Thursday, 7 December 2017

The Kings Head, Wickham, 30th November 2017

Surprisingly, considering it is only 4 miles down the road from Bishops Waltham, we had never had a Pie Club event in Wickham, so we decided to take ourselves off to the Kings Head which has a good reputation and was offering us a choice of 3 pies! So we set off on the short bus journey to Wickham.

The Kings Head is a Fullers pub so we were faced with the choice of 4 of their beers on arrival.

London Pride 4.1%, HSB 4.8%, Damson Porter 4.6% and Seafarers 3.6%. Most of us opted to start with the Seafarers as this is a good session beer. We had pre-selected our pie choices from Steak and Kidney, Steak and Ale and Chicken Ham and Leek. However, the Steak and Kidney was no longer available so we were offered a Venison and Ox Cheek pudding instead which was more than acceptable.

They were accompanied by mash potatoes and/or chips with some rather al dente kale sandwiched in between - in fact rather too al dente for most of us! There was plenty of gravy on the plates but no additional jugs........
Overall the pies were of a very good standard with good short crust pastry and substantial fillings. It was felt that for the price there could have been a better selection of vegetables.
There were a good selection of puddings e.g. Spotted Dick, Bakewell Tart which a few of us indulged in.
We then relaxed in the comfy sofas for a while to sample some of the other beers on offer, which were all in good condition, before catching the bus back to Bishops Waltham, and the now regular post Pie Club drink in the Crown ( for some of us!).

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry          4.36
  • Filling         4.44
  • Beer            4.37
  • Ambience   4.45
  • Value          3.70
  • Total         21.32
This puts the Kings Head in 6th position for the year.

Congratulations to the Bakers Arms in Droxford which is the 2017 Pie Club Pub of the Year. We shall be arranging a visit in February 2018 to present the certificate and of course sample once again their excellent pies.
A Happy Christmas and a Pie Filled New Year to all!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Milburys Beauworth, 26th October 2017

We had not visited the Milburys before so as we waited for our taxi in Bishops Waltham we were eagerly anticipating what would be on offer. Eventually the taxi arrived some 20 minutes late so we were all ready for our pre-pie beers by the time we arrived at the pub.

We were greeted by Martin the Landlord who soon got to work in pulling our pints. There were three real ales on offer:
Milburys Best Bitter at 4%, Flack Manor Wolfie and Flack Manor TPA at 5.3%.

Our eyes lit up when we were told that there were 4 pies on offer to choose from:
Steak and Kidney Pudding, Steak and Ale Pie, Chicken and Ham Pie and Game Pie.
Steak and kidney pudding is a rare treat for us so everyone elected to go for that one which was a shame really as the others all sounded good and in particular the game pie. Still, gives us an excused to go back again.
The pies duly arrived and came with a choice of chips or new potatoes with a selection of vegetables and individual jugs of gravy on the side, just as we like it!

The pudding was actually baked but the suet pastry was indeed very tasty and held the meat contents without getting soggy. We felt that there could have been a bit more filling but that is one of the downsides of individual pies, you get more pastry but less filling!
Having finished the pies we enquired about the dessert menu only to be told that the kitchen was closed! So for pudding we had halfs of the TPA at 5.3% whilst waiting for our taxi for the return journey, which arrived early, and the Crown.

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry       4.31
  • Filling      3.94
  • Beer         4.13
  • Ambience4.00
  • Value       4.46
  • Total      20.84
This puts the Milburys in 6th place overall for the year, a very good showing on a first visit. Our thanks to Martin for an entertaining lunchtime.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Thomas Lord West Meon, 28th September 2017

This was our first ever visit to this popular country pub so we left Bishops Waltham in our taxi full of anticipation.
The Thomas Lord is now part of the Upham Brewerys' estate of pubs so we were looking forward to sampling a range of their beers and of course the pie!

On arrival we were faced with a choice of four beers, three from Upham and one guest beer:
Punter - 4%, Stakes - 4.8%, Autumn Leaves - 4.3% and the guest beer, Pennine Amber Necter - 3.8%.

So we got stuck into sampling the beers, which were all in fine condition, while we waited for pie time, which was a steak and mushroom pie.
When the pies arrived they looked very tempting, all served in traditional individual enamel pie dishes. They were accompanied by a small blob of mashed potato and a good selection of vegetables. When tucking into the pie we were a little disappointed to discover that the only pastry was the top, no sides or bottom. There are advantages to this type of pie as you get more filling than pastry and no soggy bottoms - and much more healthy than the traditional pie. However, as a club that is serious about its pies we do prefer the full monty. However, it must be said that the pastry topping was very good and the filling was plentiful and succulent with lots of gravy - we did not get to use the additional jugs of gravy (which we like).

