Monday 21 July 2008

A pub lunch with vegetables

Sunday, and some visiting relations on the island. Let's go for a pub lunch. Good idea. We were all running a little bit late - they enjoying their leisurely weekend by the sea, we recovering from SD#3's Dance School show the previous night.

It was just gone 2 pm when we showed up at the Dog and Pheasant, East Mersea, so one of us nipped in ahead to check that they were still serving lunches. Yes, they said, Sunday lunches were available up until 3 pm - though sometimes if they were very busy they ran out of roast beef before that time. Well, we were ready right now, so in we all trooped and bought a round of drinks and then I went to order eight Sunday Lunches. Oh, sorry, they said, actually we've run out of vegetables.

Vegetables! OK, so if the roast meat has all gone, it's all gone. A joint of beef can hardly be rustled up in ten minutes. But vegetables? Haven't they got a freezer for emergencies? There's a Co-op seven minutes' drive away with a whole aisle full of fresh veg. There's a Tesco Express eight minutes' drive away selling three-for-the-price-of-two ready-prepared bags of microwaveable vegetables. There's a pick-your-own farm with ready-picked veg two minutes down the road. Couldn't someone have nipped out while we chatted over Guinness and crisps? This isn't a five-star restaurant. This is a pub. We all know what a pub roast is like - it's well-done beef with a well-done Yorkshire pud and some well-done veg. We don't expect more than that. In fact we like it. It's comfort food. It reminds us of school and Sunday lunch at Grannie's. We're not expecting precision-fried ocra and chantenay carrots in cumin and coriander butter. We're thinking pub peas and a bit of pub cauliflower. All drenched in gravy, obviously.

Well, anyway, the D&P clearly didn't want our three-figure sum's worth of turnover. Or our goodwill. Perhaps they simply didn't like the look of us. Although it's not as if we were caked in mud or armed with musical instruments or attempting to smuggle the dog in.

We trundled to West Mersea and headed for the revamped Victory, which served us eight delicious Sunday lunches without any fuss but with plenteous veg, generous slabs of beef, lashings of horseradish and some excellent Yorkshire puds, all very nicely presented.

The Victory is definitely not the place to go for that traditional country pub ambiance. It's all very modern inside, with huge squishy sofas and no discernible horse-brasses. But you can see the sea and watch the boats bobbing around at high tide and life going generally by. Friendly service and superior loos, too. Our only cavil was the hideous muzak, which bordered on the intolerable at one point, when we were convinced that two separate and unrelated tracks were playing at the same time! I think we were just too close to the speakers for comfort.

Replete, I was faced with a difficult choice. Curl up with the Observer and fall immediately to sleep, or take the dog along the beach and enjoy the fabulous late afternoon light. I plumped for the latter. A good choice, I think. And plumply waddled off approximately 1% (or fewer) of the calories I'd just taken on board. Pics on the post below.


Jane Badger said...

I do wonder what the owners of the Dog & Pheasant thought as you left. Were they disappointed? Did they think - "Darn! How can we stop that happening again? We blew that one." Sadly I don't suppose they did - they probably thought it was your fault for being so demanding. That is such awful service on so many different levels.

Peter Ashley said...

I've just found your superb blog via a chap in Vermont, as you do. You are in one of my favourite parts of England, and the last time I was were there a mate of mine (find him at My Grappa Hell via my blog)and I sat in the Company Shed and just cried it was so good. Mind you we had had a few stiffeners in a pub opposite.

Ron Combo said...

More than a few stiffeners I'd say.
Lovely photos anyway, makes me yearn for Blighty.

Juliet said...

Hi Jane. The funny thing is that we hadn't been in there for about ten years, following an episode of poor service, but it's changed hands since then so we thought it would be good to give another whirl. It was the fact that we'd even made a point of asking about lunch availability *before* buying a round of drinks that really got me! Ah well - I'll give it another decade before trying again - there are plenty more pubs around here.

Peter - welcome and thanks for your kind comment. Delighted to hear that you've discovered the very *best* of Mersea fooderies! There's nowhere quite like the Company Shed is there? (Though I confess it's never yet reduced me to tears!) Just had a look at your blog - fascinating stuff. I'll pop you on my blogroll forthwith.

Juliet said...

Hi Ron - the other half of the weeping duo, I presume? Long overdue for a trip to the Shed for lunch myself - must remedy that soon!

Anonymous said...

Juliet - lol on your veggie predicament. Reminds me of a trip to a thai restaurant who did only one pud called 'Nun Bananas' or something to that effect. We decided NB would be fine, only to be told banans had run out(not exactly a speciality item, and the shops were still open). A case of 'Yes, we have nun bananas!'

Greg Dunn said...

I hope it's not actionable to publicly state on the electric blogosphere that I have always loathed the Dog & Pheasant.

I associate it with long walks and childhood, those unhappy bedfellows. We'd moor the family yacht down in Pyefleet and come ashore in the dinghy to Mersea Stone, and then trudge for what felt like miles to that miserable pub, all for a glass of imitation Coke and a bag of soggy pre-Walker's crisps, only to face the interminable yomp back to the beach.

The next visits were in late teenage, gassy Ben Truman beer and darts, when a pickled egg was the plat du jour.

Those experiences have yet to lure me back, so it is with no small amount of self-satisfaction that I read your delicious critique. I bet they didn't realise they'd raised the dander of the muddy island's principal tourist attractor, so I suspect a dinner-for-two voucher will be gracing the doormat of Doyle Towers short order.

Anonymous said...

We should do more naming and shaming, J. A year or so ago, I wrote a scathing post about a truly dreadful evening spent with Canadian friends in the restaurant of the hotel (one of a well known chain) where they were staying in Plymouth. This just happened to be on the day of the hotel's official opening by the city's Lord Mayor - so managers and staff should have been on their toes.

Within 24 hours, the customer relations manager had emailed, apologised, and asked for more details. A day or so later, I received another email, listing the changes they had already made or were making, thanking me for highlighting the problems and offering dinner for two on the house.

You never know, with a bit of luck, the people responsible for the complete lack of service at the Dog & Pheasant might respond similarly. Not that I'm holding my breath, however . . .

Barb McMahon and Alan Mailloux said...

My husband and I once went for dinner to a restaurant that specialized in chicken. Built their whole reputation on it, in fact.

But could we order a chicken dinner that night? No. They were all out of chicken....