Thursday, 8 December 2016

The Hunters Inn Swanmore 24th November 2016

This was our first visit to the Hunters Inn so the walking party set off from Bishops Waltham across fields and orchards to meet up with the others at the pub.

We have used various modes of transport to arrive at our Pie Club venues but never on horseback - maybe one for the future!
On arrival it was quite busy but we managed to get ourselves to the bar to find that there was a choice of 3 real ales: Bowmans Swift One - 3.8%, Sherfield on Loddon Best Bitter - 4.2% and Theaktons Best - 3.8%. Most of us started on Swift One as it one of our favourite local beers.

We had a choice of 2 pies which we had selected in advance, Steak and kidney and Venison and they were served in the traditional way with chips and peas.

There were some initial concerns when the pies arrived as they were in dishes and appeared to have just a pastry topping. However when we delved inside there was lovely shortcrust pastry on the sides and bottom and loads of filling and no confusion on which pies were which!

The plates were cleared and everyone agreed that both pies were excellent. Despite being well fed a few of us elected to have a pudding which included homemade rum and raisin ice cream and treacle sponge and custard.

We headed back to Bishops Waltham by foot car and bus but definitely not on horseback!

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

  • Pastry      4.35
  • Filling       4.32
  • Beer         4.15
  • Ambience 3.97
  • Value        4.79
  • Overall    21.58
Our thanks to everyone at the Hunters Inn for an excellent lunch.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Hinton Arms Hinton Ampner 27th October 2016

This was our first visit to the Hinton Arms so we set off from Bishops Waltham in taxi's full of  anticipation.

On arrival we found the pub to be very busy, which we should have expected due to it's proximity to the National Trust property at Hinton Ampner (well worth a visit). So we fought our way to the bar to be confronted with a good selection of 4 real Ales.

We had to choose from Hintons Own from Bowman -3.8%(we suspect this was Swift One), Hampshire Rose from from Ichen Valley - 4.2%, Old Dick from Southwick Brewery - 3.8% and Sportsman from Bowman - 4%(which could have been Wallops Wood). Over the lunchtime, between us, we managed to try all the beers on offer which were all in good condition. Unfortunately, our Guinness drinking member found that it was not to his liking so had to change to lager.
So after a couple of pints we had built up an appetite and were ready for the pies. There were two on offer, a steak and kidney and steak and stilton in suet pastry!
When the pies arrived they were huge!

Both pies had plenty of filling with very tender beef. The steak and kidney pie had a traditional shortcrust pastry and the steak and stilton had a crumbly suet pastry. Both came with with a selection of veg and new potatoes and chips.

To follow there were a good selection of desserts on offer, but only those of us who do not have watch their waistlines were able to indulge!

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall).
  • Pastry       4.34
  • Filling        4.47
  • Beer          3.85
  • Ambience  4.27
  • Value         4.03
  • Overall     20.96
Our thanks to everyone at the Hinton Arms for an excellent lunchtime visit.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Rising Sun Swanmore 29th September 2016

We had visited this pub on two previous occasions but as there had recently been a change of management we felt obliged to revisit, particularly as we were getting good reports about the pies on offer. So six of us set off on the short walk from Bishops Waltham to  Swanmore, meeting the other three members at the pub.

We received a warm welcome from Amy and Ben and were interested to see that one of the beers on offer was Wayfarer (4%) from a new brewery in Swanmore just around the corner from the pub.This was the obvious choice for our first beer as none of us had sampled this beer before. Unfortunately there were only 2 pints left in the barrel and a replacement barrel was not ready to be tapped - so we will have to keep our eyes open for beers from this new brewery!
The other beers on offer were:
Ringwood Red Boar 3.9% and Goodens Gold 4.8%. We all decided on the Red Boar which was a good supping ale. Goodens Gold is an excellent beer but a bit too strong for us at a lunchtime.
We were all getting quite excited about the pie as Ben was producing a homemade rabbit pie which would be a new experience for some of us. Indeed the pie was excellent, with a lovely shortcrust pastry filled generously with succulent rabbit and served traditionally with huge portions of chips and peas with gravy on the side, just as we like it!
Plates were cleared so it was surprising to see that a number of the group elected to have a pudding. Maybe not so surprising when we looked at the selection of puddings available.

As the pub closed at 2.30pm we drank up and started out on the return walk to Bishops Waltham, stopping off at the Brickmakers to quench our thirst.
Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall)
  • Pastry  4.64
  • Filling  4.77
  • Beer      3.86
  • Ambience 4.13
  • Value      4.13
  • Overall  21.53
Our thanks to Amy and Ben for their hospitality and for providing us with such an excellent homemade pie. We know that Ben produces a range of homemade pies so we will be back!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Brushmakers Arms Upham 25th August 2016

We had visited this pub before but as there had recently been a change of management and we were hearing encouraging reports, through the grapevine, we felt it was our duty to have a return visit and find out for ourselves.

