Monday, 24 October 2016

Keep Portland Weird - all the pubs pt.2

After the excitement of our first night trying to hit up all the pubs on Portland, we had taken Sunday off to recover*. Perhaps because of the alcohol, or a creeping concession to old age, the Ewing and I had woken up unusually early on Monday morning and decided to go down to Smallmouth Cove to watch a beautiful sun rise over Portland. A promising start to what was shaping up to be another sunny day.
*Drink excessive amounts of cider and rum with our friends in Weymouth.

After a hearty breakfast of sausage, egg, beans, mushrooms and toast, followed by a fortifying nap, we resumed our adventure by taking our tattered map and hopping on the number 1 bus right down to Southwell, the farthest point you can reach on public transport, for lunch at the Eight Kings.

The front bar - there’s also a plusher restaurant, with a nautical theme, next door – has the comforting feeling of what I would describe as a ‘Bank’s pub’, based on the detective in the Peter Robinson novels. Banks - most notably in the earlier books, set in the 80's when he was still a smoker and drinking on the job seemed more mandatory than an option, would often find himself in a good old traditional pub of a lunchtime, eating a cottage pie and supping a pint of Black Sheep bitter, before going off to solve a murder in the afternoon.

While I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the place, and our pints of Ringwood bitter were well kept, the food was even better, the giant mound of Portland crab exceeding even the size of my buttery jacket spud. My standout meal of the trip, for its simplicity and generosity and because it was enjoyed in such friendly and laid-back surroundings. A pub I would be very pleased to call my local, and I’m sure Banks would have felt the same way.

The Eight Kings - 2x pint Ringwood Best Bitter; 2x jacket potato with Portland crab and salad £23.60
Sticky carpet rating: 8 a proper pub with darts board (although someone would have your eye out if you were sat where we were sitting), a second hand book shelf, scrumpy cider and a log fire. The swanky restaurant bit means it’s not full on SC but it’s pretty close, in the best possible way.
Overall score: 8.5 - a great place for a pint and a spot of lunch, I would be very happy to mull away an afternoon here while puzzling over the clues of my latest case.

As we had taken the bus as far as we could the only way to get down to the southern tip of the island was to walk. While the quickest way is straight down the Portland Bill Road, we chose the scenic route beside the sea and picked up the South Coast Path from Freshwater Bay. 

The perfect day for a walk, it was fascinating to walk through the open cast quarries and to see the old Victorian beam crane still perched on the cliff edge. Stone has been quarried on Portland since Roman times and has been used in the construction of many fine buildings and monuments including St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, The Bank of England and the Cenotaph. All the gravestones for British personnel killed in the First and Second World Wars were also made out of Portland stone, including my Grandad, Harry Roscoe, in Barking Rippleside cemetery.

The destination for our next repast was the Lobster Pot Cafe, at the farthest tip of the isle. Being as this was Portland, we had to weigh up the choice of eating inside in a pleasant enough, if a little stuffy, tearoom or risk being buffeted by wind while sitting outside but being able to enjoy a smashing view of the Bill in the late sunshine. In the end the scenery won out and we braved eating our cream tea on the picnic benches outside; squinting into the sun while wrapped up with scarves and woolly hats, in that typically English fashion.

The crumbly, raisin-studded, scones are homemade and were very good, despite being wildly varying in size (we split each in one in half and shared them, to avert any marital discord). Jam (all the way from Tiptree in Essex) and cream are provided in reasonably generous quantities, and top marks for the pot of hot water, plus extra refills, for our tea, which is served good and strong with proper tea leaves.

In an ideal world we would have had a decent yomp, or at least a leisurely stroll, to our next watering station, but the imposing Pulpit Inn -  with its prime spot offering sweeping panoramas across to the south of the island - can be seen from the Lobster Pot Cafe. No matter, we had faced more gruelling culinary challenges before, and it had been at least couple of hours since our last pint…

The ale selection was pretty lacking (they might have stocked Doombar?), despite the sign promising real ales, but they did have Guinness Dublin style porter on tap, which I fancied as a suitable accompaniment to the half a pint of local prawns that the Ewing had spied on the chalkboard on the way in.

The prawns were OK, not that I got much of a look in, but the chips (which you can swap for a salad if you’re in to self-flagellation) were hot and crisp and very tasty when dunked into the tangy marie rose sauce. The Dublin porter was so-so, thinner and less creamy than the original and not as good as their other recent re-release, the West Indies porter, which is actually pretty good. Service was very sweet and while it has apparently become more of an eating pub in recent years, I found it welcoming and homely, despite the size.

