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Posts Tagged ‘pub food’

We’ve been to the Victoria Park many, many times since it opened in September; for a quiet drink, a lazy weekend breakfast, Sunday lunch and evening meals, so it is high time I wrote about this local (to us) treasure.

Until just a few years ago we didn’t have a really good local pub around Victoria Park. Yes, we had the Shakespeare, pleasant enough but a little rough around the edges, and a little further afield, the Windmill, but nothing on our doorstep. There was a time even that we’d cross the road so as not to have to walk past the front door of the Cumberland and the Raymend Hotel wasn’t exactly inviting. The area was crying out for a decent local pub and if it is was going to serve good, home-made, locally sourced food then all the better.

This arrived in the form of the Star and Dove. It had its teething problems since the owner was a chef, not a publican or business man and this showed, but the food was great and the atmosphere welcoming. We could finally pop round the corner for a pint and a bite to eat and know we’d get some good food at a fair price.

The pub changed hands, the ethos remained for a while but the teething problems never went away. We became disillusioned with the place and again started wishing for something better to come along. Maybe our fairy godmother waved her magic wand or perhaps the stars were aligned in our favour, or luck would just have it, I don’t know, but early last summer the now closed Raymend was showing signs of life.

The builders were in, posters appeared in the windows advertising for a chef. It was all looking positive. Several weeks and walks past later, I was caught with my nose up against the window trying to catch a glimpse of what was happening inside! The father of one of the new owners was helping out with the renovations and was only too pleased to tell me all. A group of friends, local lads, had seen the premises on the market and knowing the area was in need of a good pub decided to embark on a new venture.

Hopeful opening dates came and went as the extent of the work needed on the old, neglected building became clear but the door finally flung open to customers last September. We haven’t looked back. The pub has everything we had wanted and more.

The staff are friendly and go out of their way to accommodate your every request, so much so they were more than happy, though slightly bemused, to serve me deep-fried smoked paprika squid for dessert (well, I’m not a pudding person, am I?!).

The food, from a monthly changing menu, is cooked by head chef, Steve Gale, formerly of Harvey Nicks 2nd Floor restaurant. This is his first job as a head chef and he couldn’t be doing better. The food is seasonal, it’s local where possible, it’s value for money. It’s a well thought out combination of pub food staples, revived classic British dishes and influences from the chef’s travels around the world. The range of influences could spell disaster but the kitchen always produces a melting pot of great dishes.

The beer garden is massive, a lovely green space amongst the Victorian houses with an uninterrupted view across to Dundry. Glorious on a sunny day and soon to be enhanced with an outdoor kitchen.

Get in early for Sunday lunch to avoid disappointment and stay late into the afternoon to relax with the papers. There’s a book group meeting monthly, a Stitch and Bitch group, a mum’s and toddlers group and a quiz night. Open for coffee and cake in the mornings, sandwiches at lunch and a full menu in the evening. Three real ales on tap, local ciders, an interesting range of soft drinks and a good wine list.

Living south of the river has never been better. The Victoria Park is one more in an ever-expanding list of excellent local businesses to support.  I love it and want to shout about it…though not too loudly…I’d hate for us to have waited so long for somewhere like this to arrive and for the word to so spread quickly that we don’t get chance to really savour it!

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Christmas comes but once a year. That may be so but the Christmas celebrations are aplenty. Saturday was our second of five Christmas meals this year!

It has become a tradition that one weekend in December we meet up with a friend of ours, Phil, for Christmas food and drinks. Each year we choose a different local gastropub or restaurant and on Saturday it was the turn of the relatively newly opened Hall & Woodhouse in Bath.

Hall & Woodhouse are the Dorset brewers famed for Badger Ales so we knew the drink would be good at least. We got off to a great start with a pint each of Pickled Partridge, full of Christmassy flavour but not too dark and heavy like many seasonal ales. The conversation flowed as well as the beer and our attention turned to lunch. Local produce and Badger Ales are abound on the winter menu which was well thought out with plenty of choice but not so much to render a decision impossible. My eyes instantly fell upon the “Stargazy” pie, as did Phil’s, and Jed plumped for one of his favourites, chicken and ham pie.

