For us, with a few notable exceptions, 2017 has not been a good year for dining in pubs. So, we are heading to The Queens at Belbroughton, which has had some rave reviews on social media, with high hopes rather than high expectations.
I have a very pleasant pint of Forty Niner from the Ringwood Brewery. It is a full-bodied, malty golden brown ale. I order the Queens Curry – marinated lamb, tomato, sweet pepper & onion sauce served with poppadums, onion bhaji and homemade naan bread. It is perfectly ok but in no way exciting. The bhaji and the naan bread are actually very ordinary.
Rock orders the confit leg of Gressingham duck with bean cassoulet, creamy mash & red cabbage. When it is served there is no bean cassoulet – the duck leg and mash are served with green beans and carrots. When queried, the staff member checks with the kitchen and comes back with an apology but no explanation or any other form of compensation. Moreover, the skin of a confit duck leg should be crisp – this skin is best described as soggy.
Our high hopes have been dashed. Really standard pub grub and sometimes you don’t even receive what the menu promises!
Sometimes you just need good beer and simple food. We are at The Coach & Horses a pub run by the same family for 46 years. It has its own micro brewery and serves guest ales and straightforward pub food. It is a perfect break from an otherwise challenging day.
I decide to try a pint of Wood’s Shropshire Lad. Chestnut coloured, malty and fruity – oh brother, it really hits the spot. Rock is driving and misses out on all but a taste….
On the simple food front, Rock chooses the Ham, Egg and Chips. Really good ham, really good chips and a portion size that my Dad would have appreciated. I go for the Flat Iron Steak served with more really good chips, and a family of onion rings, mushrooms and tomato.
I love going to high-end restaurants but sometimes simple home-cooking is all you need!
After being on the road for a while, we are now in Worcestershire and we have climbed into the shadow of the Malvern Hills. We need lunch and we have found a base camp at The Inn at Welland It is relaxed, welcoming and more like a restaurant than a pub.
Rock does not want to scale the heights of indulgence and picks the relatively simple Croque Monsieur – honey roast ham and melted cheese on sourdough toast. As usual I need a small mountain of food rations to keep me happy. The Roast Woodland Pork Tenderloin, spring cabbage, an apple and parsley hash brown, with a carrot & ginger purée and a thyme jus plus a mound of hand-cut chips….that should do it!
My soaring thirst is satisfied by a pint of Otter Ale. For dessert we share the Honeyed Bread and Butter Pudding with Natural Yoghurt Sorbet. The honeycomb peaks have an elevated sweetness that works well with the slightly sour sorbet. This is a good place for a break in our expedition.
The Chequers is a pub with a restaurant and, for several seasons now, it has been run by Roger Narbett – the former England Football team chef.
The quality of the beer is often a good marker for the quality of the food. Here you can choose between several old favourites like Sharp’s Doom Bar but I am intrigued enough to substitute all these for the Chequers Pale Ale. Brewed specially for them by Marstons – it is promoted by a fabulously fruity aroma and a good flavour. I guess it smells so good that it is slightly, but only slightly, relegated by the flavour.
To start I tackle the Yuk Sung. With this dish you build a series of wraps from baby gem lettuce leaves to surround your oriental chicken, a volley of frazzled noodles and a shot of soy sauce. Rock passes on the starter and saves herself for the main course.
She intercepts the Chicken Breast with Honey & Lemon Thyme Marinated Club Salad. The club salad includes a hat-trick of delights: crispy pancetta, avocado and a quail’s egg! Offside there are skinny fries. I attack the Barbecued Lamb Koftas served with Tzatziki and corners of Flat Bread. We both enjoy the main course.
I think we may kick ourselves if we don’t return to this ground for another match.