Sunday, 30 August 2009

The Pot Kiln

There’s no point in debating about the credentials of The Harwood Arms in Fulham, it’s quite simply the best gastropub in London. So how does The Pot Kiln in rural Berkshire fare up? The co-owner of The Harwood Arms, Mike Robinson owns TPK, and the same objectives apply: finest homegrown produce, superlative cooking, real ale and exacting wines. Both places are effectively bestowed with a destination status.

Sometime ago I had to stay a night at one of my customer’s abode in Dorset. He was a farmer and what with me being a committed townie I didn’t mange to catch a wink, as it was all too quiet. I was glad to go back to Notting Hill and this made me realised how much I valued the sirens, the screaming and the diesel fumes. Like the farm in Dorset, TPK is seriously out in the sticks and that’s despite being only a few hundred yards away from the busy M4.

TPK can only be reached by driving; you’ll need a buddy who’s able to drive and for all his sins, a teetotaller as well.

I’m grateful for the view of the green green grass plus the odd livestock so long as I’m not required to spend a night here. Give me concrete carbuncles and drum and bass vibes any day.

This is a pub with the functional bit that’s decidedly small; the one at The Harwood arms is huge in comparison. TPK’s intentions are quite clearly gastronomical as opposed to the excessive-pints downers philosophy. The bar menu on the wall whets the appetite like no other pubs I’ve been to.

When we came here for lunch during a weekday, it was pretty much dead in the rather dowdy but purposeful restaurant. The pretty young ladies who served us all spoke with an upper class twang (rare as hens’…in London these days!). The service provided by them was both friendly and excellent.

The fixed price lunch menus available during weekdays are £14.50 for two and £19.50 for three courses. And the wonderful thing is they include anything off the full a la carte and the specials on the board. The world is your oyster as far as lunch is concerned at TPK.

Companion’s starter of pea soup.
Good but deemed too thin and polite.

My starter of warm salad of wood pigeon, smoked Vicar’s Game bacon and black pudding.
Pigeon was beautifully cooked, bacon lacked a salty kick but the black pud was astounding.

Companion’s mains of parcel-baked sea bream, chive new potatoes and buttered spinach.
The fish was cooked nigh on perfection and there were enough of the delicious potatoes on the plate to stave off any post meal hunger.

My mains of T-bone of Linkenholt Fallow deer (dare I say put to sleep by Mike Robinson the sharpshooter), pomme purée, beetroot, cabbage and peppercorn sauce (£2.00 supplement).
I found the whole dish satisfying, but in spite of the lingering propaganda that champions venison as a healthier and tastier option to other red meats; no apologies on my behalf for stating that the cow beats the deer every time.

Companion’s pudding of strawberry fool.
He thought it too sweet whereas I begged to differ and insisted as sublime. The strawberries came from a farm in the neighbouring village of Tutts Clump.

My pudding.
Erm, I’ve forgotten what it was except for the green thing; pistachio cake. Whatever the mauve ice cream was, I did finish the whole lot. That said, it must have been good but not memorable.

TPK is no Hinds Head (the best in the country?), it simply cannot match the precision and intricacy of the cooking at Heston’s haunt. And it also plays second fiddle to its half-sibling The Harwood Arms. TPK offers good honest grub at good value prices and it’s certainly surpasses the likes of The Commander, The Princess Victoria and the pioneering Eagle in Farringdon.

If one gets a little too weary of London (not too much I hope, as life’s too precious) TPK is perfect as a welcome respite. Indeed I shall make an effort and go back again. Recommended.

On the way back to the motorway, one is afflicted with a strong odour…well I shall leave it at that.

Nr. Yattendon
Berkshire RG18 0XX
Tel- 01635 201366

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