“Stargazy” written as such because the Hall & Woodhouse pie isn’t a traditional one made with pilchards, sardine or mackerel but is authentic in its presentation with a crayfish poking up through the pastry, gazing at the stars. The pie was filled with crayfish, prawns, scallops, monkfish, smoked haddock and new potatoes in a white wine and herb sauce and was topped with puff pastry. It was decadent and very tasty, the only thing letting it down was that there just wasn’t enough sauce. It was all gone by the time I’d made it half way through.

Jed’s chicken and ham pie consisted of hand torn chicken, ham hock, carrots, shallots and greens braised in a white wine and herb sauce, topped with puff pastry and served with olive oil mash. It was a comforting pie but strangely accompanied by a rich beef gravy. Our waitress explained that the little jug of gravy had been added to the dish because comments had been returned to the kitchen that some sauce was needed with the mash. Hopefully our comments of replacing the beef gravy with some of the liquor from the pie or adding a spoon to the tray to allow you to spoon some of the sauce from the pie over the mash were also passed on!

Whilst Phil and I tucked into the West Country cheese board, Jed finished with a trifle like no other trifle I’ve seen before! This one with Blandford Fly ale and sticky toffee pudding within. It must have been good because it wasn’t around for long! 

                                        

We had a great afternoon and were looked after very well by our waitress. It’s a shame she left before we did but we were assured our tip was put on one side for her. Merry Christmas and we hope to see you again!

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We spent the weekend with friends who had rented a cottage for a week near Radstock. We arrived famished on Friday evening in the pitch black and pouring rain after having lost our bearings twisting and turning our way through the narrow lanes. We’d have to wait until morning to see the idyllic surroundings in which we found ourselves, and so with the promise of a glass of red and food warming in the oven, we quickly unpacked the car.

Our friends had spent the day visiting local farm shops and had picked up tonight’s dinner along the way. We tucked in to hand-made Scotch eggs, giant herby pork sausage rolls, deep-filled and chunky chicken and bacon pie, fresh baked bread and salad from White Row Country Foods in Beckington. If ever there’s a need to defend Great British produce and cooking, farm shops like White Row come to the rescue. This one is definitely worth a day trip for the sausage rolls alone!

On Saturday we awoke to see a stream running past the front of the house, goats and sheep grazing in the back garden and a view across luscious green fields. We set ourselves up for a walk to the public house in the village (not much effort involved with it only being a five minute walk!) with brunch of American pancakes with maple syrup. With local ales and ciders on tap we could have stayed all afternoon but returned instead to our temporary homestead to watch the rugby joined by two more friends (Wales v Australia and Wales lost, in case you’re interested!). After the torments of the match we refueled with that Great British classic cottage pie.

Before heading our separate ways today we stopped in the next village, Lower Vobster, for lunch at the Vobster Inn. This 16th century inn for travellers has a menu which shows off the best of British produce – cheese, seafood and game were highlights on today’s specials board.

 

We had starters of crab soup, creamy with a deep, rich flavour from both the white and brown crab meat; terrine of wild mallard, beautiful layers of duck and duck liver bound in a fresh herb jelly and served with a home-made brioche; and scallops, seared to perfection, served with white and black pudding and bubble and squeak.

For main course we had roast pheasant breast with pheasant boudin wrapped in proscuitto, saute potatoes and spinach; home-made beef burger with chunky chips and tomato salsa; and slow roast lamb with potatoes and vegetables.

We finished with a trio of fruit sorbet, warm chocolate brownie with ice cream and sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce and ice cream.

                                    

This isn’t a modern gastropub, it’s a good old-fashioned pub which champions great British produce, simply but very well cooked. All jaunts in the countryside should end at a pub like this!

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