as we approached the bar, but sadly found that there were only 2 real ales
available: Ringwood Best 3.8%, and Ringwood Forty Niner 4.9%. These are both fine ales, but we were hoping for a bit more choice (especially when we noticed that there was a row of casks behind the bar, but they were all empty). All the same, when we tried the Ringwood Best we found that it was in excellent condition and served our needs admirably. We saved the Forty Niner for last, as it is such a strong ale, and found it was also very good. Matthew, the landlord, explained that there is usually a wider choice of ales available at the weekend (our visit was on a Thursday).

We knew that Gordon had organised the meal in advance with the landlord, Matthew, and that we were getting a Lamb and Port Pie, which is an unusual sort of pie, so anticipation was mounting. 

We weren't disappointed when the pies arrived. We had individual pies, nicely presented with mash and mixed vegetables (carrots and beans), and with individual pots of gravy served on the side, just how we like it. We prefer individual pots as it prevents any fighting over the gravy. The pie filling was packed with meat and very tasty, although the port taste was quite subtle. The pastry was near perfect, and the chef managed to avoid the pitfall that is common with individual pies of having too much pastry and not enough filling. All in all, this was a very good pie. We nearly all managed to clear our plates and leave room for some pudding, for which there was a good choice.

Unfortunately there was only one Sticky Toffee Pudding left, which could have led to some serious trouble between us, but we're gentlemen and managed to resolve the issue in a gentlemanly way. Those who had them reported that the puddings were very good.

The Ringwood Best was £3.85/pint - not cheap. The pies were £11.95 and the puddings were around £6.95, so they weren't cheap either, and sadly this meal didn't get a very good value for money score, but the quality was very good. Ambience was also very good: the staff were welcoming and gave good service, the premises were clean, there were no distracting tvs or fruit machines. There was some background music, but we could barely hear it.

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):

  • Pastry  4.10
  • Filling  4.27
  • Beer  4.16
  • Ambience  4.20
  • Value for money  3.93
  • Total  20.65

All in all this was a very pleasant experience, marred only by the poor choice of beer and the rather high prices. Nevertheless, the final score means that this pub leaps into 2nd place in our rankings of pubs visited so far this year, just ahead of The Crown, and not far below The Woodman. Well done, Matthew.