Friday, 16 November 2018

PIZZA AT SPOON'S?



  We don't usually get too involved with chain pubs, but despite what some may think, I believe Wetherspoons does it better than most.
Their selection of drinks puts most other pubs to shame, not to mention the prices. We shall ignore the price of a pint for now though, as it's not a fair playing field when up against your average pub. Let us instead turn our attention to the food.
Wetherspoons have allways done food, and it has not allways been good. I remember the early years when the food was cheap, and tasted as much. However, over time, they have improved. What I really respect about Wetherspoons is their honest selfapraisel. For example, they tried to do roast dinners. At some point, someone high up the power chain realised that their roast dinners weren't that good, so they stopped doing them. They want to provide food of a decent quality that can be served quickly. You can't make a quick and easy roast dinner that's worth eating. Instead they focus on themed nights, where food can be prepared in bulk whilst maintaining a respectable level of quality.
The latest addition to the Wetherspoon menu is the pizza, and a few weeks back I ordered one. As with most Wetherspoons meals, their pizza is available as a deal which includes a drink, either soft or alcoholic. I chose a BBQ chicken pizza with a pint. This cost me, wait for it......£7.50. Now, in most pubs, this would be enough to scare me away from the menu, but Wetherspoons is different. I've eaten there many times, and rarely have I been disappointed. I am glad to say that this was also the case with my pizza. It was freshly made and tasty. I would have liked the base a bit crisper, but it's not a deal breaker, especially for the price. They have also branched out in to the takeaway market. This obviously doesn't stretch to delivery, but if you want to pick up a pizza to take home, you'd be pushed to find better value.
In summary, as a pub, it's worth being picky as to which Wetherspoons you visit, some being much nicer than others, but the food remains pretty consistent. I welcome the addition of pizza to the menu, and it once again highlights the ambition to deliver good food with maximum efficiency.

Friday, 26 October 2018

THE RAFT ROCKS - Hurst Road, Milford on Sea





On another ridiculously sunny October day, Rachel and I decided to pay a visit to The Raft Rocks in Milford on Sea. We had been many times before in its previous guise in Milford high street, but I hadn't been since it's move to the sea front.

We arrived fairly late for lunch, but luckily for us the kitchen hadn't quite closed, and we were told that if we got our orders in quick we would be alright. Before the food, let's talk about the place itself. There is outdoor seating with a view over the sea, and out to the isle of Wight, but we opted for an inside table. The restaurant is surrounded by large windows, allowing the light to flood in. There is a cool, relaxed vibe to the whole place, with a reggae playlist lending a calm, holiday feeling to the atmosphere. The food on offer includes burgers, pizza's, fish and chips and many other offerings. But don't be fooled by the standard sound of the menu. Everything here is homemade, with classy twists lifting the dishes above the norm.

We picked out a booth, which gives you a sense of having your own space without shutting you off from the rest of the restaurant. I picked out the chicken and brie burger, while Rachel went for the fish and chips. These, along with two Coke's, came in at £30, which isn't bad at all for a good quality feed by the sea. The service was friendly and exemplary throughout, and it wasn't too long before our food arrived. The only stumbling block was the shortage of brie for my burger. But it was dealt with well, and I was asked if I would be alright with cheddar instead.

Rachel's fish and chips were delicious. The perfect fish was kept company by some homemade chips and a pea fritter, nice little twist there. Not forgetting the home made tartar sauce. My burger was lovely. A beautifully cooked chicken breast with melted cheese, served with the same chips, as well as a beautifully dressed side salad and a small pot of homemade coleslaw. We were both very happy, and could find nothing to take issue with.

This is a very cool place. The staff are helpful and professional, something which is surprisingly rare. The food is excellent and imaginative, and the restaurant itself is a great place to be. The biggest achievement for me, is that this is all accomplished without overcharging. The prices are perfectly fair, and once you have been here, you will want to come back and tell your friends about it.

Atmosphere          9
Service                 10
Food                    8.5
Value                   8
Verdict                 5*


Wednesday, 17 October 2018

THE LORD RAGLEN - 35 Queen Street, Emsworth





Wanting to make the most of some unseasonal warmth, Dad and I took the chance to journey to a pub that's been on our, "Pubs to visit when the sun's out", list. The pub in question was The Lord Raglen, and the reason for its good weather priority, was down to the secret garden, but more on that in a bit.

