After a brisk walk on the Clent Hills, there’s nothing nicer than lunch in a cosy country pub. Lisa Wright checks out the menu at The Vine Inn.
It may be a few months since Christmas, but if you’re anything like me and you overindulged, you’ll still be working off those excess pounds.
So anything I can do to make exercise fun at the moment is a bonus.
The gym is still too busy with all of the new post-Christmas members, and while the latest fitness DVD is keeping me busy, I’ve been trying to mix it up a bit to remain motivated.
So, how does this all fit into a food review Lisa, you ask.
Well, it was with this in mind that my best friend and I ventured over the Clent Hills to dust off the cobwebs and get some much-needed fresh air.
If you’re not familiar with the Clent Hills you’re missing out. They’re a real haven of countryside and within easy driving distance of Stourbridge, Halesowen and the wider Black Country, while also benefiting from really good public transport links if you don’t have a car.
And once there you can explore mile after mile of footpaths and trails at your own pace.
But another great thing about Clent if you’ve never visited is that there’s a number of pubs serving up hearty, homely food; The Bell & Cross and The Fountain to name but two.
But on our walk we’d taken a route that passed The Vine Inn, which we’d been to before for a quick drink and lunch. So being vaguely familiar with the menu we were confident it was the perfect place for a welcome rest and refuel on a freezing cold Saturday afternoon.
Once inside the pub we were met with a warm welcome – both from the friendly staff at the bar and the cosy comforts of our surroundings. It’s very traditional, with beamed ceilings, carpeted floors, dark wooden tables, while framed pictures and trinkets line the walls.
It has a real country pub feel and, while not the largest of pubs, there are plenty of tables for eating and drinking.
Outside there’s plenty of seating with benches IN the front, while out back there’s a roomy decking area with outdoor seating and a very large, grassed beer garden, perfect for enjoying a cold pint on a summer’s day and great if you’ve taken the dogs out for a walk with you.
And if it’s history you want, The Vine has that too. A quick look at its website informed me that the pub was first registered as Clatterback Water Mill. What was once the old mill pond is now the garden with the decking area built near to where the water wheel was housed. It also says that it was first used as an inn offering home-brewed beer, bed and stabling in 1836.
As we defrosted in the comfort of the dining room among the other diners – a pair of middle aged friends, a family enjoying a Saturday lunch and other drinkers – we took a look at the menu.
Seeing as we were on a long walk, we’d already decided we weren’t going to go too mad as we didn’t want to be too full. But it was also my friend’s birthday so we thought we’d treat ourselves to some carbs – we’d be walking it off after all.
But before we’d made our choices we took a look at the wider menu. The Vine, after all, is well known for its delicious main meals. And believe me, I was tempted to jack in the diet completely and just go for a three-course lunch.
Starters include the homemade farmhouse pâté with ciabatta toast and caramelised red onion marmalade – which I would certainly have gone for had I been going the whole hog. The free-range crispy duck egg – a soft boiled egg in breadcrumbs, deep-fried and served on a warm chorizo and black pudding salad also sounded delicious, as did the Welsh rarebit stuffed mushrooms.
Main courses were also tempting. The Vine’s game pie, with venison, wild boar and pheasant sounded divine, while pub classics such as beer battered cod and chips and fish pie were also available.
And you couldn’t get more Black Country than the traditional faggots with a stout and red onion gravy, bubble and squeak mash and winter veg – proper hearty food.There’s also a range of steaks, as well as a good old Ploughman’s and Coachman’s salads.
The pub also offers a fixed price menu from Monday to Thursday, a Sunday roast menu plus other offerings for special occasions like Mother’s Day.
There’s also a good variety of sandwiches to choose from, served on crusty white or granary bread, such as prawn mayonnaise, smoked salmon, cucumber and dill mayonnaise, as well as roast pork and stuffing.
And if ciabattas are more your thing, melted goat’s cheese and roasted red pepper and bacon, Somerset brie and cranberry were both among the mouthwatering options.
However, we went for the vintage cheddar and chutney on granary bread, and the breaded cod goujons on ciabatta with homemade tartare sauce. We also ordered a side order of hand-cut chips each.
We might have thought we’d gone for a lighter option, but when the sandwiches arrived they were huge.
The granary bread was so fresh, with a firm crust, filled with generous chunks of cheese, while the tangy chutney came on the side so I could add as much as I wanted. As sandwiches go, it was pretty damn good.
The fish goujons meanwhile were hot and crispy, the tartare sauce well balanced and the side salad of crispy lettuce and peppers was fresh and light.
But it was the hand-cut chips that stole the show.
Like an M&S advert – these weren’t just any hand-cut chips . . . It would do them a disservice to describe them as wedges, but they were more akin to wedges in their size and shape than classic chips. What arrived were gigantic chunks of potato, super soft and fluffy on the inside, but divinely crisp on the outside. Just heavenly.
I’d have happily eschewed the sandwich and just dived right into that bowl of potato, smothered them in ketchup and been more than happy – they really were that good.
With the size of the sandwiches, a portion each was far too much for us both, we could have happily shared one between us, but I’m not complaining.
And in the summer they’d be great if you hit the pub with friends, knock back a few glasses of cider and share a couple of bowls between you as a snack.
We didn’t even entertain the idea of dessert, although there were some tasty sounding options, such as the cheesecake and fruit and nut crumble – a favourite of mine.
All washed down with a couple of soft drinks, lunch cost us just over £20 and we left vowing to return and enjoy an evening meal.
Sometimes it’s about getting the basics right and The Vine is doing an excellent job of doing that.
By Lisa Wright
- The Vine Inn, Vine Lane, Clent, Stourbridge, DY9 9PH
Soup of the day – £4.75
Welsh rarebit stuffed mushrooms – £5.25 (£9.50 as a main)
Seafood board to share – £13.50
The Vine’s game pie – £11.95
Traditional faggots with bubble and squeak mash – £10.95
Warm pear and blue cheese tart – £9.50
Roast pork and stuffing – £4.95
Sirloin steak, fried onions and mushrooms on ciabatta – £7.50
– all £4.95
Chocolate and pear upside down sponge pudding
Treacle, lemon and stem ginger tart