The Pulpit Inn – 2x pints Guinness Dublin style porter; half a pint of prawns with chips and baguette £15.80
Sticky carpet rating: 5 – apparently much spiffier than it used to be the pulpit still has a few SC attributes; the old-fashioned pay phone in the corridor; paper-less ladies loos (soon replenished on mentioning); second-hand book shelf and a comprehensive charity box collection.
Overall score: 6.5 lovely barmaid, average food on our visit and an ok beer selection. An extra half point for the view - try and get a spot by the window if you can.

In an attempt to placate my wife after an afternoon of gluttony I allowed her to test out her compass reading skills by letting her lead us around the western edge of the South Coast Path (it's really not that hard - TE). Despite my general aversion to physical exercise, it was a pleasure to walk along the cliff edge from the tip of the island to Fortuneswell. 

Our route took us through the sculpture park, located in the disused Tout quarry, which is stuffed full of carvings made of Portland local stone including the island's nemesis, the bunny rabbit. We even saw a local craftsman (but WAS he? - TE) at work, chipping away at the rocks. As an added bonus our trek ended by watching the sun set over the ocean in a perfect mirroring of how our day had begun.

While the day may have been over, the night had just begun and the first pub we reached walking down the hill into Fortuneswell was the Britannia. From the sign on the outside - promising home cooked food, real ale and a beer garden - this looked like the perfect pub. They even had an a frame advertising live music and, sticky carpet classic, the meat raffle, every Sunday afternoon.

On walking in - or more squeezing around the guy stood by the door, deep in conversation and the only one seemingly oblivious to us entering – we experienced, for the first time on our trip, the real feeling of not being a local. The guys playing darts put down their arrows, the guys at the bar looked up from the pints, the barmaid – the only other female in the place – exhaled a deep breath and picked up her crucifix. Well, maybe not the crucifix, but you get the general idea (one of those moments when your brain is screaming BACK AWAY, SAVE YOURSELF' and you merrily plough on - TE). They had sussed we ‘weren’t from around these parts’.

Undeterred, we made it to the bar, to be faced with yet another uninspiring ale selection (again, they may have had Doombar?) the lager selection was odd, most people drinking bottle of Holsten Pils. But worry not, as I had already spotted the Old Rosie cider and fancied that a pint would make a fitting reward for our trek. The Ewing also ordered a pint, despite my misgivings that the last time she had got stuck into the stuff, during a daytime drinking session, it had all ended badly on the 16:52 from Marylebone (poppycock! - TE).

The Britannia Inn - 2x pints Old Rosie cider £6.20
Sticky carpet rating: 7.5 darts, pool, live bands, meat raffle on a Sunday - We might have got a few quizzical looks at first, but the locals were soon happy to chat with us, including one guy at the bar who relished telling the Ewing the Old Rosie was 6.8%. More of that later...
Overall score: 5.5 after the strange stares that greeted our arrival at the Brit, they turned out to be a pretty friendly bunch. An entertaining place, although it did feel like a real ‘locals’ pub. An extra half point for the Old Rosie.

All the pubs in Fortuneswell (along with the British Legion) are found on the same short stretch of hill, which made winding our way down to the Royal Portland Arms mercifully easy. The building is Grade II listed and interior-wise this was my pick of all the pubs we visited; the inside resembling a 70s style parlour with wood panelling and patterned wallpaper, complete with cosy little alcove complete with a dart board and a space to host live music at the weekends. 

The ale choice at the RPA was strong, with three or four local breweries on show on our visit alongside West Country cider served straight from a box on the bar. Wanting to try the beer while avoiding the bloat, I had the cunning idea of moving to our next beverage combination; doubles and chasers....

The Royal Portland Arms - 2x halves Branscombe golden fiddle; 2x Mountgay Eclipse rum on the rocks £7.50
Sticky carpet rating: 8 dart board, real ales and ciders; live music at the weekends and dog friendly, just be careful you don’t put your foot down the drain on the way back from the ladies…
Overall score: 8.5 A cracking pub with a unique atmosphere, helped by the entertaining clientele on our visit. With one of the best selections of ales we saw, this is definitely the sort of place I could imagine settling down for a session.

Final stop was the New Star Inn, but not before we bumped into the man we had met at the bar of the Britannia coming out of the chippy. And I mean that literally, as the Ewing ran past him whooping and waving her hands in the air as he called, 'that's the Old Rosie' after her. 

