I’m delighted to announce an ER readers’ competition in partnership with The Lyndhurst.
Sheldon, Dishon and the team at the Lyndhurst have worked wonders since taking the pub over last year, and many of their dishes have rightly become celebrated across Reading. It seems impossible to talk about them without mentioning their magnificent home-made nachos topped with slow-cooked chilli, or the delicious beast that is their chicken katsu burger.
But the specials are just as good, and when they hosted a readers’ lunch last year they showed off even greater range. I still remember the courgette flowers, stuffed with ricotta and fried with a light, delicate batter. I also often think about the beautifully simple beetroot and goats cheese course they served up before a rhubarb dessert as tart and clever as a Dorothy Parker quip.
I felt like the pub was starting to really spread its wings and show everybody what it could do when the virus cruelly pressed pause, and I was delighted when they returned in early June with a takeaway menu. Many of my favourite dishes were on there – that katsu burger and the nachos – but they’d not been idle in lockdown, dreaming up new dishes which travelled better but still tasted spectacular.
I’ve already raved about the Lyndhurst’s pork tacos and that ancho chile relish, but I’ve ordered so many other brilliant dishes from them – a Scotch egg cut with sobrasada, giving it a superb Iberian kick, or beer can chicken with more of that ancho relish on display (top tip: order a whole chicken even if you can only eat half – the rest will make for a brilliant sandwich the following day, with more of the relish and some of the Lyndie’s spectacular guacamole).
The Lyndhurst announced that they were reopening for eat in trade on the 4th July but even before that, when they started doing deliveries and takeaways, they put Tweets up on Sunday afternoons offering to deliver free Sunday lunches to elderly and vulnerable people living close to the pub. Now that restaurants have started to open the Lyndhurst has been nothing but supportive, relentlessly Retweeting and amplifying Reading’s other independent restaurants and cafés. A rising tide lifts all boats, and the Lyndhurst is definitely doing its part.
In preparation for today’s competition I felt it was only right to order takeaway from them again (for research purposes, obviously) and I can safely say that juggling eat in and takeaway orders hasn’t affected the Lyndhurst’s mojo one iota. The Scotch egg has, if anything, improved with further tweaking, my fish and chips was bloody marvellous but best of all, I had my first takeaway dessert since lockdown began. My chocolate and cream cheese brownie was a soft, deeply indulgent treat and the raspberry coulis that came with it added a fantastic fruity sharpness. It deserved better plating up than I managed, but I was in a hurry to eat the damn thing.
So, on to the competition. First prize is a three course meal for two people (excluding drinks) at the Lyndhurst or, if you would rather, a three course meal for two to take away. There’s also a runner-up’s prize of dinner for two at the Lyndhurst’s Thursday curry night – curry, rice and a pint – again, either to eat in or take away.
To enter, all you have to do is this: write me no more than 250 words on your lockdown food highlight. That could be your favourite takeaway, a meal you’ve fallen in love with cooking during lockdown, an ingredient or recipe you’ve discovered with time on your hands or anything else for that matter. I’ve spent quite long enough banging on about takeaways or learning to make hash browns: now it’s your turn! Email your entry to me – firstname.lastname@example.org – by 11.30am on Friday 24th July.
As regular readers may remember, I don’t judge the competitions myself to ensure complete impartiality. On this occasion, I’m delighted that Glen Dinning, the man behind Blue Collar Street Food, has agreed to do the honours. All the entries will be sent to Glen anonymously, and the results should be announced on Friday 31st July.
As usual, the judge’s decision is final, no correspondence will be entered into and you’re more likely to get a rent rebate from John Sykes than you are to influence Glen in any way. I would feel sad that I can’t take part myself, but the standard for these is always very high and I really wouldn’t fancy my chances. Best of luck to everybody taking part – I can’t wait to read your entries! – and thanks again to Sheldon, Dishon and the team at the Lyndhurst for such a generous prize.