THE reputation of the Grouse and Ale preceded my visit and I was expecting big things. Thankfully it didn't disappoint.

Positioned in the centre of Lane End village the pub has steadily been gaining a reputation for great quality food.

Joy Roberts and her husband, Carlos Maidana took it over seven and half years ago. They started by offering fine dining, but soon realised this didn't suit the pub, and now offer a huge selection of dishes from pub specials to classic dishes and a selection of changing specials.

There is a restaurant area, where people can enjoy a meal, but on the other side of the pub is the bar area, where people can pop in for a drink and watch some live sport.

There is also a function room, which can seat 50 people.

Carlos owns the group of pub/restaurants, the others include The Bull and Butcher at Turville; The Hart of Harwell at Harwell near Didcot and they will also will be opening a new casual dining business next month in Bracknell - Blue’s Smokehouse which will serve authentic American barbeque.

But back to Lane End. There is a nice rustic feel in the restaurant with wooden beams, fresh flowers on the table, country pictures and relaxing music playing.

Joy is a great host- friendly and welcoming- and the staff are also efficient and helpful.

For starters I had the basket of fried scampi and squid rings with a garlic aioli (£6).

It was presented beautifully and was a lot more than I expected.

The breadcrumbed prawns and the battered squid rings were served in a metal bucket on a wooden board with a creamy garlic aioli.

The squid was perfectly cooked- I was delighted- it had just the right texture with a great, crispy batter and the breadcrumb coating for the scampi was just right.

The aioli was smooth, creamy with just the right punch of garlic.

My friend, Matt had the game, apricot and bacon terrine, apple pear and cinnamon chutney with rustic toast (£6.50).

The game packed into this lovely terrine was rabbit, pigeon, duck, partridge and pheasant and was wrapped in the bacon.

I sneaked a taste and I was mightily impressed with the strength of the flavour- meaty and rich.

The chutney was also well done and with the toast, it made a first class starter.

Other starters include soup, duck liver and port parfait, Scottish smoked salmon, crispy whitebait and goats' cheese.

For the mains I had pan-seared Gressingham duck breast, braised red cabbage, Lyonnaise potatoes and port sauce (£16).

Again, I could not fault the presentation. Perched on top of the potatoes and red cabbage was a generous portion of duck breast- served slightly pink with some of the skin left on, but mainly taken off.

It was quite simply a fantastic dish- the duck was sweet and cooked just as it should be, the pan fried potatoes were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside and the red cabbage was braised to perfection- sweet and flavoursome. The port sauce was subtle enough not to over power the dish but added that special something.

Matt went for the pork tenderloin with orange and rosemary glaze, served on braised red cabbage with crispy bacon mash (£13.50), and he was equally impressed.

The meat was tender, moist and a fantastic quality- there was also plenty of it. The subtle glaze added a lovely citrus taste and the sweet cabbage and slightly salty mash married everything together extremely well.

Other mains include sesame crusted salmon, chicken saltimbocca, steak and vegetable nut roast. There is also a selection of pub favourites from fish and chips to gammon.

For dessert (£6 each) I had the sticky toffee pudding, caramel sauce and vanilla pod ice cream and Matt had the trio of sorbets.

This final course of the meal did not disappoint- a large cube of moist, dense, rich sponge with a sweet, yet not too thick caramel sauce. I always think vanilla ice cream is a great accompaniment to sticky toffee pudding as it just takes the edge off.

Matt enjoyed his refreshing citrus sorbets, which were packed full of flavour.

I can absolutely see why the Grouse and Ale is so popular. On a busy Thursday night the restaurant was almost full.

The standard of the food on offer is really a step above and they do classic dishes extremely well. Along with the great selection, fantastic staff and relaxed atmosphere this pub should be top of anybody's list of places to enjoy a great meal out.

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