If you've been to Emsworth before, you will know that parking can be a touch troublesome at times. This looked to be the case when we rolled in to town, our chosen pub not having its own car park. Then the pub God's smiled upon us, suddenly granting us a space almost right outside the pub. We entered in to an establishment in the midst of a refresh/refurb, so pausing only to collect drinks, and wiz through the menu and specials board, we aimed ourselves squarely at the secret garden. The petty cynic inside us pointing out that it wasn't really secret because there was a sign advertising its presence.

A main meal here will set you back on average a very standard £11. That was borne out by the total cost of both our meals, £22. Being near the water, I did as I so often do, pick the fish and chips. Dad also went classic, with the gamin, egg and chips.

The secret garden isn't by any stretch the nicest pub garden you will come across, but you can't grumble about the location. Just yards from the end of the garden is the water's edge, bringing with it that invigorating sent of the ocean. We sat on our wooden table soaking up the sun, finding it hard to believe that we were in October. The time before our food arrived was approaching the food event horizon, when time subconsciously ticks past the point of expectation. We have discussed this before, and reckon that once you start getting close to 15 minutes, you can feel the switch moving in your head, telling you that it's been a while since you ordered. I can best describe my fish and chips as good. I was given a good sized peace of fish which wasn't over cooked. The chips were good, if not homemade. It was all good, and priced just about right. My only minor niggle was the absence of tartar sauce on my plate, preferably in a nice little pot, and even more preferably, homemade. Instead I had to make do with a basket of those little packs of sauce that I can never open. This also included salt and pepper, though their packaging was infinitely easier to get in to. Dad's meal was also good, everything being cooked well enough without inspiring gasps of incredulity.

In essence, our trip to The Raglen was good, much of that value put down to the weather and the gardens location. That's not to say there was anything wrong with the other elements of our experience. The service was good, the food was good, and the prices were fair. I did notice that there was no music in the pub, which would have bothered me if we had eaten inside. We have nothing bad to say about The Lord Raglen, and would recommend a trip to the garden when the sun is out. This is what we would call a good solid pub. It isn't in need of rescue, neither is it pushing for excellence.

Atmosphere          7
Service                 7
Food                    7
Value                   7
Verdict                 3.5*

www.facebook.com/gastrohub

Saturday, 13 October 2018

VILLAGE HOTEL PUB & GRILL - Lakeshore Drive, Cosham




 
Today's adventure is brought to you in conjunction with my sister Emily, and her lovely man, Mr Rob. Emily suggested we try The Village Hotel, and always keen to try something new, I was happy to jump on board with the idea. This is a relatively new place, built in 2017. It is obviously a hotel, but part of it's substantial edifice given over to the pub and grill, and that dear readers is where we headed.

My first impression was that this is less a pub, and more a diner, all be it a very nice diner. This feeling lent weight by the tiled floor and neon signage. We had no trouble getting a table, which incidentally had very nice and comfortable chairs. We did have to wait a little while for menu's to appear, but that just gave us some extra time to assess. There was a good number of staff in view, which made me feel that orders would be taken from our table, this isn't the case. If you want something, it's a good old fashioned trip to the bar.

The menu was fairly sizeable, including a good selection of burgers, as well as your pub classics, wraps, and ribs. There were only three desert options though, each served curiously in a mug. Your choice is chocolate mousse, lemon cheese cake or crembrulet, each coming in at just under £6. Most main meals were around £12, which is pretty standard now a days.

I selected the Hawaiian stack burger. This was comprised of two flattened chicken breasts with pineapple, accompanied by the obligatory fries, with the option of an upgrade to sweet potato fries. Rob went for the American stack. This saw two beef burgers joined in a bun by bacon and, wait for it, peanut butter. Emily picked the half rack of ribs, which came with fries and coleslaw.

When it arrived, the food looked pretty good, and indeed tasted pretty good. The insides of the burgers were straining against the confines of their respective buns, the chicken was juicy, with a nice char grilled edge. I'm assured that the peanut butter burger was delicious, and that the ribs were also very good. The fries were just fries. Nothing to get excited about, but equally, nothing to be disappointed with. I will always advocate and champion the use of homemade fries/chips, but unfortunately my dream world full of delicious homemade chips is nothing more than a wild fantasy.