So six of us set off from Bishops Waltham on a hot and humid summers' day for the 4 mile walk to Upham. Four other gents were due to join us at the pub but for some reason didn't fancy the walk!

On arrival, we were obviously suffering from extreme dehydration (the walkers that is) so we headed straight to the bar for sustenance in the form of beer! 

We were warmly welcomed and presented with a choice of  a good selection of four beers:
Upham Fields of Gold - 3.8%, Palmers Copper Ale - 3.7%, Fullers London Pride - 4.1% and Cheriton Goodens Gold - 4.8%. Most of us opted for the Upham Fields of Gold which was a refreshing straw coloured beer, which was just what the doctor ordered.

Having satisfied our thirst over a couple of pints it was time for the main event - the pie!
This months offering was to be individual chicken, ham and leek pies with chips and vegetables The pies were presented in individual enamel pie dishes which we thought was a nice traditional touch.

With a little coaxing the pies turn out perfectly onto the plate which suggested that they were cooked to perfection. Which indeed they were! The pastry was very good and there was plenty of excellent filling and it all came with gravy on the side - yum.

Everybody cleared their plates and some of us even had room for a pudding from the extensive menu.

The taxi duly arrived to take us back to Bishops Waltham, it was felt that to walk back after such an excellent lunch would be a step too far! However, two of our group did decide to walk back taking a different route - never to be seen again!(they did turn up eventually having taken a wrong turn or two - or had they found another pub?).

Scores(max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 4.25
  • Filling 4.40
  • Beer 4.24
  • Ambience 4.38
  • Value 4.49
  • Overall 21.76
Many thanks to Nicki and her team for a most enjoyable visit and congratulations on an excellent pie which puts the Brushmaker into 2nd position overall for 2016 so far.


Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Elm Tree, Swanwick, 28th July 2016

This was a new venue for Pie Club so we set off for the short taxi ride to Swanwick.

 On arrival we were delighted to find that three of our favourite beers were available on handpump.

Most of us started on the Flowerpots Bitter - 3.8% and during the course of the lunch also sampled Doom Bar - 4.0% and the delightful but deceptively strong Goodens Gold - 4.8%. All the beers were in excellent condition, as was the Guinness - to the delight of our Guinness drinking member. Whilst enjoying the beer we had to make a choice between three pies on offer - Lamb and Vegetable, Chicken Ham and Leek and Steak and Stilton. Now having already chosen our beer to have to make another decision so quickly was beyond most of us, so by the time we had decided the last Lamb and Vegetable pie had gone, but we still had  two to choose from.

Both the pies on offer were individual pies with shortcrust pastry tops and came with either chips or new potatoes with an excellent selection of vegetables, thus ensuring that we all got our '5 a day' which is important to healthy eating gents like us!

The pies were also accompanied by extra gravy in jugs, just as we like it. Both pies had good fillings with plenty of meat and the overall opinion was that they were good pies. A special mention for the chips that were excellent.

All plates were cleared so it was a surprise that most of us elected to have a pudding. But the pudding selection was very tempting, so it just had to be done!

By the time we had finished the puddings most of us felt like having a snooze, but the taxi was beckoning to take us back to Bishops Waltham.

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

  • Pastry 3.91
  • Filling 4.44
  • Beer 4.53
  • Ambience 4.21
  • Value 4.15
  • Overall 21.24
A very enjoyable first visit to the Elm Tree and our thanks to Lorraine and all the staff for their service and for making us so welcome.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Cricketers, Curdridge, 30th June 2016

For this month's outing Doug decided that it was about time that we re-visited The Cricketers, Durley.  Our last visit to this fine pub was in June 2013, when we were presented with some rather unconventional pasties and it scored a very respectable 19.625. Since then the pub has been taken over by new management and had a refurbishment, so it's due a re-evaluation.

This was to be Joe's last outing with us as he has had enough of England and decided to return to his homeland, Canada. This is a sad occasion for us as Joe has long been a popular member of the club. He tells us that he intends to start up a similar club in his home town, Ontario. We wish him well in this venture, and look forward to establishing reciprocal visiting rights in due course.

Joe's departure means that there there will soon be a vacancy in our membership, and we were joined on this outing by a young contender, Nigel, who is hoping to step into Joe's place.

As usual with the Cricketers, there was some confusion about how best to get there. It's not far from Bishops Waltham as the crow flies, but it's not a very pleasant walk along the main road and we couldn't find any alternative routes, so we went by bus again. Since out last visit the local buses have changed and the now had to get a No. 10 bus, which follows the same circuitous route as the old No. 8, and thankfully still stops just outside the pub.

