The Wild Rover, a brewery and pub, moved to the Westchase area in August of this year from Odessa to expand their offerings and work space. With a larger space comes a better brewery! They offer both cask and tap, with items ranging from English Bitter to Irish Red, from English Barleywine to White Stout. While both the interior and exterior of the building are a bit plain (ok, almost bare,) don’t let that stop you from putting your order in at the bar and grabbing a seat. There are three different styled sitting rooms, (all with bars) two of them without T.V.s to enable a more pubish feel and to support “community interactions” – that’s talking, to you and me. If you want to watch your soccer or football games, the third sitting area has T.V.s for your viewing pleasure. The Wild Rover isn’t easy to find as it’s recessed off the main roads and is in a nondescript building, so use your GPS or follow the signs they’ve laid out. Hint: look for the British flag.
But how’s the food, you ask? Well, let me tell you. The menu made it difficult to choose as there were around 8 items that were calling to me to eat them (you should have heard the language they were using!) and another 4 or 5 that caught my eye with cheeky little winks. I wound up choosing their chicken curry. The chicken was plentiful, soaking in the yellow curry sauce, thereby keeping itself moist and tender. The curry itself was spicy, but not right away. It was the type of heat that slowly builds, like a crescendo of music, until it reaches its penultimate height. But that height wasn’t in the stratosphere; it was more of a medium heat, which I appreciated as it afforded me the ability to taste for the rest of the night. It all sat on a bed of basmati rice, which was cooked to perfection and absorbed a little flavor from the curry, bringing out the coconut milk.
Laura wanted to try their shepherd’s pie. Ok, technically it’s cottage pie as they use beef, not lamb, but most restaurants do the same thing with the names because so few people recognize “cottage pie” or even care about the difference. (Hey, I’m Irish, if it has a potato in it, I know all about it.) I grew up eating this dish on a regular basis and it was always one of my favorites, so I’m a bit more critical on it than I normally might be. Happily, I couldn’t find much to be critical of. The Wild Rover’s version is a little skimpy on the potatoes for my tastes, but they toss in a lot more beef, which most people would prefer. The beef, carrots, and peas are all swimming in a deep, brown gravy that was an excellent example of what a shepherd’s pie should be based upon. The savory gravy kept the beef from drying out and becoming hard. The chefs chose to have their shepherd’s pie stand out by adding an unusual ingredient to the mix: English cheddar. The cheese was baked right on top, creating a delicious melted crust. There was as much English cheddar as potatoes and, surprisingly, it went really well with the dish, building another layer both in physicality and in taste to the standard potatoes, meat, veggies lineup. In fact, it worked so well I might have to add it to my family’s recipe! So much for being a purist, I guess.
Ok, so the building is pretty plain on the outside, the inside looks half finished with mostly empty walls, and the Wild Rover is pretty hard to find, but, despite the lack of ambience, now that I know where it is, I’ll be frequenting it more often. Laura and I enjoyed ourselves and left wanting more. It may be first and foremost a brewery, but you couldn’t tell by the quality of the food! There are still many, many items on their menu that I would like to try. Given how good these two dishes were, I’m certain to love the others just as much. Give them a chance, they’ll probably surprise you, too (maybe even with decorations!)
The Wild Rover
13921 Lynmar Blvd
Tampa, FL 33626