Friday, 3 May 2019

THE RED LION - London rd, Cosham



After lunch with Marty and Chris last week, we decided to go again this week. We were to be in the Cosham area, which may not be a hot bed of gastronomy, but we decided to check out the food at The Red Lion. Unless you go, you never know.

There is parking next to the pub, which is pay and display, but if you are using the pub, there is a system in place where by you enter your details in to a magical machine. Once that was negotiated, we plunged forth to the inner pub in search of fodder. We plucked up our menu's, headed for a table and got stuck in to business. There are quite a few sections to the menu, including wraps, burgers, pizza's, grill and classics. There is also a vegetarian and vegan menu, which is very thoughtful. The pizza's are stone baked and freshly made, and can be had, with a drink for less than £10. It should be noted that drinks on this option are limited. Another item of note was that all chips are advertised as triple cooked. There are also a selection of meals available for £5 from 12:00, including wraps, fish and chips and sausage and colcannon.

Martin decided today would be a wrap day, a chicken and bacon wrap to be precise. This was served with chips and coleslaw for the bargain price of £5.75. It would have been £5, but we ordered before 12:00. Chris went for the half roast chicken at £8.50. This came with chips, onion rings and coleslaw. But check this out. You can upgrade to large and get a whole chicken for £11.50. That's a lot of chicken, but at a bargain price. There are also several sauces you can pick from to spice up Mr or Mrs chicken. I was tempted by the chicken, but was more interested in the pizza's on offer. I went with the Chick Norris. Pulled chicken, mozzarella, pepper and red onion with a BBQ sauce. Martin and I also porked things up a bit with some extra onion rings for £1.99.

This dear readers is where the service came in to question. Martin's food came out very quickly. He was though sitting there with his food for a good time before we were joined by the rest of our order. Even when most of it had arrived, Chris had to wait another five minutes for the extra mac and cheese he had ordered. And yes, he did order too much food. Despite this hiccup in food delivery, it all looked quite good. My pizza wasn't a uniformed circle, as if to prove it's freshly made status. It was also very tasty and satisfying. My onion rings were a little over done however. Martin thoroughly enjoyed his wrap, and was kind enough to lend me one of his triple cooked chips. We both agreed that they were good, better than your average pub chip, but almost certainly not made from scratch in house. He was also rather taken with the way that the coleslaw was served in a little lettuce dish. A nice touch in deed. Chris was very happy with his chicken and friends, and he ate until he could eat no more.

This is not a fine dining pub. But it is a pub that does decent food at very good prices. With a few service tweaks, it could be so much rosier at The Red Lion. There is also a nice seating area out the front of the pub, the only down side being the proximity to the road. If you find yourself in the Cosham area in need of sustenance, you could do much worse than a trip to The Red Lion.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 6
Food                    7.5
Value                   9
Verdict                 3.5*

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Friday, 5 April 2019

THE BRICKMAKERS - Church road, Swanmore.





I wanted to take my sister out for a birthday lunch, so it seemed like a good opportunity to combine our powers for a hard hitting peace of foodie journalism. From a shortlist of pubs, we picked out The Brickmakers, and the words below will paint a picture of our experience. Here we go.

The first thing we noticed, was how light and airy the pub was. We were then greeted in a most friendly manor and shown to a table where menu's were delivered. The whole pub has the feel of a building which is loved and cared for. Everything is clean and scattered with loving touches and extra attention to detail. There are humorous signs scattered around, as well as the advertisement of blankets to take outside if it happens to be a bit chilly. We picked a table, not too far from the roaring fire, particularly as this day was indeed a bit chilly, born out by the unexpected shower of snow while we ate.

The menu sounded good, and the indicators were that everything was made in house, but we were especially impressed by something else. Over the last few years, it has become the case that if you step in to a nice country pub that makes its own food, you are more than likely to be charged between £14 and £16 for your average main meal. Not here dear readers, oh no. You are in the magical zone of £10 - £12 here. This probably got us more excited than is normal, but I don't care. I was starting to feel like we could have stumbled across the perfect foodie storm.


 Emily chose one of her favourites, rack of ribs, while I was seduced by the Cajon chicken burger. After some painful deliberation, I was swayed by the inclusion of dill pickles in the burger. As well as the standard menu, there was, as is so often the case, a specials board. It was however, the main menu for us this day. It soon became clear that the entire front of house was being run by just one man, but this was no ordinary man. We later found out that he was also the head chef, but this day he was out of the kitchen, taking orders and serving drinks and food. This became more impressive as the afternoon wore on and the pub filled up. We were left incredulous with his work rate and the ability to do it all whilst maintaining his affability, showing no signs of stress.


The food itself was perfect. My sisters half rack of ribs were delicious and sticky with BBQ sauce. My burger, and I know this will sound silly, had the heft of quality. Never before have I held a burger and been so assured of its majesty. Again this may sound silly, but I was particularly enamoured by the bun. It was of good size, but light and toasted within. The mildly spiced chicken filled the bun perfectly and was kept company by red onion and plenty of those magical dill pickles. The chips which accompanied both our meals were of the thin or, "FRY", variety, and were very good indeed.

I know my sister likes a pudding, so I let her decide if we would have one, thus relieving myself of any responsibility. I had the triple chocolate brownie, while she had the sticky toffee pudding. It was confirmed by our superman server that these were homemade. They were both beautiful. The portion size of the puddings were perfect, we are back in the land of Goldilocks here. I might even have to say that this was one of the best brownies I have ever had.

