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