Only two of the group were tempted by the desserts, of which there was a very good choice.

So the rest of us finished our beers until the taxi arrived to take us back to Bishops Waltham.

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry        3.43
  • Filling       4.47 
  • Beer          4.18
  • Ambience 4.0
  • Value        3.25
  • Total       19.33
This puts the Thomas Lord in 7th place out of the 8 pubs visited so far in 2017. Although the contents of the pie were good the lower pastry score reflects that it was not a traditional pie. There were many other diners in the pub, very busy for a mid-week lunchtime, who all seemed to be enjoying the wide choice of food available from the menu.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Dancing Man, Southampton, 31st August 2017

For our August outing Pieman decided that we should try something a little bit different and venture somewhere that we had never been before, so he organised a trip to The Dancing Man Brewery at the bottom of Bugle Street in the depths of old Southampton. This place had been recommended to us on the basis that it has its own brewery, a choice of at least 12 draught beers, and a choice of 3 traditional-style pies, so looked very promising.

It being the holiday season our numbers were somewhat reduced. so a select gathering of 6 gentlemen  members plus special guest Kevin ventured onto the X10 bus in Southampton full of anticipation. It's a 40 minute bus ride, so by the time we arrived at Bargate some people were getting impatient, and there were many cries of "Are we nearly there yet?" from certain gentlemen. As we walked down Bugle Street we passed several pubs along the way, and Pieman had his work cut out maintaining discipline so that we could arrive at The Dancing Man in good shape.

The Dancing Man is located in what used to be the old Maritime Museum, a fine old building on 2 floors with a bar (and the brewery) on the ground floor, and a restaurant upstairs. Time was getting on and we wanted our pies, so we headed straight upstairs. There we found an ample choice of at least 12 draught beers (too many to list here), including beers brewed on the premises, and guest beers.

You might think that for veteran beer drinkers such as us this would be like heaven, but actually we were rather flummoxed by having too much choice, and didn't know where to start. The very helpful and quite delightful barmaid, Sandra,  helped as best she could by offering us samples, but in the end we made more-or-less random choices, knowing that our usual approach of starting with the lighter beers and working our way up to the stronger ones would be impractical if we wanted to ever get out of there that day. The ales are all unfined, which was not to everyone's liking, but most of them went down very well. The only ale that did not work for us was the Congo Driftwood, but of course we should have known that an ale made with mango and pineapple would be dodgy, so we only have ourselves to blame there. We should have remembered one of our useful rules of thumb: Never drink beers with strange ingredients.

As for the pies, we had a choice of three:

Half of us opted for the steak pie, and half went for the chicken pie. Obviously nobody wanted the vegetarian pie! The pies all came with new potatoes, mixed vegetables (kale and baby carrots), and gravy served separately in jugs on the side, just the way we like it.

As can be seen above, the pies were very large. The fillings were very tasty, with large pieces of tender meat and a creamy gravy.  Although the pastry looked good, there was something seriously wrong with it. It was brittle, overcooked, and tasted odd.  There was too much pastry to go with the filling, which did not fill up the pastry casings - there was an air gap at the top. The vegetables (kale and baby carrots) were fresh and nicely cooked, as were the new potatoes, which were nicely seasoned with herbs. There was only one type of gravy available - it was a bit gloopy and didn't really go with the chicken.

There was a pudding menu, but most of us did not bother. Two of us had the Eton Mess, which was ok, but a bit small.

We liked the ambience of the place. We had a great view out of the window and we were able to see lots of shipping go past. The staff were pleasant, and the service was good. It was busy, but not overcrowded. The pies were not cheap (£15 for the steak, £14 for the chicken). The beers cost around £4/pint, which is probably normal for Southampton and not too bad. 

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry         2.17
  • Filling        3.33
  • Beer           4.00
  • Ambience  3.83
  • Value         3.45
  • Overall    16.78
This score puts the Dancing Man in 7th place out of the 7 pubs that we have visited so far this year. This is a shame as the beers are mostly very good and a place like The Dancing Man should do well with so much choice for a serious beer drinker, but, sorry, the pies were seriously not up to standard.  We had a bus to catch, so we had to cut short our stay at the Dancing Man, but on our way back up Bugle Street we decided we could catch a later bus and try out the Duke of Wellington. This was much more to our liking (although the food menu did not look very enticing).  Eventually we managed to catch the bus back to Bishops Waltham, and despite some gentlemen's concerns we managed to put off any comfort breaks until we got back to The Crown.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The Robin Hood, Durley, 27th July 2017

We had visited this popular pub in Durley on two previous occasions so we thought it would be a good opportunity for another visit coupled with a nice summers walk. Unfortunately, heavy rain was forecast, although this did not materialise, we took the short bus ride from Bishops Waltham.