We really can't say enough good things about this pub, and it's head chef. Our entire visit was perfect and thoroughly enjoyable. The service was brilliant. The food was wonderful, and most gratifying, was the fair pricing. I could write a list of pubs that could learn from this, but I won't. If you haven't been to The Brickmakers, you really should. The ratio of value to quality is the best I have ever come across, and that my friends is high praise.

Atmosphere          9
Service                          9
Food                    9
Value                   10
Verdict                          5*

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Friday, 8 March 2019

BARNARDS - Hambledon road, Denmead.




Barnards is a restaurant in Denmead that I first became aware of around 10 years ago. I took Rachel there. She had a cheese soufflé and was instantly addicted. Thankfully, they still serve said soufflé, so every now and again, my dear wife gets the craving, and today was a day where that craving had to be satiated. It never takes much to convince me to go out for some good food, so Rachel, George and I jumped in the car and headed to Denmead.

There are a few parking spaces outside Barnards, but it is usually best to head for the car park just over the road. You are always greeted warmly upon entering, before you are shown to one of the two dining spaces. There is also a garden out back for when the weather is behaving. Options are vast and varied when eating at Barnards, including breakfast, brunch, lunch, and afternoon tea. A full English is still available at lunch time, which makes George happy, this being one of his favourite meals on planet Earth. With George sorted, and Rachel obviously feeding her cheese soufflé urges, that just left me. I picked the grilled salmon on wilted spinach with carrot puree, new potatoes and a chive hollandaise. Sounds rather good doesn't it?

Once the food arrived, it only took me one mouthful to realise I had something special in front of me. I had been handed a good sized peace of salmon that was cooked beautifully, with perfectly crisp skin. The potatoes were of the small variety, comparable in size to a Malteser if you're interested. The carrot puree was velvety and deep with flavour, while the hollandaise was stunning, and a perfect best friend for the salmon. This plate of well crafted food set us back £12.95. I don['t care what planet you are from, that is a good deal. Rachel's soufflé was up to its usual high standards, and was accompanied by sauté potatoes, perfect for dipping in the cheese sauce, . This comes in at £13.75. George's breakfast was also a beautiful thing. Many is the time we have taken friends and family to Barnards, often for the breakfast. One of these will set you back £9.50.

I'm happy to say that we were tempted in to deserts. George and I opting for the chocolate brownie with crunchie ice-cream, £6.50. Rachel chose a coconut sorbet with a homemade biscuit, £6.20. After a brief consultation, George agreed that this was one of the best brownies we had tasted, and that the crunchie ice-cream was a touch of genius.

It is hard to find fault with our trip to Barnards. The service is always friendly, the chef, David, is extremely talented, and the overall atmosphere was topped by the cherry of a classy playlist including Jack Johnson, who I like. I love the imagination and effort at work here, from the home made scones to the freshly baked bread for the sandwiches. Everything is done properly here and without fanfare. It's a lovely place to come with friends or family, even on your own. It's a place where you can get a high standard of restaurant food in a relaxed atmosphere. If you haven't been before, I recommend that you give Barnards a try.

Atmosphere                     8
Service                              8
Food                                  9
Value                                 9
Verdict                              5*

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Monday, 18 February 2019

THE CRICKETERS INN - Curdridge lane, Southampton.



In the true spirit of pub exploration, we were actually looking for a different pub when we came across The Cricketers. Rather than risk wasting time searching for the pub on our hit list, we decided to go with the hand of fate and see what was on offer.

Firstly, there was a car park, so that's a good start. Secondly, and most gratifying, was the warm welcome we received upon entry. It is the easiest thing to do, and has a huge effect on your first impressions of a pub, but it still astounds us how rare it is. After the standard drinks, menu, table scenario, we got stuck in to the menu. It wasn't massive, but that is no bad thing. When the food is made from scratch, it makes sense not to overload the menu, creating a nightmare for those in the kitchen. Most mains came in just under £14, which is pushing in to the pricy bracket, but we try not to be too judgmental about pricing until we have tried the food.

Since it had been a while, we stripped it back to basics, both opting for a pub classic. Fish and chips for me, and ham, egg and chips for Dad. After our order was taken, we settled down and soaked up the surroundings. We both came to the conclusion that this was a good place to be. A comfortable and relaxed vibe, ably assisted by some appropriate music at an appropriate level, a perfect temperature, and a good amount of light. Now it was all down to the food to finish the job.

My fish and chips came out on a long rectangular plate, which I liked. The main bulk of the meal was bookended by a pot of pees on one side, and a pot of tartar sauce on the other. The fish was cooked perfectly in a light batter. The chips were hand cut, homemade, and all together wonderful. Dad of course had the same chips keeping company with his honey glazed ham, which was apparently very good ham.

On a day where destiny had guided us to the unexpected, all the elements of a perfect pub lunch aligned, leaving us both with absolutely nothing to grumble about. The service was friendly and faultless throughout, the food was great and as I said, The Cricketers is just a wonderful place to be. The food may be a few quid more than some other pubs, but we are happy to pay it when this is the result.

Atmosphere   9
Service         9
Food              9
Value            8
Verdict         5*

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Sunday, 23 December 2018

CHRISTMAS TIPS




Anything you can prepare in advance is going to make your life easier on Christmas day. Two things that will keep just fine are mashed swede and cauliflower cheese. These can both be made the day before, cling filmed, then wacked in the oven, (cauliflower cheese), or the microwave, (swede), when you need them.

Mashed Swede tips.
After topping, tailing and peeling your Swede, cut in to roughly even chunks, then cover in a pan with cold, salted water. Bring to the boil, then simmer until tender.
Drain the Swede, then leave in the pan for a few minutes, allowing excess water to evaporate.
Add a big knob of butter, plenty of pepper, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of sugar.
Mash and smash until the consistency makes you happy.

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