The title – very roughly translated from the Psalm says – I’d rather be a vegetarian than live with a loveless cook. I did say I’d report back on the much anticipated pub lunch featuring “Cull Yow” a few days ago, when I may have been a bit scathing about the necessity to describe an old dead sheep as a “Yow” and I’m just about to honour that promise.
Somehow me and pub lunches very rarely enjoy one another. Coming from a long and extended family of excellent cooks and chefs I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve been disappointed and more often than not, it’s to do with insufficient attention to detail.
When a pub goes viral and you have to book several weeks in advance you can be sure it’s going to be packed with people looking for some kind of experience. In that department we were not disappointed; indeed the highlight of the meal was when someone wheeled a dog into the restaurant in an expensive pram. The look on Madame’s face was priceless! The problem is that many of those experience- hunting people only get their experience from glossy magazines and breathless reviews. In fact, as I quickly established when I ordered the “old dead sheep”to the amusement of the waiter; Cull Yow was, in fact, not mutton at all but hogget and frankly it was the best thing on the menu except for the pud – which I’ll come to. I guess – to be kind – people are prejudiced against mutton but have no idea what hogget is, so inventing a name almost screen grabbed from Yorkshire welly telly probably sounded like a good idea to the chef. A better idea would be to cook the meal for the waiting team and then train them to go out and sell it to the customers because they had it for staff lunch and it was delicious.
The accompanying veg were not in the same league. Not even in the Strict and Particular Baptist Church Sunday Football League. I have a big issue with young chefs who think al dente means nearly raw, but they’d gone the extra mile with the cauliflower cheese because they’d smoked the (blown in the field = cheap) cauliflower until it looked like a bog burial and then cooked it up with some outer leaves of old leek and anointed it with a cheese sauce topped it with breadcrumb, parmesan and caramelized onion and then frozen it, only to resurrect it (if that’s the word) by microwaving it until it died and left a thick brown ring around its little individual serving dish.
The chard had been left on the ribs and waved over some steam, leaving the ribs as indigestible umbrella spokes, the carrots just staggered over the line but carried suspicious looking griddle marks to suggest that the kitchen had run out of time and taken a shortcut. I’ve never liked Bisto gravy so we’ll pass over that quickly. The tragedy of all this is that with a little more skill, time and attention the tragedy could have been turned into a triumph. Stripping the ribs off the chard and steaming them for a couple of minutes more than the leaves would have turned them into a lovely side. Roasting the Yorkshire puds at 240C without steam would have made them crisp on the outside and creamy in the middle, so long as you used enough eggs. The roast potatoes were good except they were supposed to have been wood smoked – from which not a smidgeon of flavour remained; and the bubbles in the skin suggested they just might have visited a deep fat fryer at some point.
On, then, to the pudding which really was the star of the show because it was so simple – poached pear, blue cheese, walnuts and honey – delicious.
I hate to be a curmudgeon about this because the waiting staff were lovely and worked hard to give everyone a good time; but it was the kitchen that let the side down. There was no-one in the kitchen brave or well enough trained to tell the difference between good and bad and consign the bad to the bin; and so the meal, as a whole, failed unnecessarily. That said, we could hear any number of compliments being offered so who knows. As we left the proprietor’s wife drove up in a flashy car and sashayed into the pub like a model. I expect there was a round of applause.