Birthday dinner number two duly took place at The Boathouse at the Beetle and Wedge. Aside from my father and myself it was an all female group, something he seemed a little less comfortable with than I was, and looked disconsolate when Maggie seated us apart.
The hotel has a double wammy of literary associations: Jerome K. Jerome sat down to write Three Men in a Boat within its walls, and this particular stretch of the Thames at Mouslford was the location for Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows.
I love this comment on their website: "Our puds are very special and have gained praise from even the most jaded food writers." If they have to wait half as long as we did for their food, it's no wonder they're feeling jaded by the time they pack in their pavlovas.
My father, who somewhat masochistically enjoys timing these things, reckoned that we had been at the table for an hour and a half before the main course made its appearance. It was quickly followed by the chef from the open charcoal grill (pictured) with an apology − though he did say it was somehow all the fault of my halibut. Of course while sitting around waiting for food what most of us tend to do is drink, so their chosen method of compensation, a rather nice pudding wine, guaranteed a slow start to Sunday.
The menu is rather unconventional: starters and mains are jumbled together in the top section followed by 'Limited Edition' (eh?) and 'From the Charcoal Grill'. I had the English lamb sweetbreads and the aforementioned halibut with its Latin American timekeeping. When I was little I used to feel a lot braver eating sweetbreads as some pitiless grown-up had cynically misinformed me about the anatomical provenance of this delicacy.
Earlier in the day, celebrations kicked off with a pint of the West Berkshire Brewery's Decadence ale at The Pot Kiln. It seems that Maggie has become the de-facto preferred B&B supplier to this establishment, putting up foodies that have traversed several counties in order to partake of the celebrity cuisine on offer here − courtesy of V's least favourite TV chef. The pub area is quite cramped, and according to some of Maggie's more delicate and discerning guests, fills up with "yobs" (i.e. minor public schoolboys) in the evenings. There's a little row of green wellies by the door, which is a nice touch, even if they are effectively stage props.