Apr 1 2012 By Jack Griffith
Coach & Horses
The Coach and Horses in the heart of Ickenham has changed owners several times in recent years, despite its huge popularity in an area well blessed with pubs. With the latest landlords comes a new menu. JACK GRIFFITH investigates
In their fight to stay in business in an unpredictable and hugely competitive market, and with more and more people choosing to drink at home, pubs are increasingly looking to improve the selection of food they offer to keep the punters coming back.
The Coach and Horses, a self-proclaimed family pub in the heart of Ickenham, is no exception.
The pub, in High Road, has changed hands several times in recent years, passing from Embers to Mitchell and Butlers and now Stonegate, the UKs largest independent brewery. With that transition has come a refurbishment, and an overhauled menu in time for the new season.
Its homely exterior is not a facade; inside, it felt like a huge living room, and the ambience was just right - middle of the road music playing quietly, and with a healthy, early evening buzz about it.
After picking a table bathed in natural light and next to the vast beer garden, I set my mind to the task at hand - getting a slap-up, three course meal down me. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.
The first thing that struck me about the menu was how big it is. A double-sided sheet bigger than A4, there is something for everyone - fish, burgers, salads, sandwiches, and even pub favourites were among the standard headings the dishes came under.
Any pub or restaurant with such a range is no doubt looking to cater to as many people's tastes as possible, and understandably so in a pub's case.
But episodes of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares have taught me that a kitchen stretched beyond its means can lead to corners being cut, which inevitably impacts on the quality of the food.
Would this theory be proven?
For my starter, I opted for an old classic: King Prawn Cocktail.
Tasty yet simple, it is an opener that can also be got wrong all too easily.
The dish itself looked fine. The lettuce was fresh and shredded nicely, and the marie-rose sauce was as it should be.
I generally like my prawns bigger and with a bit more bite, but they had a clean taste and there was no lasting fishy tang that would have suggested they had been left for longer than they should have been.
I resisted the urge to get a Sirloin steak on what was grill night, and went for one of the more adventurous dishes on the menu: slow-cooked lamb shoulder with spciy chorizo, butter beans, cumin and garlic, served in a rich tomato and smoked paprika sauce.
I ordered this main with trepidation as it brought back memories of a 'bad experience' with a lamb shank in my teens...the less said about that the better.
It didn't smell too appetising when it arrived at my table, and at first I didn't quite know how to tackle the imposing lump of meat put in front of me.
It was quite a fatty cut but the meat was very tender, and the rich tomato and chorizo sauce had a nice heat which complimented the lamb really well. The mash was well seasoned and buttery as described but not as silky as it could've been, and the tenderstem broccoli, a personal favourite of mine, was overdone, which was disappointing.
In all, however, I was very satisfied with the meal, and the only reason I didn't clear my plate was because I had a dessert to squeeze in.
The chocolate-orange cheesecake was a front-runner within 10 seconds of me picking up the menu, but when the time came, duty manager Debbie successfully diverted my attentions and sold me the homemade Bramley Apple Crumble.
It was a winner. The custard was the perfect consistency and not too sweet, and the apples were soft but not overdone, but the crumble was the crowning glory.
It had that crunch you expect from any good crumble, and some of the bigger chunks were delightfully chewy. I found myself going for 'one more mouthful' several times after reaching bursting point.
All desserts are two for the price of one as well, and a braver man would have taken on the challenge, but I duly departed as the bar filled up with children and their parents with menus in hand.
This pub is a local favourite and it is easy to see why. The service comes with a smile, there is a vast selection of ales, lagers and soft drinks to choose from, and the food is up to scratch and excellent value for money.
So much for the pubs:next time, in the third of our new series, the Gazette spreads its wings a bit further to see what else is on the menu in this area.