The Rose & Crown, Wolverhampton

Our undercover meal reviewer The Insider fears he may have has his cover blown as he enjoys a sizzling meal which proves to be great value too.

The Rose & Crown, Wolverhampton
The Rose & Crown, Wolverhampton

Our undercover meal reviewer The Insider fears he may have has his cover blown as he enjoys a sizzling meal which proves to be great value too.

I’m sort of the Express & Star’s equivalent of the Stig off Top Gear. An international man of mystery, whose identity is the subject of endless speculation, but guarded so closely that all attempts of unveiling me have proved futile.

At least that was the case. But you may well be aware that The Stig recently chose to reveal his identity as former Formula Three driver Ben Collins in a bid to boost the sales of his autobiography, and I’m wondering whether I should do the same. What do you think?

All right, you’ve twisted my arm. I’m really Katie Price in drag. And my memoirs, Jordan: My Love For Peter, are on sale for £1.99 at a discount store in the Mander Centre.

Actually, if I’m to be completely honest with you, there is only one part of the above statement that is strictly accurate. And I’ll leave it to you to find out which.

But the reason I ask this question is there was a brief moment during my visit to the Rose & Crown when I feared my cover might be blown. As we hunted down a table at the back of this busy large pub, one customer in particular caught my eye. Not that there was anything particularly out of the ordinary about him, just another punter with a friend, probably relaxing after a hard day’s work.

But it was his line of work that intrigued me. Unless I was very much mistaken, he was the owner of another pub restaurant which has featured on this page in the past. And as I walked past, he looked up, and flashed a knowing smile, as if to say “I’ve spotted you – you’re The Insider”. Had I been sussed? I know not. But if he did recognise me, he thankfully chose not to expose me to the glare of publicity.

Parking was a bit tricky on the Friday night we visited. There are around 30 spaces in the car park, but every one had been taken when we arrived. One customer gave up waiting for another to leave, and parked her car in nearby Church Hill, but patience paid off for me and I managed to nab a space.

The grounds are very nicely landscaped, and there is a large patio area to the front, but I do wonder whether a few extra parking spaces would be more useful. On the plus side, there are two disabled bays right at the entrance, and wheelchair access is very good.

It was almost as packed inside the pub, although on this cold, autumnal night, the table next to the wide-open door remained stubbornly empty. A group of around five people vacated a circular table towards the back of the pub, but unfortunately they had left it needing a bit of a clean, so when the table next to it became free, we decided to move.

All of life is here, the mature couple having a quiet meal; the, er shall we say exuberant, young ladies having a lively girls’ night out; the thirty-something lads playing cards around a table. The only thing I would say is the crowds tended towards the younger end of the age spectrum, I would say predominantly in their 20s or 30s.

Inside the Rose & Crown, Wolverhampton
Inside the Rose & Crown, Wolverhampton

The Rose & Crown is part of the Sizzling Pub Co chain, and this was my first experience of the brand which focuses on the value end of the market. The decor is similar to that of its sister chain, Ember Inns, with a simple, bright, modern atmosphere. A stylish, circular mirror hangs above the large bench seat in the back corner of the pub, although the wallpaper is perhaps a little too vibrant for some tastes.

The menu is huge, and the prices tiny, although its busy layout, divided into several sub-sections, was a little confusing. The pub appears to take its name from the steaks, which could be heard sizzling on other diners’ tables, and with an 8oz rump for £4.99, a sirloin for £6.49, or a whopping 16-ouncer for just £8.19, it’s not hard to see why they’re popular.

I fancied something a little different, though and asked for the sausage and mash, a bargain at £4.39. Sadly, it seemed other people had similar ideas, and it had sold out, so in its place, I went for the Timothy Taylor and beef pie. According to the menu, it is described as “a real winter warmer”, which seemed quite fitting given the foul weather outside.

Drinks wise, there is a choice of Banks’s or Worthington’s bitter, but no mild, plus the usual big brand lagers and Guinness. There is a reasonably varied wine list, complete with tasting notes, on the wall, and they are as aggressively priced as the food – Valloro red or white is just £1.89 a glass (175ml), or £6.49 a bottle.

I was told there would be a 40-minute wait when the food was ordered, so I was slightly surprised that it came in little more than half of that time.

In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting too much, and I was quite surprised by both the quality and the size of the portions. The pie came with a shortcrust coating, which is a pleasant change from the ubiquitous puff pastry. The pastry was very thick, which is a good thing, but a little on the hard side, which is less so, but overall it is recommended. There was plenty of pleasant, tender soft meat in the hot ale gravy, and there were ample helpings of chips, although it is a shame they were machine rather than hand-cut.

My dining partner had gone for the small fish and chips, which still proved to be plenty large enough, and amazing value for £2.99. She remarked that it was as good as at some places that charge three or more times as much, so there’s no faulting the value.

Now I’m afraid I’ve got a little confession to make, and I’m going to be letting you down a little. For only the second time since I started this column exactly two-and-a-half years ago, I was unable to manage a dessert. Disappointing, because I really fancied the sound of the chocolate fudge cake mountain, but by the end of our voluminous main courses, neither of us could either manage so much as a chocolate fudge molehill.

With coffees and drinks, the total bill came to just £17.30, and it is hard to see how you could have managed it all for much less had you bought ready meals at the supermarket. Sizzling value.

ADDRESS

The Rose & Crown, 351 Penn Road, Wolverhampton WV4 5QG

Phone: 01902 340807

MENU SAMPLE

STARTERS

Breaded mushrooms £2.49; Half rack of barbecue ribs £2.99; Bubble-battered tempura prawns £3.49

MAIN COURSES

8oz rump steak £4.99; 10oz ribeye steak £7.99; Gammon steak and pineapple £2.99/ £4.48/£7.59; Whole tail scampi with chips, peas and lemon wedge £3.79/£4.99/£6.99; Sweet and sour chicken £6.19; Mediterranean vegetable pesto pasta £4.29

DESSERTS

Toffee apple and cinnamon meltdown £3.09; Sticky toffee and banana sponge £3.09; Rhubarb crumble £3.49

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