Oldbury Cookhouse and Pub
There are times in everyone's life when value for money is important. The problem is that "value for money" is relative and I have to accept that not many people value food as much as I do.
Eating out in large groups with friends, or even more so with colleagues is always problematic. Everyone has a different agenda. Some want good food, some want cheap food and some, frankly want no food that isn't served with a straw.
The nett result is usually that the people who like food accept an office meal as a gastronomic write off, we all head to Wetherspoons, eat badly and get blotto on below par booze.
Well, perhaps there is a solution after all.
Cookhouse & Pub is a chain that I had never heard of, before last week.
They provide food in that price range, with a but. A juicy, voluptuous but. The menu actually made me salivate.
Knowing that the greatest test of any pub food is to be appetising when one is hungover, I put in some serious prep the previous night, then turned up feeling suitably fragile. In that state, the words, "festive menu" (less than £15 for three courses) screamed out to me like a Siren drawing me onto the rocks.
The interior is modern and clean, but feels cosy. Especially with the festive decor in place. And the staff, who appear genuinely welcoming and happy to help, in their easy-to-spot grey and yellow uniforms, make this place seem a cut above it's competitors.
The menu is quite extensive, which always concerns me to an extent (preparing many different dishes to a decent standard, at any one time is not easy). We selected three courses from the Christmas menu.
(It's worth mentioning that there are several bits on The Cookhouse & Pub's normal menu that I would like to get my chops around. The Moroccan lamb and feta flatbread, baked in the in-house fired oven is calling my name right now!)
I don't have time for anyone who can refuse deep fried brie, and the winter spicing in the cranberry sauce was comforting, even to my jaded palate. The pea shoots may have seen a bit too much of a heat lamp, but tasted fresh.
Catherine's mushrooms on toast looked a little dry to my dehydrated eyes, but I could smell the truffle oil from a metre away. A surprising ingredient to turn up in a 'reasonably priced' joint. A little chopped parsley would probably have enhanced the aesthetics, but hey-ho.
I had to have a steak next (topped with bacon. And more brie). I ordered it medium rare, it came medium rare. No qualms there then. The fries were nice and crispy too.
The salmon and prosecco sauce on the other side of the table looked pretty well cooked too (not to mention well sized.) I had a little taste (I always do) and it was tender and moist. Pretty good, when you take a look at the bill.
Finally, an apple and cider crumble and the Terry's Chocolate Orange sundae.
The fruit in the crumble was coarsely chopped for bite and had a real dry cidery flavour which, to be blunt, I hadn't expected. The topping was slightly thin on the ground and the custard was the sort one buys pre-made. But who hasn't demolished a tin of Ambrosia when they thought that nobody was looking?
The sundae, on the other hand, was exactly as I'd expected. Imagine if you will, a bowl of sugar, only sweeter.
Delivered in the form of ice cream, a chocolate syrup, an orange syrup and of course the segments of chocolate, this may well have been the most saccharine food I've eaten in a decade. Bloody brilliant. Get one in your children and see how popular you become.
So next year, when the conversation turns to which low-range, same-same purveyor of beige, semi-edible freezer-food will be hosting the annual office get together, please remember that there is a chain offering good value, that does things a little differently.
Oldbury Cookhouse and Pub, Oldbury
N.B. We were invited by Oldbury Cookhouse and Pub to dine at their new restaurant and give honest feedback. The meal was complimentary, however all opinions are our own.