The pub is part of a small chain, Illustrious Inns, which also includes the George & Dragon Elsworth and the Eaton Oak St Neots. It is, though, leased from Enterprise Inns and the real ale selection reflects this. On the pumps were Greene King Ruddles Bitter, Adnams Bitter and St Austell Tribute, the last being in very good nick.
The Early Bird menu is available from 17.30-18.30, Monday-Friday. Two people can have two main courses (from a choice of six) for a total of £14. If you're dining at other times then most mains are in the £10.50 to £13.50 range. At lunchtimes, two courses can be had for £11 and three for £13. The Rose majors on mainstream “pub classics” and though the menu is extensive, don't come here anticipating the exotic.
My choice of Beef Lasagne turned out to be a happy one. It was everything I'd expect a lasagne to be – lots of juicy lean mince in a rich sauce and with a generously cheesy topping. The accompanying salad looked very pretty thanks to the assorted salad leaves and was tasty with it. Lasagne is one of the commonest pub pasta dishes but many places churn out tepid, gloopy offerings which shout out “bought in” - certainly not the case here.
The Rose is clearly proud of its fish - “fresh daily from Lowestoft” - so Jane plumped for good old Cod and Chips. A well-sized portion of fish arrived in a light, crispy beer-batter, accompanied by “proper” chips, garden peas and (on request) a creamy tartar sauce. Jane was entirely content with it – not earth-shatteringly wonderful but again a cut above many examples she's had of her default choice.
We decided to add deserts, at £5.50 each, then regretted doing so. Jane's Sticky Toffee Pudding comprised a plain, bland and somewhat meagre square of sponge with hardly any toffee sauce to stickify it. On the menu it came with ice cream but Jane asked for custard instead and this proved to be the tastiest element.
I went for Crème Brulee which came served in a small cup. This meant it was fairly deep but with a smallish surface area, hence not much caramelised sugar but lots of pretty bland cream. Crème Brulee is a difficult dish to get right though it can be done (Girton College used to produce a sublime version). The Rose's effort just didn't hit the mark.
This is by no means the first time we've been sorely disappointed with our desserts following an excellent main course – leading Jane to put out the Pub Pudding Challenge. If you know of a pub (or run one) which offers a consistently great sweet course, please let us know and we'll very happily test it out.
Meanwhile, back to the Rose. By the time we left, just after 7pm on a Tuesday, the place was really busy so they're evidently giving a lot of people what they want – you could call it superior pub grub or classic British cooking, but on our evidence you won't go far wrong with the main courses. You might though go for a starter rather than a sweet.