Pubs - the topic
Posted 30 July 2012 - 08:29 AM
Although it’s a pleasant enough drive, if it wasn’t for its entry in the Good Food Guide, we wouldn’t have been making a nearly 60 minute schlep to have lunch there. And, truth be told, having eaten there, you really do wonder about its slot in the Guide. There must be many dining pubs that offer up this sort of food and, even in our limited experience, we know that there’s a goodly number can do it better. Some can do in much better and, seemingly, still not find a place in the Guide.
It’s a pleasant enough pub, away from the main village, with most of the space set out for eating but the second smaller room retained for drinkers. There’s a decent looking dining pub carte, as well as a very good value set menu offering two courses for a tenner. But it was towards the carte and specials board that we looked.
Ham hock and chicken terrine was OK. A tad cold from the fridge – a midweek lunchtime service must be their quiet time so they probably don’t get stuff out unless there’s a customer (we were the only ones). There was toast, a little bit of salad garnish and some homemade piccalilli which was mustard zingy, as you’d hope, but the vegetables were soft.
Cream of broccoli soup looked the business but tasted of pretty much nothing. The accompanying bread was oddly crisp on its upper side – at a guess, the plate had sat for a while under the hot lights of the pass.
Speaking of sitting for a while, that’s exactly what we now did. For quite a while. In due course, an explanation and apology came. It was my chips that were the problem. Not the chips themselves, but rather the cooking of them. The fryer had either gone on the blink or had not actually been switched on. When they finally came, they were pretty good, sitting alongside a juicy, tasty piece of flat iron steak. Google tells me this is an American term for something Brits call “butler’s steak”. Well, not this Brit – I’d never heard of either description before. I’d like to see it on more menus so I can order it again. Also on the plate, the classic accompaniments of mushrooms and tomato. And a béarnaise sauce that simply wasn’t like any béarnaise I’ve had before, nor want to again – I wasn’t quite sure what it tasted of, but it was perhaps an attempt at a flavoured butter – which might have been an OK substitute if only it had properly tasted of tarragon, instead of the herb only being wafted in its direction.
On the other plate, slow cooked lamb shoulder was as good as you’d hope to cook yourself at home. There was some thinly sliced creamed cabbage. And what the menu said was going to be dauphinoise potatoes, but wasn’t. Instead, a single small piece of potato, perhaps roasted a bit, or deep fried.
Desserts? No thanks, we’ll pass and get coffee and a biscuit at home.
Posted 14 August 2012 - 07:08 AM
Hurley has its own River Thames regatta, presumably trying to emulate its better known near neighbour at Henley. And we only ended up here because Henley was heaving on this lovely Sunday lunchtime and there was nowhere to park.
The Olde Bell seems a deservedly popular village pub, offering a range of food options. There was a well priced traditional three course Sunday roast in the restaurant. Outside, there were BBQ offerings of posh burgers and the like. But, with a Michelin three star dinner in front of us, we just needed something fairly light and simple. So, we opted for the bar menu – mainly sandwiches but with some other bits and bobs thrown in. Like a Welsh rarebit – two slices of thick bloomer, tangy cheese and mustard and a slice of bacon on each piece of toast. Like a ploughman’s – three cheeses on offer (Colston Bassett Stilton, Lincolnshire Poacher and a Cornish brie), together with a ham version. I went with the Poacher – a good sized portion, excellent granary seeded bread, homemade pickle, a little salad, apple, pickled walnut and a sprinkling of capers.
No, we hadn’t tested the kitchen’s capabilities but, sometimes, simple is good.
Posted 24 August 2012 - 06:16 AM
Posted 21 September 2012 - 09:46 AM
Doesn’t time fly? I’d never have thought it was three years since we last ate here but my notes confirm it is. Things don’t seem to have changed, except that it’s clearly busier. Lunchtime saw us scratching round for a free table. Other than that, there’s still a good looking menu and staff who are friendly and know what’s what about serving pub food.
Life had interrupted our plans for the day and we only had time for a main course. But they were pretty good.
There were two Gruyere, spinach, potato and olive cakes – think veggie fishcakes for appearance. Tasty and pretty good for a veggie fishcake. They were coated in walnut crumbs fried to a nice crispness. So far, so good. They sat on a butterbean casserole – beans, a well flavoured tomato sauce, topped with strips of roasted red pepper. It worked well.
The burger was a good ‘un. Half a pound of decent beef, topped with bacon, cheddar, lettuce, onion, tomato and gherkin. It was a big lad. Too big, in fact, for the soft pappy bun which proceeded to fall apart as soon as I picked it up. Alongside, decent chips –proper chip sized chips and none of your fries or “fat” chips. A dollop of creamy coleslaw and another dollop of a slightly too sweet tomato chutney completed a very full plate. Good effort and I thoroughly enjoyed it – even if some of the more gloopy bits fell off the bread onto my shirt.
Posted 19 November 2012 - 05:33 AM
Quite a find in an area without many options. We were originally going to try the Inn at Grinshall in ...erm ... Grinshill, which gets a good write up in the Hardens Guide, but they weren't serving food (and it was a Saturday lunch time). I think there might have been a wedding on or something - I certainly don't think the red carpet outside was on our behalf.
Anyway, we decided to continue our drive South on the A49 and take pot luck at the first pub that looked half decent. We stopped at the Saracen, which is right on the main road in the village of Hadnall. We nearly didn't go in because, looking at their menus outside, it looked like they only did full-on three course meals or tasting menus, and we only wanted a snack, as we were having a big meal that evening.
But we went in and asked if they did small dishes or snacks, and they produced their "Express Menu", which is served at lunch times. It reads very like a brunch-type menu, but it looked interesting,so we gave it a go. I had the Saracens Salmon Bagel - perfectly cooked scrambled duck egg with smoked salmon on half a bagel, with a little thin creamy sauce - rich and satisfying, it hit the spot. My partner had the Eggs Benedict, which was also great - duck egg again, with a lovely hollandaise and bacon too.
This isn't much to judge a place by, but we were very impressed. Even though we were only having a snack, we were nicely surprised by the amuse bouches they brought to the table before our meals - they brought me a beignet with apple and something else I can't remember, which was delicious, and for my husband (who has recently discovered a wheat intolerance) a spoonful of crab and mayonaise, which was also spot on. They also had gluten-free bread to replace the muffin his dish was supposed to come with. The lads serving were lovely and trying hard to provide restaurant service rather than pub-type service. I'm not bothered about having formal service - I prefer things to be informal - but they are clearly aiming at a fine dining type experience for customers while still being friendly and approachable.
The chef is Jason Hodnett - I didn't know his name, but he's had something to do with Masterchef in the past. They have apparently had a bit of a makeover in the kitchen and it looks like they have high aspirations. We ate in the bar - which is small, but perfectly formed, but the only part of the building which still feels like a pub. The rest is very much a restaurant - there is a garden/conservatory dining room at the back, and a lovely light and elegant but simple room at the front.
We will definitely stop here if we are driving down this side of the country from Liverpool - and it's also probably near enough for a lunch before a long walk if we fancy a day out in the countryside.
I've got a feeling after writing this that I'll get loads of replies from people saying that it's been well known as a destination restaurant for years. Oh well - maybe we haven't "discovered" it for other people, but we've discovered it for ourselves!
Edited by MacD, 19 November 2012 - 05:34 AM.