This is a Greene King pub, and the beers available were Sticky Wicket (3.7%), Old Trip (4.2%), and Speckled Hen (4.5%).  The beers were served up by a delightful barmaid and found to be very quaffable.  

There was only one type of pie available: A Steak Pie served with mashed potato (with chives) and mixed seasonal vegetables (green & yellow courgettes with carrots). So that's what we ordered.

This time the pies were shaped conventionally. They were good-sized individual pies made of short crust pastry packed with lots of meat, served with mixed vegetables which were perfectly cooked, and a delicious mashed potato with chives. A small amount of gravy was pre-applied, but more was provided, served separately in jugs on the side, just the way we like it.  Although the pie was of a good size, we felt the portions of vegetables and potato were a bit on the small side, although they were very nicely cooked, and the whole meal was very tasty.

Afterwards we still felt a bit hungry so we sampled the puddings. There was a good selection to choose from, and they were all very nice.

The general ambience of the pub was very good. It's clean, has nicely up-market furnishings, and has no distractions such as music or fruit machines. The gardens are extensive but we didn't use them as the weather wasn't very good. The service was good, but unfortunately the pub closes at 3.00pm.  We had to wait ages for the bus back to Bishops Waltham as the bus had broken down and was running half an hour late. We could have done with the pub still being open as this was valuable drinking time which is now lost for ever.

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

  • Pastry 3.81
  • Filling 3.98
  • Beer 4.19
  • Ambience 3.86
  • Value 3.59
  • Overall 19.44

This score is slightly down on the 2013 score, and puts The Cricketers 5th out of 5 pubs visited so far this year. There's nothing wrong with this pub, and the meal was excellent, but other pubs are better.  Our scores may have been affected by our sadness at losing Joe and paying for his share of the bill.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Wednesday 8th June 2016

The Shoe, Exton, 26th May 2016

This was a new venue Pie Club had been meaning to visit for some time so we felt it was time we did so we set off for the short taxi ride to Exton.

On arrival, we were delighted to find an excellent range of beers on parade!

The beers to choose from were: Wadsworth IPA 3.6%, Horizon 4.0%, 6X 4.1% and from the Yates Brewery, Isle of Wight' Golden 4.0%, Sunfire 4.3% and Golden Tipple 4.7% from the Long Man Brewery. All the beers were in excellent condition and reasonably priced. Our Guinness drinking member had to settle for Wadworth's own stout, Corvus, which was not as good to his taste as his normal Guinness.

After a few beers to quench our thirst we were ready for the main event, the pie! The presentation of the steak and mushroom pie was exceptional with different pastry inscriptions on each pie which was a nice touch. The pie was served in a shallow dish with a flaky pastry top, which is not always to our liking. The pies were all demolished, so they were tasty enough. They were accompanied by mustard mash and roasted vegetables.

No one was tempted to have a pudding so we retired to the lovely pub garden by the Meon river for our final pint and to wait for our return taxi.

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall)

  • Pastry 3.5
  • Filling  3.94
  • Beer    4.41
  • Ambience 4.31
  • Value 3.51
  • Overall 19.67
Thank you to everyone at the Shoe for making us so welcome on our first visit to a lovely country pub serving a fine selection of ales and a tasty pie.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

The Horse & Jockey, Curdbridge, 28th April 2016

This was a new venue for the Pie Club members so we set off for the short taxi ride to Curdbridge full of expectation.

On arrival we were given a warm welcome and got stuck into our first pint.

Being a Fullers pub there were 3 of their beers to choose from:
Seafarers 3.6%, London Pride 4.1% and HSB 4.8%. We all started on the Seafarers being the lowest strength and it is indeed an excellent session beer. All beers sampled were in good condition and served at the right temperature.
The pub was very busy with diners which to us is always a good sign.

Time seemed to fly pass, whilst sampling the beers and indulging in stimulating conversation so we were later than intended sitting down for the main event! The pie on offer was Steak and Kidney with a choice of new potatoes, dauphinoise potatoes or chips with veg of the day. Most of us opted for the dauphinoise potatoes which is something you only usually get in upmarket restaurants and a couple of us stuck to the safe bet of chips.
The pies were individual pies with an excellent short crust pasty, no soggy bottoms here, and a generous tasty filling with lots of kidney. The dauphinoise potatoes came in a block and were tasty but rather filling. It all came with an individual jug of gravy for each person - excellent!
The only problem we had was because we had to wait quite a long time for our food to arrive, due to the number of diners and the pub being a chef down we had no time for puddings as our taxi was beckoning. However, most of us were so full it would not have been a good idea!

Overall a very successful first visit to the Horse & Jockey.