Inside was buzzing with one half of the pub hosting a frenetic darts match and the other side featuring darts on tv. Although pretty rowdy, the atmosphere was friendly and the Ewing attracted her second drunken barfly of our trip as we waited for our drinks, although I'm not sure which one of them was the most inebriated this time.

We stuck to the double and chasers, chasing the drinks with packets of mustard and onion pretzels, and maple bacon flavour Kettle chips. Rum-wise I hit the Pussers Navy strength while the Ewing discovered Old J spiced; something she was initially very happy about, but less so as the evening went on and she began to feel less ship-shape. Still, for the second time on our tour, there was still the 'refreshing' walk back to the mainland to contemplate; along with the sore head the following morning.

The New Star Inn - 2x half Jurassic ale; 2x Sailor J rum on the rocks; 1 Kracken rum on the rocks 1 x Pussers Navy rum on the rocks; 1x Snyder’s pretzels onion and mustard flavour; 1 x Kettle chips bacon and maple syrup flavour £13.50
Sticky carpet rating: 6.5 darts being played in the pub, darts being played on the TV, pool table, lots of friendly locals propping up the bar
Overall score 8. Very lively atmosphere on our visit, helped by a knowledgeable barmaid, some good 90's tunes on the jukebox and solid selection of crisps and snacks. Oh, and the rum…

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Keep Portland Weird - All the pubs pt.1

Listening to other peoples’ relationship advice is about as helpful as following centenarians tips on making it to a hundred; ‘have different interests’, 'be passionate', 'drink two bottles of Miller and a glass of whisky before bed’ etc. I’ll leave you to decide which answers match which question.

While I don’t have any invaluable tips (although I wouldn’t recommend squeezing your wedding ring with a pair of pliers in an attempt to resize it), if I had to distil the reason I’m still (mostly) happily married, it would probably come down to the Ewing’s reaction to my proposal of spending a few days visiting all the pubs on the Isle of Portland. When I saw her unbridled enthusiasm for an idea that even I thought was a bit ridiculous, I knew I had a keeper.

Which is how we came about traipsing around the limestone-tied ‘island’ - which is actually attached to the mainland at the eastern end of Chesil Beach, the impressive shingle tombolo that stretches 18 miles down the Jurassic Coast - while sampling the wares of the 15 hostelries on the Isle. These pubs being defined by the map on the West Dorset CAMRA page, minus the British Legion, as it’s really a club (mmm...attention to detail - TE), and with the addition of the Punchbowl, which I assume was omitted for not serving ‘real ale’).

Alongside a short write up of each visit, in case anyone should want to follow in our footsteps, I have also invented my own ‘sticky carpet’ rating - devised to celebrate all the wonderful quirks and eccentricities of a proper British pub. 

For a low rating think gastro pub with stripped back floorboards, scented hand cream in the loos, and a seasonal menu involving game and seafood. A high rating is reserved for a boozer with cigarette burns on the loo cistern, a resident dog curled up by the fruit machine and a menu of dry roasted peanuts and scotch eggs. There’s probably some metaphor for modern marriage in there somewhere, but I’ll just leave it as them both being perfect in their own way.

Before our first evening spent getting battered, we stopped for batter of a different sort at the island's most recently opened fish bar, Chesil Chippie - chosen as I was curious to try their more outré offerings of Lyme Bay Scallops, smoked cod goujons and battered samphire, as well as getting my fix of Southern chip shop favourite, the pea fritter. With our food freshly fried to order, and the friendly staff making our short wait much more entertaining, I was looking forward to our al fresco fish supper.

The original idea was to arrive to the last blazes of autumnal sunshine before picking up our supper and scrambling over the pebbles to watch the sunset somewhere over Lyme Regis, but clearly the British climate had other ideas. While the rain held off, the wind (as my Mother had been repeatedly warning me prior to our trip) was whipping particularly ferociously, even for the notoriously gusty Isle of Portland.

Luckily, unlike pesky sand, the pebbles here are far too big to be shifted by a stiff sea breeze and we managed to eat our first dinner on the beach - even if the Ewing ended up as cold as her leftover chips. All the food was well worth windburn, with my favourite being the scallops and the Ewing’s the cod, while we fought over crispy scraps of salty samphire dragged through their impressive homemade tartare sauce. The pea fritter was also particularly brilliant example of the genre and, luckily for me, I got it all to myself.