My sister was adamant that we were to have deserts, so Rob and I jumped on the sweet train, not wanting to seem rude. We both had the cheesecake, while Emily had the chocolate mousse. This I'm afraid is where the negative rears its head. Considering that there were clearly plenty of staff, and it wasn't super busy, it took an awful long time for someone to clear our plates. Also, while I'm on the grumble bus, no one asked if our food was okay, nor were we asked if we would like deserts. Eventually our mug puddings were ordered and placed before us. Although the cheesecake was pleasant enough, the filling wasn't really of a cheesecake consistency. I'm also not convinced that cheesecake works in a mug. The biscuit base is just too far removed from the top of the filling, leaving you with spoonfuls of rich creamy stodge before you break through to the biscuit. My sisters moose on the other hand was very nice in deed. It was however very rich and dense, Emily being very keen to stress just how dense it was, insisted that I try said moose. It was, as she says, very dense, but good. Those of you of the, "Can we share a pudding?", persuasion be warned, you probably won't be able to finish it.

After deep and frank discussions with my fellow diners, we came to the conclusion that this is quite a nice place to go, and that the food is pretty good, without being in any danger of expanding your foodie world, and the prices are about right. The temperature was good, and they have the eating soundtrack spot on, with a series of easy listening tunes. Our one major gripe was the inexplicable slow motion service. If you want to try something different, and you're not in a rush, it's worth a visit, but don't expect a pub, think diner.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 4
Food                    7
Value                   7
Verdict                 3.5*

www.facebook.com/gastrohub

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

FOUR LONDON ROAD - Horndean, PO8 0BZ




This week we broke from the norm. Like hungry maverick's, we were on a mission to find some new and exciting food, but not in a pub. This time we would be exploring the offerings of Four London road. So jump on board and see what we uncovered.

The first thing that popped in to my little mind upon entering was, cool. The owners have managed to create a perfectly relaxed ambiance, with slick design and the ultimate in chill out playlists, not to mention the section of glass floor looking down in to the cellar. We were greeted in a friendly manor, and once we had picked out the lucky table that wood accommodate us, the waitress explained how things worked. If you go for the small plate angle, it is recommended that you pick four or five plates between two people. Each plate costing around £6. There is also a wood fired pizza oven in house if you fancy something more round. These range from about £8 to £14 from memory, obviously depending on which topping you choose. There is also the option of nibbles, brunch and a vegan menu.

We started off with some olives while we pondered over the menu. For the record, the olives were good. Eventually we picked out five plates which we decided should be accompanied by some sweet potato fries. This is what we went for.
Sweet Potato Falafels
Red pepper couscous and tzatziki
Crispy Manchego Cheese
Served with a dark and sticky fig chutney
Smoked Trout Pate
Ciabatta crostini, dressed orange, rocket and fennel salad
Beetroot and Gin Cured Salmon
Horseradish crème fraiche, caper berries, pickled cucumbers, crayfish and fresh dill
Smoked Trout Pate
Ciabatta crostini, dressed orange, rocket and fennel salad
Roasted Sumac and Lemon Chicken
Tahini dressing, tomato, coriander and pine nuts
As I'm sure you can tell, this was a very well thought out and put together menu. No matter your taste, you will be able to find something here to make you happy.

Rather than picking my way through every item, it is probably easier to just say that everything was very good indeed. Considering the amount of different ingredients that we sampled, it is a compliment to say that we could find nothing to grumble about, which was nice. We were both particularly taken with the crispy manchego, which went beautifully with the fig chutney. Everything here is made in house and it shows.

The biggest compliment we can give to Four London road, is that we are gutted we didn't come here earlier. It is now well and truly on our foodie map, and if you want a comfortable environment to relax and unwind with a bit of food and a bottle of wine, or gin, this is the place to go. The atmosphere was great, the music was perfect and the service was excellent. If you haven't been yet, we highly recommend that you give it a try.

Atmosphere            9
Service                   9
Food                      8
Value                     7
Verdict                   4.5*


www.facebook.com/gastrohub