On arrival it was already very busy but we managed to fight our way to the bar to the selection of beers.
On offer, was Robin Hood Bitter,3.9%, we understand brewed by Greene King for the pub, Wadworths Dirty Rucker, 4% and Trumans Runner, 4%. All the beers tried were in good condition.

The pie on offer to us was homemade Lamb, Rosemary and Garlic so we retired to our table in anticipation!

The pie portions were cut from one large pie, which we like as it results in more filling than pastry. The pastry top was latticed which we had not experienced before but as a Pie Club we are always looking for something out of the ordinary. It came with mash or chips and a good selection of fresh vegetables and extra gravy on the side, just as we like it!

The pie had plenty of filling but we felt not all of the flavours from the rosemary and garlic got through but overall a decent pie accompanied with very good fresh veg. Plates were cleared but there was still room for some of the group to choose from the excellent choice of desserts on offer.

As the weather was now dry, the more active members of the group elected to walk back to Bishops Waltham. The others returned in various forms of transport not all traditional!

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry         2.97
  • Filling        4.17
  • Beer           4.39
  • Ambience  3.99
  • Value         4.46
  • Overall    19.98
Our thanks to everyone at the Robin Hood for a most enjoyable lunch.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The Bakers Arms, Droxford, 29th June 2017

We had previously visited The Bakers Arms in November 2013 so we thought it was time to visit this award winning pub again. The Bakers Arms has won Hampshire Food Pub of the year awards and also awards for it's Sunday roasts so with this impressive record we were eagerly looking forward to the pies.
Four of our group had decided to take advantage of the lovely summer weather to attempt the 8 mile round walk from Bishops Waltham with four others making their own way to the pub.
We arrived at the pub spot on opening time and the first pint of Bowman's Swift One went down very nicely, thank you!

The other beers on offer were Bowman's Wallops Wood, 4% and Ringwood Old Thumper, 5.1%.

We had really been spoilt as there were 4 pies on offer to choose from, Pulled Pork and Chorizo, Ham Hock, Leek and Mustard, Chicken and Wild Mushroom and Steak and Kidney. As you can imagine with such a fine choice this was going to take some time for us to make our choices so we had another beer to help us on our way! Amazingly, when we had finally made our decisions we had managed to cover all 4 pies across the 8 of us!
The pies were all individual pies and came with a choice of mashed potatoes or chunky chips with a selection of vegetables.

All pies had shortcrust pastry with a slightly flaky pastry top and were stuffed full with succulent fillings and everyone agreed that they were indeed excellent pies. Surprisingly, some of us still had room for puddings, but maybe that was the walkers stocking up for the return walk to Bishops Waltham!
There was a good selection of puddings including Treacle Tart, Crème Brullee and Apple and Pear Crumble.
After taking part in a photo-shoot for the pubs new website the walkers, joined by Michael, looking dressed for the part in his work suit(!), headed off on the return leg of the walk, stopping for refreshments at the Hampshire Bowman.

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry        4.65
  • Filling        4.815
  • Beer           4.55
  • Ambience  4.7
  • Value         4.66   
  • Overall      23.375
Thank you to Caroline and everyone at The Bakers Arms for an excellent lunch and congratulations on an excellent score which nudges The Bakers Arms into the lead in the race to be 2017 Pie Club Pub of the Year.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Brickmakers, Swanmore, 25th May 2017

We had visited the Brickmakers on three previous occasions and it has a special place in our hearts as it was the venue of the first meeting of the Pie Club over 6 years ago - when there were just 3 members!
So it is always good to go back and four of us set out from Bishops Waltham on a warm Spring day for the short walk to Swanmore through the meadows and the nature reserve.

On arrival we were informed that two of the beers on handpumps had just finished and their replacements were not quite ready but the very helpful young lady managing the bar was able to offer us Jennings Redskin @ 3.9% and Fullers London Pride @4% both very acceptable. So the thirsty walkers settled for a pint of the very refreshing Jennings Redskin while we waited for the others to arrive.

There was a choice of pies on offer, Chicken, Ham and Leek or Venison served with mash or chips and a selection of vegetables.
Both pies were nicely presented and had been served from proper large pies which is just as we like it as you get more meat to pastry ratio. Impressively, the pies came with a different gravy, a chicken gravy for the chicken pie and a meat gravy for the venison - just as it should be. Both pies had ample succulent fillings with a good shortcrust pastry and silence descended as the plates were quickly demolished!