As we started to fear a side of frostbite with our fish, I was glad there wasn’t far to go to reach our first pub, the The Little Ship, situated almost opposite the chippy. While the temperature didn’t feel much warmer than being outside, the greeting was friendly enough and I was pleased to see a dart board, pool table and fruit machine, which I took as a hopeful portent of the sticky carpet standard of pubs to come. There was even a traditional wooden skittle alley, although it seemed to be being used to store old tables and chairs on our visit.

In what would become a depressingly constant theme to our trip, the cask ale was limited to one choice; Wadworth’s 6X – although we were told there were another couple of casks ‘settling’ behind the bar. Despite the restricted selection it was served in fine condition and made a pleasing first pint. The Ewing, after deciding moments before that she would never eat again, also picked up some lurid blue fizzy sweets that were purportedly helping support cancer charities – offset, no doubt, by the cost of the rise of type two diabetes (supporting charities really is a double edged sword sometimes - TE).

The Little Ship: 2x pints Wadworth 6X £7.00
Sticky carpet rating: 7. Higher than average thanks to the pool table, darts, fruit machine and skittle alley - not in use (oh what could have been...TE). Loos are SC standard, although at least they boasted both soap and loo roll.
Overall score: 5. All the attributes of a good old British boozer, but in a strangely disjointed setting, probably not helped by it being fairly quiet on our visit. My pint was well kept though, and an extra mark for a great soundtrack of Dylan, the Stones and the Doors.

The Cove House Inn - an atmospheric 18th century hostelry built of Portland stone, just two minutes’ walk from our first stop - was much livelier. Being there just for the beer, we were restricted to the bar, as all the tables in the restaurant areas were booked for dinner. No matter, we perched up on our stools and were entertained by our enthusiastic barman as he pulled our Pints of Adnams Broadside.

Despite not being a local beer – the other cask ale offered was Doombar – it was a decent enough pint, but I was more tempted by the food menu, with seasonal offerings such as crab tagliatelle and haddock chowder to compliment the sweeping views of Chesil Cove (had it not already been pitch black by this point). The Ewing wanted a slice of banoffee pie to go with a second pint but, with two stops still to go I checked out the loos (in the name of research - clean but no lights in the cubicles?) and dragged her back into the hoolie raging outside (SO unfair, that banoffee would have been good - TE).

Cove House Inn: 2x  pints Adnams Broadside £7.60
Sticky carpet rating: 5 - with its uneven floors, low-beamed ceilings (mind out if you’ve had a couple) and prime spot on the sea front, the Cove Inn is the sort of charmer that would happily woo your mother. No darts or pool here, but they do serve scratchings and welcome dogs into the bar (and the barman LOVED  my woolly hat, that makes it an 8 for me -  TE).
Overall score: 6.5 - based on our fleeting visit, although the score would have undoubtedly been higher if we had returned for food.

Our next stop was to Castletown, to the far north east of the island, where we hit the The Royal Breakwater; a good looking building that, as its name cunningly suggests, is also a hotel. Inside had a funny kind of atmosphere, somewhere between a holiday club – with parents trying to finish their meals while the children, threatened with bedtime, ran merrily amok – and a proper boozer. The guy we met at the bar was certainly already very well lubricated as he attempted a hilariously disjointed conversation with the, far too accommodating, Ewing.

It was at this point when, after looking at the uninspiring beer selection, I made my move on to the rum and coke. I’m not normally a big spirit drinker, but being as we were in the right neck of the woods, rum seemed as good a choice as any and I eased myself in with a Mountgay Eclipse. A beverage chosen as Bond orders it with soda in QoS, just before he wins the Aston Martin DB5 in a game of poker. The Ewing tried to get her Malibu with pineapple, but the high winds had obviously felled all the palm trees on the island, so she ended up with Coke too.

Royal Breakwater Hotel – 1x Mountgay eclipse and Coke; 1x Malibu and Coke £5.20
Sticky carpet rating: 6.5. Pool table, dart board and fruit machines, plus a trail of ketchup across our table from abandoned sachet, set the scene, while the Malibu added nicely to the retro feel. The loos are accessed by walking across a strange kind of indoor alleyway, but were commendably clean.
Overall rating: 5.5. A friendly place, and I would have been happy to stay for another, but a slightly odd layout and didn’t feel quite ‘pubby’ enough for me.

Moving almost directly next door to our final stop of the evening, (ooo, our fave - TE) The Green Shutters was the pub I had most been looking forward to visiting; attracted by both the reviews and the name - sounding, as it does, like a ‘proper’ boozer, amidst a sea of forgettable generic monikers. Walking in I felt cheered that this was going to be a good stop, reinforced by the ale which, although small in stature, included the local DBC Pilsner, interestingly served on cask.

