The Wheatsheaf is a free house, owned by the same people who own The Flower Pots Inn in Cheriton, home of the well-respected Flowerpots Brewery, so a good selection of well-presented good-value real ales is always to be expected, and we were not disappointed.
Having a choice of 6 real ales available at these prices in such a small pub is truly remarkable, although we have noticed that the prices have crept up since our first visit in 2012, when the beers ranged from £2.50 - £2.90. Needless to say, we felt obliged to check the quality of all these beers, and as expected, we found them all to be very good. As usual Tall Paul stuck to his Guinness, which in this pub is canned and served with an agitator, and as Tall Paul says, this can often be preferable to draft Guinness as it is more consistent.
Joe had pre-arranged* with our hosts (Tim & Sally) that we would have a Steak & Kidney Pie for 10 people this time. In the event only 9 of us were able to attend, so we had plenty of pie to go around. When Sally came in bearing the Pie there were spontaneous gasps of appreciation.
It looked every bit as good as it has done on previous occasions, so we knew we were in for a treat. It was accompanied by a dish of fresh vegetables and another of boiled new potatoes (no choices here!).
Joe did a great job of serving the pie up, and managed to avoid causing any arguments between us over unequal portion sizes (perhaps because we could see that there would be some pie left over for second helpings).
There was extra gravy served separately in jugs, just as it should be, but it was hardly needed. This meal was as near perfect as is possible to imagine. The pastry (a short crust pastry made with butter and olive a few mushrooms, oil, according to Sally) was perfectly cooked, tasty, light, and melted in the mouth (and such a contrast to our experience last month). The filling was large chunks of tender lean steak, delicious morsels of kidney, all enveloped in a perfect tasty gravy. Our only possible criticism was that perhaps it could have done with a bit more kidney, but that is not to detract from the overall perfection of this pie.
As usual, the first to clear his plate was Mike, our resident vegan (and newly-elected permanent member - congratulations Mike!).
Second helpings were had by some, leaving an empty pie dish. Doug was saddened when he learned that this pub does not do puddings, so he scraped whatever he could from the pie dish instead. The lack of puddings does not effect our ratings for this pub, as we have never included puddings in our evaluations.
Thankfully the ambience of this pub hasn't changed one bit. It's just the way we like it. And the value for money is still almost unbeatable, with beer at £2.80 - £3.70/pint, and the pie coming in at £9.50.
Scores for The Wheatsheaf Inn (Max 5 in each category - total 25 overall)
Pastry - 4.88
Filling - 4.83
Beer - 4.84
Ambience - 4.65
Value - 4.86
Overall - 24.06
Our search is over: We have found the perfect Pie/Pint combination and we need look no further. This score not only means The Wheatsheaf beats all the other pubs that we have visited this year, but is actually an all-time record score, unlikely ever to be beaten. It beats the previous all-time best score (22.71 scored by The Wheatsheaf in 2012) by a full 1.35. The closest contender other than the Wheatsheaf is The Black Dog in 2014, which scored 22.34, which is beaten by a full 1.72.
Needless to say, we're already looking forward to our AGM this year, which will be held in the Wheatsheaf as usual, and we're quite sure that the winner of this year's "Pie Club Pub of the Year" award will be The Wheatsheaf!