Review: The Catherine Wheel, Goring
We sure get around at Muddy – in the nicest way of course! From the recent review of fantastic vegtastic restaurant GAF in Oxford, we now put the pedal to the metal on the A4074 to Goring (George Michael – RIP) to sample the delights of The Catherine Wheel with Kerry Potter, my gluttonous editorial sidekick.
I obviously didn’t concentrate hard enough in history lessons so it wasn’t until we sat down at The Catherine Wheel in Goring, South Oxfordshire, and googled said wheels – they’re a feature of the decor – that I discovered they were a medieval torture device. Strap ’em on, spin ’em round and whack them with a cosh until they die! Lovely. However, I’m happy to report that eating at The Catherine Wheel is definitely NOT a tortuous process – in fact it’s really rather lovely and cosseting.
My friend Corienne and I rocked up in the pretty village of Goring on a freezing Friday lunchtime. We were running late, we’d got lost in the local twisty lanes and had been on the hunt for a car park (the pub doesn’t have one so you need to park in the pay & display just behind it). But all became right with the world as we walked in and were shown to a cosy table right in front of the gorgeous open fire. My eyeliner and mascara may have melted off by the main course (think Alice Cooper after a bender), but, my god, it was cosy.
The warmth (in both senses) of welcome here is something that’s key. The pub is run by three local female customers who took over just 10 months ago, seeing their chance to get on the other side of the bar after the previous management left. It certainly has a friendly feel, crammed with a good mix of locals (and their dogs), and people passing through – it’s a good stop-off point for walks along either the Ridgeway or the Thames Path.
One very special regular is much missed – the late George Michael lived just down the road and would pop in for a pint or bite to eat, his fellow drinkers unfazed by his global fame. You can still see the floral tributes on display outside his house, with co-owner Vanessa reporting visitors from all over the country, and even Europe, arriving in the village, and the pub, to pay their respects.
So let’s get to the nitty gritty. Well, the traditional 18th century English country hostelry is all hanging baskets, low beams, and nooks and crannies. What’s nice is that it’s not as ‘blokey’ as these kind of pubs can sometimes seem – with an all-female management with a predominantly female cooking, waiting and serving staff, everyone is smiley and chatty. The beams are strewn with cute fairy lights, and they’re investing in the decor – the wood-panelled walls have recently been painted an elegant grey-green and they’re awaiting new curtains and newly upholstered seating.
The food is classic pub grub, with nothing to scare the horses or get Jay Rayner’s nostrils flaring. That female touch is also apparent with the menu, with a selection of wholesome main course salads. There’s grilled halloumi or honey-roasted beetroot with goat’s cheese, complete with edamame, toasted pine nuts and pomegranate seeds for those times when you just don’t fancy burger and chips. However, I decided to plump for heartier fare with a starter of smoked mackerel pate, with cranberry and melba toasts. No frills, but tasty.
For the main course, I had smoked haddock and poached egg on bubble and squeak cake, with a creamy mustard sauce. It was delicious and filling, although I wished I asked for some green veg on the side, to cut through all that comfort food creaminess.
It was coq au vin with mash and mange tout for Corienne. Again, the portions were pleasingly hefty – appealing to greedy guzzlers like us.
I’d like to show you photos of our desserts but I’ve picked up Hero’s bad habit of scoffing before I managed to deploy my phone camera. So you’ll have to take my word that my raspberry panna cotta and Corienne’s rhubarb crumble were very tasty.
If I was made of sterner stuff on a chilly day (and not worn silly cropped trousers and a skimpy biker jacket), I would have fully investigated the large, grassy beer garden for you or had a wander down the Thames Path, a mere two minutes walk from the pub, but, um …. from the window, it looked like a canny spot to while away a summer’s evening with a pint.
From May to September, an Italian chef makes pizzas and serves them through a hatch into the garden. That’s an idea that has Pimm’s, free-range kids and languorous Muddy nights written all over them, don’t you think?
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: A family weekend lunch – you can warm up in front of the fire after a walk by the Thames. Dogs are welcome inside and there are water bowls and doggie treats provided too.
Not for: Gourmet or design snobs – this is classic pub food in a trad setting.
£££: Perfectly reasonable for a pub lunch. It’s £5.50 – £7.50 for starters, with mains around £14, although the ‘pub classics’ section of the menu (burgers, fish and chips etc) comes in at £12.50. It’s £6.50 for a child’s main course.
The Catherine Wheel, Station Road, Goring on Thames, Oxfordshire, RG8 9HB; tcwgoring.co.uk