The Ewing sampled a pint of the above, while I stuck with the Mountgay and coke. Both solid choices, but the real excitement came with the snack we chose to accompany them – Shakey’s Black Country scratchings. I had seen bags of this strange looking snack, with its little yellow cartoon pig on the front, behind all the previous bars we had visited; and now, my hunger slowly returning, decided it was finally time to sample them.

Despite the midlands moniker, these are proud Portland pig bits, and very good they were too, despite the ominous health warning ‘only recommended for people with strong, healthy teeth’ on the back of the bag (now I don't remember seeing any piggies on the isle...suspicious - TE). They also must have had some magical effect on our inebriation levels, as we had suddenly perked up enough to start considering the range of top shelf whiskys as a nightcap, helped no doubt by Europe slowly beginning to claw back their second day deficit at the Masters, which I was following on the TV in the corner.

I picked the Auchentoschan American Wood, an easy-going lowland whisky I first tried on the overnight sleeper to Edinburgh, which knocked me out ‘til well past Carlisle. The Ewing was very excited to see Black Cow vodka - the world’s only vodka made from milk – which is also made just down the road in West Dorset. Not only did her choice, a double on the rocks, cause a stir amongst the regulars, but the barman also gave it to her at the bargain price of £2.50 as ‘it isn’t really that popular’ (sheer madness - TE). Which pretty much made up for the golf, and the fact we still had the windy walk back to the mainland to contemplate....

Green Shutters - 1x Mountgay Eclipse and Coke, 1x pint DBC pilsner; I x Shakey’s scratchings; 1x double Auchentoshan American Oak; 1x double Black Cow Vodka £14.30 (I mean, Oh. My. God. - TE)
Sticky carpet rating: 8.5 A solid score thanks to pool, darts, fruit machines, and a decent collection of charity tins - including 80s favourite Sooty, which the Ewing was particularly excited to see (collecting for the RNIB no less, well done Sooty - TE). In fact, we probably spent more money donating to these than on our beverages.
Overall rating: 9. Great pub with great staff and a lively atmosphere and somewhere I’d like to go back for a quiet daytime pint (the Ewing would like to go back to finish the vodka). I’m taking a point off for the beer selection being a little lacking, but the cheap top shelf spirits goes someway to make up for it.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Pies and Subs in Camberwell

Camberwell, the leafy (ish) corner of South East London that’s the birthplace of the Carrot ('I invented it in Camberwell and it's shaped like a carrot') Boris Karloff, and Florence of Machine fame, as well as being the home of the curious concrete submarine-shaped block that acts as a vent shaft for a subterranean boiler room providing heating to the adjacent housing estates.

Most of this quirky behemoth was sadly surrounded by hoardings trumpeting a ‘visionary new development’ in the ‘Oval Quarter’ (no, me neither) when we visited. Although the area is experiencing the same insidious creep of gentrification that can be seen across most of London, it looks as though this concrete curiosity is set to remain pumping out power, after the chimneys were extended by four metres each last year. Which is more than can be said for all the council residents that have been shipped out of the area to accommodate the controversial new development.

One recent addition to the area that has been much better received is Theo’s Pizzeria, a traditional wood-fired pizza restaurant just off Camberwell Church Street, offering Italianate delights such as aubergine parmagiana, cheesy garlic focaccia and potato and mozzarella croquettes to the lucky residents of SE5.

The succinct beer list runs from the standard Moretti to the local Orbit Nico kolsh lager (brewed up the road in Walworth) and Kernel Table Beer (brewed up the road in Bermondsey). Despite Stealth’s reservations about its low ABV (but that's piss-weak) we got through a couple of frosty jugs of the latter, the perfect choice for a warm mid-afternoon when there was plenty more still to be done after our lunch.

From a strong list of starters and side – the aforementioned croquettes and the pizza fritta looked particularly dreamy - we chose a little snack of Mortadella, pickled green chillies and crescentine, a kind of puffy pillow of fried dough, sprinkled with salt to nibble on waiting for our pizzas. 

Add some of their magnificent homemeade red chilli sauce, and you’ve got yourself pretty much the most perfect starter - despite the Ewing’s misgivings about having to attempt to ‘share’ with Stealth, who is still famous for taking two chocolates (one for now and one for later) every time you offer her the selection box (it always ends badly - TE).

