Monday, March 12, 2007

Restaurant review - Speckled Hen Cottage Pub and Alehouse

If you live in the Berks County, PA area, you really should be eating at the Speckled Hen once in a while.

Owned by Judy Henry - the same Judy of Judy's on Cherry (also a fine place to eat for special occasions, or if you've got gobs of cash sitting around). It's an old English style pub, inside an 18th century log house in downtown Reading. They've got a quaint little bar - with cozy tables and a rotating beer menu.

All of this in a totally smoke free environment, unless you count the fireplaces.

There really isn't a bad meal to be had at this place. They've got the best shepherd's pie you'll ever eat, excellent burgers, and really the only authentic beer battered fish 'n chips in the county that I've ever had.

We went there a couple of weekends ago with friends. The red-head started with "The Wedge" which means basically 1/4 of an iceberg lettuce head covered with blue cheese dressing and bacon crumbles. I would say that they have just about the best blue cheese dressing around as well. Notice I'm saying "best" alot? For dinner, she had those fish n chips.

One of our companions started with a bowl of their cheddar-ale soup, as did I. We both agreed it was a little salty, but was perfectly smooth and balanced between the beer and cheese - not at all heavy or gloppy. That same companion had the afore mentioned shepherds pie and if I remember correctly, described it as the best she'd ever had, and surprisingly filling.

The 2 fellows in the group, including me, dined on the bangers and mashed, which has quite simply become one of my favorite meals anywhere, all time. The web site describes it as "A traditional pub dish of English style sausages, topped with onion gravy & served over mashed potatoes." Yah, and those sausages are always cooked perfectly - crispy on the outside and moist on the inside - very different than local PA Dutch sausage. I don't use this phrase often, but he onion gravy is to die for, while the mashed taters are just superb.

On other visits we've had the buffalo shrimp, which is delicious, the scotch egg, which is interesting, but only worth trying once, and the ploughman's cheese plate, which is throws a few unusual cheeses at you - but you've got to be in the mood for that. Desert is not really their cup of tea.

I implore you to give this place a try. Don't be scared to venture into the city, there are a number of excellent restaurants there. Speckled Hen has a big garage that's free most evenings right across the street. There are other restaurants in the area, and it's only a couple of blocks from the Sovereign Center.

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