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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GASTROHUB CHRISTMAS TIPS.




Tradition may dictate that Yorkshire puddings should only be served with roast beef, but that's nonsense. In my mind, it's not a roast dinner without them. Here's a cunning tip to make your life easier on Christmas day.
Those of you who make Yorkshire puddings will know that once they are in the oven, you can't open it again for at least half an hour. This obviously stops you being able to remove anything else or add anything else to the oven. This is particularly awkward when trying to produce a Christmas dinner with multiple elements which need that precious oven space.
To avoid this stress inducing pudding nightmare, simply make your Yorkies a day or two in advance, let them cool slightly, then place in a bag and throw them in the freezer. Take them out about 15 minutes before you need them and give them around five minutes in the oven.
You might think that this would result in an inferior pudding, but you would be wrong. I did this a few years back to see how they turned out, and I've never looked back. They end up just as they would if you made them on the big day.
Other Yorkie tips.
Try to make your batter earlier than you need it, and leave it in the fridge for a few hours.
Preheat your oven at a really high temperature, around 220, ensuring that your tray is oiled and in the oven getting very very hot.
Fill almost the the rim when adding the batter.
Five minutes after closing the oven door, reduce the temperature to 180.
Once the oven door is closed, don't open it again for at least 30 minutes.

Have a wonderful Christmas with wonderful Yorkshire puddings.

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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*