The pizzas served at Theo’s are Neapolitan-style pies with a sourdough base; fired very quickly at very hot temperatures in their wood-fired oven that – in an ideal world - leaves them with a puffy and blistered crust and a perfectly melted middle.

Now I’m a pizza whore, and would eat almost anything involving dough and cheese, but Neapolitan pizzas are my favourite of all. They are also probably the hardest to get right, as the brief cooking time means that if the pizza isn’t fired at a hot enough temperature, or has too many toppings, you are left with a pallid, doughy crust and a soggy bottom covered in a puddle of lukewarm tomato soup.

Thankfully, they had clearly stoked their fires and my pie, the Camberwell scotch bonnet n’duja with sopressata sausage, was gooey and charred in all the right places. Topping wise this was also the perfect combo – hot sausage, oozy cheese and just the right amount of tomato, before being strewn with a handful of fresh basil that smelt like the final, glorious throes of summer as it arrived at our table.

Stealth was very happy with her scotch bonnet pie with added mushrooms (her favourite foodstuff, alongside the gala pie), while the Ewing pimped the anchovy and olive combo with some mozzarella and extra wood-fire roasted aubergine.

Pizzas start at £5.50 for a Marinara, topping out at a tenner for fancy stuff like a pizza bianca with sausage and wild broccoli - which is still approximately half the cost of a Dominos while giving you approximately twice as much pleasure, especially if you slather it in some more of their red chilli sauce.

Despite missing the summer cut-off point - owing the fact it was two days after the vernal equinox, and now officially autumn - I still couldn’t resist the pistachio ice cream which was magnificent - far better than much of the ice cream I’ve eaten in Italy and definitely in LAB G league. South London really does have a strong line up of frozen nut-based desserts at the moment, now happily joined by some great pizza - the perfect accompaniments to the eponymous carrot.

Theo's  Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Wycombe Bites: Breakfast at Bluegrass

After the brief terror of nearly losing one of my favourite local restaurants, I've decided to show some love for some of the excellent food and drink currently coming out of my adopted home town - a big change from the days when I'd get the train to meet my friends as a teenager, and we'd spend our afternoons eating cheeseburgers and smoking cigarettes at McDonalds (inside, using little foil ashtrays, those were the days) followed by sharing an illicit bottle of vodka down on the Rye.

I've written favourably about Bluegrass before, the pudding are particularly good, but a little (long) while ago they also started doing breakfast. With pancakes, smoked meat, bottomless filter coffee and tea (served in huge enamel tea pots) and just ten minutes walk from our front door, it's needless to say the Ewing and I were soon regular visitors. 

For a whole egg-avoider, pancakes are a perfect breakfast foodstuff, and the ones they serve at Bluegrass are my favourite fluffy american type. That said, the ones served here are a little flatter than normal, being more like a the scotch pancakes that we used to bung in the toaster and spread with butter and jam when I was growing up.

That said, anything covered with crispy bacon - they serve proper streaky stuff here - banana, pecans and maple syrup is always going to be pretty good. They are also commendably generous with the toppings and serve shots of maple syrup for extra lubrication.

Bacon and banana is my favourite of the combos I've tried, but the fresh blueberry and blueberry jam, served here with some phallic bacon and plenty of syrup, is also good. More unusual, and worth a try, is the apple and sausage stack - with bramley apple sauce, cinnamon sugar and pecans - which is also good value at six quid. 

For a mere fiver you can get your pancakes with chocolate chips, caramel sauce and ice cream. It's a majestic-looking plate of food that's just a little too much  refined sugar at such an early hour; although, judging from the amount of people ordering it when I've visited, plenty disagree.

Even better than the pancakes are the Bluegrass breakfast plates. The smokehouse plate- texas toast, baked eggs, bacon, sausages, pit beans, smoked mushrooms, grilled tomato and homemade hash brown - is my favourite, while the Ultimate Plate also adds a pile of pulled pork and a short stack of pancakes.

As their flat top grill is in use cooking the pancakes and texas toast, the eggs come oven-baked in little enamel dishes. Apparently, they're pretty good with soldiers of the aforementioned toast for dipping; I've never tried them, preferring to swap my l'oeuf for an extra, oniony hash brown, which are some of the best I've eaten.

So, while the only smoking going on is the meat - which is all still  slow smoked over hardwood on site - and the illicit vodka has been replaced by a menu of bourbons and whisky (which you can mix with Welch's grape juice, for a real American breakfast vibe), I can certainly think of worse ways to while away a morning in Wycombe.