If we can’t go to the pub, then we’ll just have to bring the pub to us.
Lockdown during winter has been tough so if you get the chance to splash out, it’s worth doing it.
And we went all out. We got dressed up – well, put on a pair of jeans for the first time in months – laid the table nicely, put some music on and enjoyed a beautiful three-course meal, courtesy of The Talbot, in Belbroughton.
Our six-year-old daughter put on her most sparkly dress and painted her nails. She was beaming from ear-to-ear just at the thought of doing something special for Sunday lunch.
It was my wife, Kelly, who thought of the idea after seeing The Talbot advertising it was still open for takeaway food.
Of course, anything we can do to keep the hospitality sector afloat must be done, so it was nice to able to give the owners and staff some support.
The system was very simple too. All you need to do is look at their takeaway menu online, decide what you’re going to have, phone them up, give your order, pay over the phone and agree on a time to pick up the meal.
And once it’s ready, you just turn up the pub, call to let them know you’ve arrived, open your boot and wait for them to come out and pop the food in the car. Social distancing, etc, all adhered too.
I really miss going to pubs and restaurants, and I’m sure they can’t wait to be able to let customers back in too. In the meantime, however, the next best thing is getting pub or restaurant-quality meals to take away.
We’ve also decided to go pescatarian for Lent – because living through a third lockdown clearly isn’t challenging enough.
Joking aside, giving up meat for a few weeks really does broaden the horizons and it just so happens The Talbot has a brilliant menu for veggies and vegans, as well as meat eaters.
Starters include goats cheese and sticky red onion croquettes, with a balsamic glaze and dressed rocket; fully-loaded nachos with guacamole, tomato salsa, sour cream and jalapenos; halloumi fries with sweet chilli sauce; crispy chicken wings, with either barbecue or Frank’s hot sauce, topped with blue cheese and spring onion; barbecue-glazed baby back ribs with house slaw; oven-baked rosemary studded Camembert with red onion chutney and garlic ciabatta; and hot-smoked salmon arancini with rocket, parmesan and tarragon mayonnaise.
Kelly opted for the creamed garlic and Stilton button mushrooms, which came served with a baked ciabatta.
It was an ample helping and she really enjoyed the dish. And the ciabatta was still fresh.
There was a big helping of mushrooms and the rich, creamy sauce was delicious too. It was pretty filling for a starter and maybe half the dish would have been enough - but that didn’t take anything away from how nice it tasted.
I went for the salt and pepper squid, which came served with a sriracha mayonnaise and Asian vegetables.
I’ve got to say, especially for some pub grub, it was some of the nicest squid I’ve tasted in a long time.
The coating was light and had a slight kick, while the squid itself was cooked beautifully. It was so nice Annabelle even lapped some up – and there aren’t many six-year-olds who enjoy a helping of squid.
We also had a side order of sweet potato wedges – which had a nice sprinkling of sea salt – and just shared and shared alike.
Maybe it was the fact we were just so happy to pretend being in a pub, but the starters were sublime.
Then it was time for the mains and, again, there was plenty of choice for all taste buds.
Fish and chips with mushy peas, tartare sauce and a lemon wedge; steak burger with smoked bacon, Monterey Jack cheese, gem lettuce, beef tomato, ranch mayo and fries; Thai Penang red chicken curry with steamed jasmine rice, garlic chilli and pak choi; sweet potato and chickpea tempeh curry, with basmati rice, and lime and coconut yoghurt; tandoori-spied chicken burger with crispy bhaji onions, raita dressing, mango chutney and fries; chargrilled sirloin steak with wild mushrooms, confit garlic, fries and cherry vine tomatoes; traditional lamb tagine with Moroccan style cous-cous; oven-baked salmon fillet with smoked bacon, peas, savoy cabbage and roasted garlic butter minted potatoes; or slow-cooked char-sui pork belly with sticky rice and garlic chilli pak choi. All of them sounded delicious and were very reasonably priced.
I liked the look of the vegan meatball rigatoni, which came served with tomatoes, garlic, olives and basil. It would have been a vegan dish but I added some grated cheese too – the joys of serving yourself whilst at home.
Again, it was a really nice dish. Simply put together but sometimes less is more when it comes to pasta, which was certainly the case here. The meatballs were quite small but tasted really nice. You’ll never be able to replace a proper meatball when it comes to a pasta dish, but as alternative these worked really well.
Despite the travel time and a quick blast in the microwave it didn’t seem to affect the quality of the dish, or the sauce it was served in. All in all in was the perfect size, which left enough room for a dessert.
Kelly went for the veggie alternative to a Sunday roast, which was a beetroot, mushroom and blue cheese Wellington, which came served with roast potatoes, a carrot and swede mash, greens and gravy.
It safe to say Kelly had never tried such a dish before and it came with a few pleasant surprises.
The first was the fact the Wellington filling was an entire beetroot and encased in the pastry it worked really well, especially with the added hit of Stilton.
Like most Brits, we tend to eat our beetroot pickled but when served as it should be, the taste is really nice.
The veg was also really nicely cooked, particularly the roasted and glazed carrots. Again, there was a lot of it and Kelly pretty much halved her dish but that just meant she could enjoy it again the next day – another plus of eating at home.
Annabelle went for the house cheese burger off the kids menu, which came served with fries. It was only watching her eat her burger that I felt genuinely gutted not to be eating meat, especially when she kindly offered us both a bite and we had to turn it down. But we could tell it was proper burger, made and cooked with a nice cut of meat. One of the best we’d seen on a kids menu anyway.
For dessert we finished off the meal with a baked New York-style cheesecake, which came with sweet cherries and whipped cream, as well as chocolate slice served with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Once again, we all dived in and sampled a bit of both.
We really can’t praise the pub enough for how well they presented, served and cooked dishes for us, with all the restrictions, rules and issues that are currently in place.
All the boxes were recyclable too. Not a piece of plastic in sight. The hospitality sector desperately needs our support at the moment so if you can give The Talbot’s takeaway menu a whirl – or buy locally to where ever you live – we would highly recommend it.