Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Bucks Bites: Bull and Butcher

Now days it’s hard to think of a foodstuff that doesn’t have its own dedicated day. From cream puffs to cassoulet, chocolate cake to cheese fondue, it seems like there is an annual opportunity for me to be reminded of it while scrolling through Twitter at work, while tucking in to the same weekday sarnie at my desk. Of course, I feel very smug when sandwich week rolls around.

Apart from pancake day, which is obviously one of the holiest days in the glutton’s calendar, I can’t honestly say I’ve ever really been tempted by the marketers ploys to get me to eat more sausages or sandwiches, or sausage sandwiches (possibly because I’m not sure I could eat anymore), although the creation of the ploughman’s lunch - by the wonderfully named, Cheese Bureau - is still one of my favourite PR stories.

That being said, I did find myself a couple of weeks ago cynically shoehorning that it was National Fish and Chip Day on 1 June into the conversation. A handy way to persuade the Ewing that we should go for dinner in a country pub garden to commemorate the fact and a mercifully easy task when fried fish on a Friday was involved.

Of course a far harder job was deciding which pub and then crossing everything that it wasn’t going to rain. In answer to the former, I picked the Bull and Butcher in Turville, a quintessentially ‘English’ pub with whitewashed walls found in the picturesque Hambleden Valley village that the Vicar of Dibley was set in. 

With regard to the latter, not only did the rain hold off, but the clouds even parted a little; a very good job as all the inside tables seemed to have 'reserved’ signs on them. Fortunate really, as my wife’s 'thoughts' of booking had remained just that.

Although it isn’t Beer Day until the 15 June (which conveniently happens to be this Friday…), a pint of beer was a no-brainer, vying with creosote-coloured tannic tea as the perfect beverage with deep fried cod.  As it's a Brakspears pub, I went with their 'ordinary' bitter, a beer that in 1993, beer writer Michael Jackson described as the best in England.

Since their Henley home closed, production has moved to the Wychwood brewery in Witney and it fails to reach those heady heights anymore. That said it remains a great example of a classic English ale with biscuity malts and a fruity spiciness, at a low enough abv (3.9) to be the kind of perfect session beer that creeps up on gently you over an afternoon in front of a log fire with a good book and a wet dog for company.

While I had neither of these, I did have the conversation of the Ewing and my cod - skin on, we are in the South - with a slightly too thick carapace of batter, it was pretty decent, if not up to Prestwood Plaice standards (the Ewing used to drive around with a paper bag in the boot, so she could transport our Friday fish and chips home without risk of sogginess). Alongside were proper fat chips, which may have seemed miserly at first glance, but even I struggled to finish them.

While the main event passed muster, the accompaniments were standout. Peas, which were mushy and not the garden variety (nothing against their rounder brother, but mushy all the way with fried fish), were excellent. I also got the Ewing on the pea and malt vinegar vibe. Try it, it's a revelation. The home made tartar sauce was also stick your finger in the remnants at the bottom of the ramekin good.

My pudding was another pint of Brakspears, although we could have chosen from the stalwarts including bread and butter pudding, lemon tart and a chocolate brownie. Surprisingly the Ewing also eschewed dessert, plumping instead for a handful of runner bean plants from the plant sale to take home instead. Here’s hoping they’ll be ready by phaseolus coccineus week.

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