And now presenting the second of our Christmas food reviews. You may be seeing a bit of a trend with our choices…
For the last few years, I have been joined by my foodie friends Kelly Kingham and Tom Herbert around this time of year for a review meal. Last year, you may remember, we went to Schpoons & Forx, the restaurant of the Hilton Hotel at Bournemouth for our 400th Issue.
In return for that particular meal, Kelly and Tom had long since promised to take me to one of their favourite places in Weymouth, namely The Handmade Pie & Ale House. I know — our last restaurant review was about pies as well. It’s the time of year for it, okay? Festive ingredients wrapped in gorgeous pastry.
This restaurant has a reputation for excellent quality, not just from the assurances of Kelly and Tom, but from other people in my acquaintance. My grandmother counting among them.
There was a lot to live up to. The Christmassy ambience was apparent upon opening the door. Not just the Michael Bublé soundtrack interlaced with classics from Frank Sinatra and the ubiquitous and repetitive Mariah Carey, but the decorations.
I won’t beat about the bush – I had a peeve on this visit, which was with the waitress. The only one on staff this particular Sunday afternoon. While I can appreciate a server with a sense of humour, but not when it gets in the way of their being helpful. And I felt, and my co-diners agreed, that her humour was dry to the point of blunt sarcasm. Some of my other friends may just accuse her of “mugging us off”. Especially when answering questions such as “What does the pie come with?” with “Food. And cutlery.” We also all thought she spoke a bit too quickly and quietly when relaying the menu items that were no longer in stock, prompting us to try and remember by going down the list while we chose.
That’s my moan over with; let’s talk about the food! Since this is a Christmastime review, I could not resist the simply-named Festive Pie (see pictured), a gold medalist from 2017’s National British Pie Awards, no less! All the pies look more-or-less the same, so take that image as a precedent. The sides are not restricted to just chips and peas, you’ll be pleased to hear; baked beans and mash are also available alongside other choices.
Now then, the Festive Pie in detail. Unlike my visit to Piecaramba a couple of issues ago, this was a turkey pie. It was also a pigs-in-blankets pie, with loads of sausage and bacon adorning the filling. Sage and onion stuffing gave it substance, and rich and sweet cranberry sauce finished it with a bit of colour. When collated together amid the buttery, sumptuous pastry, there was a combination fit to substitute the traditional Christmas dinner. It lived up to its national award-winning status. And if I were presented one of these on 25th December, you would not hear any complaint from me.
It’s not all about me, however. Tom chose The Must Have, the only other pie on the menu that I had deliberated over. I love chicken and leeks as a combination, and that’s exactly what came within this shortcrust case. Along with other gorgeous ingredients like bacon and sour cream. You can imagine for yourselves why I was sorely tempted.
Chicken had also been on Kelly’s mind, though not from a festive or British traditional point-of-view. Texas Barbeque was the theme for her choice – The Meltdown. That’s chicken and bacon in a barbeque and cheddar cheese sauce. Eschewing the tiny frying net of chips and colander of peas, she accompanied her meal with mash and baked beans instead.
Admittedly from the picture you saw above, the pie may not look like an awful lot, especially when compared to Piecaramba’s. Don’t be deceived, I warn you! The portions are by no means measly, and the pie is absolutely bursting with filling. Plus the crust is quite thick, which adds to the dish’s substance even more. You definitely get everything you pay for in the £13-15 they charge you for it.
Of course, I would recommend this restaurant without question. Our earlier-mentioned issue with the waitress did not diminish the great service we otherwise received. Top marks for the food – and that’s the most important thing for a restaurant!
More gorgeous food to come further down the month – with the main course and dessert recipes from this year’s dinner party, plus a revisited Bournemouth favourite…