The Volunteer, Theale

9 Jul

The Volunteer in Church Street, Theale changed hands at the beginning of July. I should declare here that it is run by friends of mine. However, I have already discussed my comments with them and although not all complimentary, I am changing none for publication. In the very short time they have been in charge, Gary and Iain have put enormous effort into refurbishment of both the premises and the menu. Their efforts are, justifiably, already reaping rewards. The building has evolved by stages since 1820 when it was three cottages into the present day pub/restaurant. The dining area is adequately sized but, I suspect, the pleasant outside area will soon be needed as popularity increases. Sunday’s expected maximum 20 covers became 65 and, if that could be accounted for by re-opening curiosity, it will soon be because of the quality of the food. Intentionally avoiding the predictable pub pitfall of pre-prepared pap, the owners have focused on locally sourced produce, delivered regularly and fresh preparation of most ingredients. The comfortable interior was busy even on a Monday lunchtime which augurs well for even greater success.

My nachos starter had an unnecessarily large portion of roughly chopped jalapenos but was good overall. I shared it with my partner whilst sharing his large portion of bread with oil and spice accompaniments. The spice mix included hazelnuts. Timings from the kitchen were well controlled so that our main courses made a timely rather than intrusively premature appearance. I appreciated the thought that does not happen everywhere these days; there are too many places where dishes leave the pass haphazardly or spend too long under lights. Greg was very pleased with his generously portioned steak and ale pie and vegetables. It is a cliché but I found my ham (in a baguette) melt-in-the-mouth delicious. I was less enchanted with the migration of dressing from the side salad  to the bottom of my baguette which made it a little soggy. This can be addressed by a simple change of plate which I think will happen. I commented too on the hand-cut chips. They are immeasurably better than the dreadful fare widely offered these days but I was not sure that the crispy outside v fluffy inside equation had yet been balanced. However, I would much rather have very slightly imperfect steak chips or fat chips as they are sometimes called, from fresh potatoes, than something which has more in common with Iceland (or even occasionally ICI, I imagine). The Volunteer is to be commended on its rigorous approach to ingredients. I should point out that the Volly Gourmet burger is also hand-made and therefore likely to feature in my next visit. How many pubs get their burgers from anywhere other than the freezer? I finished with Eton Mess, a dessert which is interpreted in many ways these days. This featured both strawberries and raspberries (notably fresh) and was served innovatively in a Kilner Jar. I liked this touch of individuality and liked also the unbidden arrival of two sets of cutlery to allow us to share. Finally, praise from Greg who enjoyed the coffee and that is rare in pub restaurants these days.

I suggest you join the crowd and find out for yourself. There’ll be a warm welcome amongst a mix of friends, regulars and new guests.


Food 8 out of 10; Service 8.5 out of 10


2 Responses to “The Volunteer, Theale”

  1. sally July 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    Who are you to think that The Volunteer is , (& ALWAYS HAS BEEN ) anything other than a PUB with FOOD !!!!!!! -it was ALWAYS WELCOMING & FRIENDLY to ALL who entered it`s portals!!-NOW it`s PRETENDING to be something else !- CLEARLY it has alienated the locals as we went in there today (a Saturday)-to find it EMPTY & SOULESS- with no ATMOSPHERE & NO CUSTOMERS !!!!-Repairing the SINK hole to the car park entry might help too -ALSO the CUSTOMER ONLY PARKING sign in the EMPTY car park didn`t help either – I suggest you try harder NOT to be pretentious ,& get your friends in to do your “restaurant critique ” & endeavour to get customers back in order to earn a living !-this sent from someone who has spent 30 years in the trade & sees far too many decent pubs go to the wall !!!

    • The Volunteer August 15, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

      We are sorry that you appear to have had a disappointing visit on this occasion. Unfortunately all premises have lulls in their trading day as I am sure that you are aware with your 30 years in the trade. Trading figures actually show a continual increase in business which is no mean feat in this day and age. We totally agree with you about the pot holes in the lane which have been there for a substantial length of time and will hopefully soon be fixed. We understand that the pub was welcoming and friendly in the past, and still is, according to the many locals who continue to enjoy The Volunteer, it’s friendliness and it’s inevitable charm.

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