As the 3 founder members had all had significant birthdays during the month we felt it appropriate that we should celebrate with desserts of which there was an excellent selection:

Having cleared the desserts we felt that we were in no fit condition to start the walk back to Bishops Waltham so we retired to the garden to wash down the food with a couple more pints.
Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry        4.39
  • Filling       4.74
  • Beer          4.59 
  • Ambience 4.66
  • Value        4.15
  • Overall   22.525
Congratulations to everyone at the Brickmakers as this is an improvement of a previous score of 21.92 on our last visit in July 2015 and many thanks for providing us with an excellent lunch and great hospitality once again.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Bucks Head, Meonstoke, 27th April 2017

Several of our members have fond memories of our last visit to The Bucks Head, Meonstoke, which we last visited in 2014, which remains unique in the annals of the Pie Club as it was the only time where we have been presented with 2 pies. On that occasion the Bucks Head was (sadly from their point of view) pipped at the post in the final reckonings for 2014, coming 2nd to our all-time favourite pub, The Wheatsheaf in Shedfield, by a mere 0.02 points. Ever since then some of us have felt that it would be the decent thing to do, to give the Bucks Head another shot for glory, so here we were!

It being a lovely sunny day, Eric, Nigel, Lord North, Mike & Si set off on the long cross-country trek from  Bishops Waltham, ably led by Nick along a 7km route carefully avoiding The Hampshire Bowman for all the obvious reasons.  It was a long walk, and certainly when we crested the brow of the last hill and saw the pub in front of us we had worked up quite a thirst and an appetite, so we sped down the hill as fast as we could.

We were joined in the pub by fellow member Gordon, who is lucky enough to count this pub as his local, and who organised this outing.  We immediately set about deciding which beers to try first. 

There was a choice of  Greene King IPA, and 2 ales which were new to us: Belhaven Wembley 67 and Oakham Ales JHB. Most of us followed what has become our usual convention of choosing to try the lightest ale first, then working our way up to the stronger stuff.  So we tried the JHB (Jeffrey Hudson Bitter) first, and found that it was very acceptable (as, indeed, were the other ales).  By now we were beginning to worry about our vegan member, who had told us that he would definitely be taking time off from work to join us for this outing, but there was not yet any sign of him.

As we were quenching our thirst, our lovely host Nicki explained what she had in store for us this time. It was a pulled lamb pie served with roast and mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.  Just as it was about to be brought to the table a car pulled up outside, and out tumbled our vegan friend, who had been given a lift to the pub by his boss! He was only just in time. After that commotion we all quickly settled down at the table to wait for the pie. As we took our seats we noticed with approval the condiments which had already been set out on the table, including two types of mustard, and some mint sauce.

When the pie arrived there were gasps of appreciation from all around.  The chef had been expecting 11 of us, so he had prepared a pie large enough to satisfy 11 hungry men. But only 7 of us had turned up! Would we be able to handle it?

The pie came with ample accompaniments: 

Two dishes of mixed vegetables, gravy served separately in jugs (just the way we like it), and mashed and roasted potatoes.  Nobody felt confident enough to have a go at dividing the pie up into 7 equal portions (Joe would normally volunteer for this job, but sadly he is no longer with us as he has fled the country), so we summoned the chef, and after to congratulating him on his magnificent pie, asked him to do the honours.

 When served out, the final result was a dish fit for kings.

And we were 7 happy men.

As for the question that was raised earlier - would we be able to handle such a big pie? - Of course we would!

Our considered opinion was that the pie was excellent. It was in a deep 12" dish, lined and capped with perfectly-cooked pastry,  packed with tender lean meat and just the right amount of gravy, and the roast potatoes were the best ever. The vegetables were so good that we ate nearly all of them.  Some felt that the pie filling was a bit too sweet, but that was easily remedied by adding mint sauce to cut through the sweetness.

You might think that after such a satisfying meal, we'd have no room for puddings, but as there was such a good choice, of course we did.

We all thought the meal was excellent, and we really appreciated the effort that Nicki, Shaun, and the chef made for us.  The pub itself has a very good ambience, having recently been refurbished very tastefully. The food and beer were reasonably priced, with the beer at around £3.95/pint, and the pies at £13 each, so we felt it was good value for money, although we noticed that prices had gone up a bit since our previous visit. Nicki took the edge off the pricing by presenting us with complimentary glasses of port as she gave us the bill. We were pleased to see that she'd taken some notice of the advice we gave her on our previous visit, when we suggested that a round of port would finish us off nicely!  

Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 4.79
  • Filling 4.64
  • Beer 4.61
  • Ambience 4.64
  • Value 4.6
  • Overall 23.29

Congratulations to Nicki & Shaun, your score in 2014 was 22.32, so once again you have excelled yourselves and raised the quality of your pies to another level.  Thank you for a most enjoyable meal.

Unfortunately the taxi that was supposed to take us all home failed to turn up, so we had to walk all the way back home - another 7km walk after such a big meal! But it wasn't such a hardship - this time we stopped that the Hampshire Bowman, but that's another story.