The Roast that wasn't - Sunday Lunch at The Wheatsheaf, Virginia Water - 21 May 2017

A sunny morning after a week of monsoon-like rain was just what I needed as an excuse to take a short stroll by Virginia Water lake to work up an appetite, followed by a roast dinner. As my go-to home-cooked roast dinner expert was working overseas (thanks Si) I decided to try The Wheatsheaf Hotel. Despite having lived locally for 5 1/2 years and having enjoyed many cups of coffee and the occasional Friday night beer on the way home from work, I had never been here to eat or sampled the wines. The Wheatsheaf has an acceptable - if not particularly adventurous - wine list for a pub, almost all available by the Glass. Premium wines include a Sancerre, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, three Prosecco, and three Champagnes: Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut NV, Mum Rosé Brut NV and Veuve Cliquot NV. A seasonal range of cocktails, including mocktails and specialist Gins served with Fever-Tree tonics, rounded out the drinks list - which also features cask ales and six craft beers. Those with intolerances are well served with gluten-free lager and Fentimans botanical sparkling soft drinks.

I always take the appearance of an English Wine on the shelves, especially in a chain establishment, as being a sign of quality, so I was pleasantly surprised to see bottles of Chapel Down English Rosé in situ. But, as it was not on the drinks list, I didn't realise it was available until after the barman had popped the cork on my fizz. I'd selected the Maschio dei Cavalieri Extra Dry DOC Prosecco 11% £4.29/£16.99 125ml/750ml - light, dry and refreshing - undemanding and ideal for a summer's day/evening. I was saddened to hear that the Chapel Down English Rosé was being discontinued as it was insufficiently popular. Apparently, when it comes to Rosé the patrons here prefer Italian Pinot Grigio or Californian Zinfandel. It might just be that at £7.49 per 175ml glass it is overpriced compared to the alternatives, although £19.29 per bottle is good value. Given Rosé's increasing popularity, together with the superior and growing reputation of English Wine, I would hope for it to stay for another summer - if not, I plan to consume what is left their reserves with a fellow local oenophile.

So - to lunch. As well as a comprehensive menu of typical pub fare, The Wheatsheaf offers a variety of Sunday roasts including "Traditional Roasts" with Topside of Beef, Pork Loin, Turkey Breast or a trio of all three; and a Nut Wellington for vegetarians - served with goose-fat roast potatoes and butted seasonal vegetables. One cannot fault the service: my lunch arrived within 15 minutes of ordering and my server was happy to provide horseradish, apple sauce and cranberry sauce to accompany my trio. Portions were fairly generous and I have to commend the Yorkshire pudding; big, fluffy and flavoursome, as was the stuffing. Vegetables (spring cabbage, broccoli and carrot) were well cooked. Presentation was good, too.

Regrettably the meats in the Traditional Roast were of the boned/rolled/pressed and portioned variety and swimming in a nondescript, insipid and tasteless brown liquid masquerading as gravy, which had clearly had not even so much as been introduced to the meat juices. Horseradish is supposed to enhance flavour of beef, not provide it. The beef was grey, tough and stringy, the turkey was dry, the pork the best of the three although that isn't saying much. Everything was woefully lacking in seasoning which could not be imparted by vigorous use of the condiment shakers, pretty as they were. Perhaps I should have ordered one of the "Sunday Best Roasts" which offer 8-hour slow cooked rib of Beef served on the bone; slow-cooked Pork belly and slow-cooked Lamb shoulder, all including a "pig in blanket" and each being £3-4 more than the Traditional Roast. Certainly the "Sunday Best" meat looked as if it had been roasted, not boiled in a bag. Perhaps I should challenge the chef under the Trades Descriptions Act in relation to the so-called (Traditional) "Roast". However plates were leaving the kitchens at a rate of knots. The SundayRoasts of all varieties were definitely popular so maybe it's just me?

I cannot therefore recommend Sunday Lunch here unless diners opt for the seasonal "Dig into Spring" menu which (from appearances alone) seems more imaginative and features such eclectic delights as Asparagus and crispy Prosciutto starter with poached egg and Hollandaise; Lemon Sole fillet with Patagonian King Prawn in a white wine and prawn cream sauce; Sea Trout and Mussels in a Shellfish bisque; Oriental trio of Duck; Lemon Chicken on chicken and rosemary ravioli - and Lamb rump steak with a blackberry balsamic sauce. 

As there is a bank holiday looming I might try to get here early next weekend and test out the seasonal menu, washed down with a bottle of Chapel Down English Rose - if there is any left - and, if not, there is always the next Fizz Friday special offer to look forward to...

Summary:

Food **
Drinks ***
Staff *****
Service *****
Ambiance ***

The Wheatsheaf Hotel - London Rd, Virginia Water GU25 4QF. Telephone 01344 842057

Website: //www.chefandbrewer.com/pub/wheatsheaf-hotel-virginia-water/c4306/?utm_source=g_places&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=places&utm_content=c4306

Chapel Down English Wines //www.chapeldown.com/