Restaurant Review: The Old Devil InnBy Caroline Cook
August 15, 2012
Finding a pub that has a good beer garden, ample parking and decent food is far from easy.
A few weeks ago, on one of the first rare sunny days of the year, my partner and I went in search of such a venue for a spot of dinner in the sunshine.
We spent nearly an hour driving round the outskirts of Reading looking for somewhere that ticked the boxes. Either car parks were overspilling or the beer gardens were too small.
If only we had known The Old Devil Inn was just up the road at Knowl Hill.
The pub has been there for years and now newcomer Phil Sanderson is in the hot seat and he is hoping to make it a thriving business.
Having already established a loyal following at The Green Man, just down the road in Hurst, Phil is bringing his experience to the new venture.
When we went along last week it was another glorious sunny day, perhaps a little too hot if I dare say it, so we opted to sit inside and cool off a bit. There is a spacious beer garden if you prefer.
The menu, which was hot off the press last week, was packed with summer dishes and pub favourites, and there was also a specials board which changes every few days.
While we took a look at the menu our waitress brought over our drinks, a Sauvignon Blanc for me and a pint of Rebellion Blonde for my partner, who was delighted to see a local ale on the menu. The beer is made at the Rebellion brewery in Marlow Bottom and there was a choice of three of their popular ales on offer.
For starters we decided to go with a selection of antipasto to share (£11.25), although we were both tempted by the box baked Camembert (£9.75 for two).
For diners who would rather have a plate to themselves there is tomato, onion and basil topped bruschetta (£4.45), and pub classic, the prawn cocktail, made with cold water prawns and dusted with paprika (£5.95).
Our antipasto was delicious, the ideal choice for a warm summer night. The wooden platter was layered with three types of meat, a wafer thin Parma ham, slices of chorizo sausage and salami, which packed the most flavour.
Wedges of warm ciabatta bread lined the edge of the board, along with mixed leaves, cherry tomatoes and a pot of delicious balsamic dressing.
For mains I opted for the steak, Guinness and mushroom pie (£10.95), although I must confess to total food envy when they brought out my companion’s dish. He had gone for a pub staple, The Old Devil Inn burger (£9.95) and it looked like an absolute feast.
Served on another wooden board, the burger was surrounded by chunky chips and homemade beer battered onion rings which looked golden and crispy. The burger itself was a thick patty of meat, sandwiched in a toasted floured bap, stuffed with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and oozing with cheese (£1 extra). And it tasted as good as it looked. The homemade burger was flavoured with chilli, spices and coriander and you could taste the spice slightly which made the burger a step above your usual.
My dish was equally tasty. The pie was filled with tender cubes of prime beef, vegetables and a delicious gravy, and topped with short crust pastry.
Although perhaps not the best dish for a hot day, it was the ‘homemade’ label on the menu which swung it and it was nice to have a pie which was layered with thick, buttery pastry. The dish came with a choice of chips, mash, new potatoes or a jacket potato and I opted for mash, which was fluffy and buttery as mash should be. There were also fresh vegetables, wedges of sweet red onion, thin slices of cabbage and carrots. The only thing missing was a jug of gravy to coat the veg, which was a little on the plain side, but I got round it by using the sauce from the pie.
Sticking with the traditional pub grub the menu also offers a roast of the day (£10.95) and home cooked, hand carved ham with egg and chips (£8.95). A range of salads and ploughman’s are also available along with a children’s menu.
Having polished off my pie, and being too full even to steal a tempting onion ring from my partner’s plate, I had to opt out of pudding – a painful decision looking at the range of strawberry cheesecake, syrup sponge pudding and crumbles on offer.
My companion managed to squeeze in a slice of lemon tart (£4.50), which of course I had to try when it arrived.
All desserts are homeade, which we could tell from the pastry base because it had that fresh taste of being not long baked.
The homemade quality of the food is definitely the thing that puts The Old Devil Inn far above your average ‘pub grub’. Portions are generous, the staff were friendly, and the pub has a cosy feel, although it could do with a little sprucing here and there, which I am sure Phil will get to next.
For now he’s been working on the food, and it’s spot on.
Having only been open for eight weeks The Old Devil Inn has managed to create a menu which more long-established venues would be envious of. And if it is a taster of what is to come then I am sure it won’t be long before The Old Devil Inn has a stellar reputation
- Telephone: 01628 823262
- Website: www.olddevilinn.com
- Address: The Old Devil Inn
Bath Road, Knowl Hill,