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall)

  • Pastry 4.50
  • Filling  4.61
  • Beer    4.31
  • Ambience 4.17
  • Value 3.92
  • Overall 21.51
Thank you to all the staff at the Horse & Jockey for your hospitality this score puts you into the number 3 spot.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Black Dog, Waltham Chase, 31st March 2016

We previously visited the Black Dog in July 2014 and as it won Pie Club Pub of the year for it's delicious Sausage, Bacon & Black Pudding Pie we decided it was time to have a return visit to see if it had maintained its' high standards.

Several of our members are on a bit of a health kick, so they built up a bit of an appetite and a thirst by walking the 2 or 3 miles to the pub. On arrival we were given a warm welcome by the Landlord Peter and the Bar Staff and offered a good choice of ales which we were keen to try after the exertions of the walk!

There was the Black Dog Bitter 3.9%, Greene King IPA 3.6%, Cosmic English Pale Ale from the Black Hole Brewery (a new one to us) 4.2% and Abbot Ale 5%. We all started with Black Dog Bitter (except for our Guinness member) and it was very pleasant indeed. All the beers we tried were well kept and very drinkable.

Now for the main business of the day, the pie, which was a Minted Lamb and Spring Vegetable pie, perfect for this time of the year.

Although it was covered with green stuff, when Peter explained that this was actually pea shoots to compliment the peas in the pie, we were duly impressed with the thought that had gone into the preparation of this pie.
It was served with mixed vegetables and chips, with extra gravy served separately in a jug, just how we like it! Some of us would have liked a choice of potatoes, e.g. mashed, but it looked good and we could not wait to get stuck in!

The pie filling was delicious with very tender lamb and tasty spring vegetables. The short crust pastry was also excellent - not at all soggy. Some of us felt that the mint flavour was a bit overpowering whilst others felt it added to the taste of the pie - suppose it depends whether you like a lot of mint with your lamb or not! The vegetables were all nicely cooked, and all too soon our plates were clear.

Most of us had room for, and were attracted to the excellent choice of puddings.

We all thought the pie was excellent and standards were as high as on our last visit. Peter and his staff were very hospitable, there was a pleasant ambience and the service was very good.

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall)

  • Pastry 4.65
  • Filling  4.57
  • Beer    4.28
  • Ambience 4.46
  • Value 4.35
  • Overall 22.31
Congratulations to Peter and all the staff at The Black Dog this puts you into the number 1 spot at the present time with a score marginally below the 22.34 scored in 2014. There is a long way to go yet before the 2016 award but this will take some beating.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Railway Inn, Botley, 28th January 2016

We've gone past this pub (near Botley Station) often enough, but years ago Trev checked it out and reported that it wasn't our sort of place, so we never bothered with it. But having heard of a recent change of ownership Stephen and Lord North paid them a visit and decided that we needed to check it out.  

January is a time when many Pie Club members head for warmer climes, or colder climes in some cases, so a reduced number of us (7) gathered by the bus stop in Bishops Waltham Square and amused ourselves by studying the bus timetable and trying to work out if it was the X9 or the X10 that we needed to catch. We couldn't work it out so we got on the X9 when it arrived, and managed to arrive at our destination without too much trouble.

The first thing we noticed as we walked in was the selection of beers available:

The Old Speckled Hen was a bit too strong for most of us, and the Dark Side was a Stout (not to everyone's taste) so must of us stuck with the Railway Inn's Ale (3.9%, brewed by Greene King) and found it to be very acceptable. Tall Paul had Guinness as usual, and reported that that was also very acceptable. 

Pie of the Day was Steak & Mushroom, served with chips or mash, and mixed vegetables (cabbage and frozen peas), with gravy pre-applied (not the way we like it).

The pie was very good, though not exceptional. It was packed with tender,  well cooked steak, and the pastry was to our liking, though with a bit of a soggy bottom. The chips were home-made and nicely cooked, as were the vegetables. The gravy was very tasty, and the very nice waitress gave us some extra gravy in jugs, just the way we like it.

Service was good, and the very nice waitress brought us drinks at the table, which we always appreciate. Nobody (not even Stephen) had any pudding, so the meal must have been very satisfying. This is a nice clean comfortable pub. There was a wood-burning stove blazing away near the entrance, which gave a good cozy feel to the place. It's a big pub, with several seating areas inside, including one with a pool table and a large-screen TV, and we imagine that it can get a bit loud, crowded and noisy in the evenings, but it was fine for us on a mid-week lunchtime. There was loud background music on when we arrived, but they turned it off when we asked, so that's alright.

The beer was £3.60/pint, and the pies were £11 each, so value for money was not bad at all.

Scores for The Railway Inn (Max 5 in each category - total 25 overall)

Pastry - 4.17
Filling -  4.21
Beer   -  4.43
Ambience - 4.30
Value  - 4.54
Overall  - 21.65

Now this is a very respectable score, and puts the Railway Inn in 1st place among the pubs that we've visited so far this year, which is only to be expected as this is the first pub we've visited this year.