Friday, 20 May 2016

THE TITCHFIELD MILL - Mill lane, Titchfield

This is a pub that oozes class. From the moment you step inside, you know you are in the upper echelons of pubdom. As you go through the process of taking in your surroundings, ordering drinks, reading the menu and taking a table, every box is ticked along the way. The interior is beautifully done out, the music has been thoughtfully matched to the concept of a relaxed atmosphere, and the staff are friendly and helpful.

The job of a menu is to get you excited about the food you are going to order, and this menu certainly did that. Not only were we massively impressed with what was on offer, we were also astonished at the value. Many higher end pubs, over the last year or so, have tried to sell food like this whilst getting the prices wildly wrong. That is not the case here. Main meals can be had from around £8, while most are nearer the £10 mark. There is also a set menu offering two courses for just under £12 or three for under £15. That would be a pretty good deal anywhere, but here it's an absolute bargain.

After struggling for a while to choose from the abundant options, I decided to go for the chicken and leek pie with spring onion mash. Dad went for the sausage and mash which not only came with three sausages, but had the wonderful addition of a onion and thyme fritter. After ordering, we both agreed that this was without doubt, the most interesting menu we have come across in our wide reaching travels. Any struggling pubs out there could do much worse than taking a leaf out of the Titchfield Mill's book.

We just knew the food was going to be good here, and when it arrived, our prediction was proved right. The pie was lovely and the mash was some of the best we've had, smooth and perfectly seasoned. Dad's was equally perfect, and between us we could find not a single fault.

If you were to organise a tour of the best food pubs in the South, you would be mad to miss out the Titchfield Mill. It's a wonderful pub in every way. It's also one of the few places where you will get such a high standard of food for such a good price. Put simply, this is one of the best pubs we've been to, and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to all our wonderful readers. So give it a go, you'll be glad you did.

Atmosphere          9
Service                 8
Food                    9
Value                   9
Verdict                 5*

Join us on

Friday, 13 May 2016

THE FOX AND HOUNDS - School Lane, Denmead

After a cloudy morning, the sun was kind enough to come out and shine for our trip to Denmead. It wasn't that long ago that The Fox and Hounds was closed for business. After a rousing effort by the local patronage, the money was raised to reopen and rise like a pub shaped phoenix.  The pub is now unrecognisable from its previous incarnation, blending a clean contemporary look with that of a rustic country pub, the well lit and airy space being a far throw from the dark and dingy pub of old.

We took a table in the restaurant area, affording us a good view of the specials board, most of which were priced around £10. A starter will set you back by £4, while deserts come in at £4 - £6, prices that we would consider fair. Dad picked the beef goulash pie with creamy mash, I went for corn fed chicken with sautéed potatoes and tarragon sauce. We were quite impressed with the menu as a whole. Whilst it had the pub classics you'd expect, there was a wide range of more imaginative options, several of which being vegetarian.

When the food arrived, we were particularly impressed by the look of Dad's pie. We asked if it was made in the pub and indeed it was. Everything here is fresh and made in house, even the chips and tartar sauce. My chicken was beautifully cooked, as were the potatoes and vegetables, I particularly enjoyed the sauce, being rather partial to a bit of tarragon. Dad's pie lived up to its handsome appearance, although the mash wasn't quite as creamy as advertised.

We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at The Fox and Hounds, and think the prices to be pretty good considering the freshness and quality of the food. It was also refreshing to see a menu with creative flair and an eye for something a bit different. The pub is also finished very well, I especially like the bar, don't ask me why, it just seems right and proper. If you are interested in good food, freshly prepared in a light and welcoming pub, you should give it a go.

Atmosphere          7.5
Service                 8
Food                    8.5
Value                   8
Verdict                 4*

Join us on

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

THE BLUEBELL INN - 29 South Street, Emsworth

This week we headed to Emsworth to fill our empty stomachs at The Bluebell Inn. We'd both been here many times before, but only once to eat. This is a cosy, welcoming, dog friendly pub in the town centre, and with their pride in locally sauced and freshly prepared food plane to see, it's the perfect place to settle down and refuel.

In our experience, most pubs on a weekday lunchtime are fairly quiet. That certainly wasn't the case at The Bluebell. By that we don't mean it was noisy, more that we were lucky to get a table. After confirming that we hadn't booked, we were given the very last available table. The food on offer is advertised exclusively through the medium of blackboard, and being near the sea, is heavy on the fish.

Even though the hungry and thirsty public had flocked in their droves, the staff were quick to help, and were friendly and welcoming at all times. That being the case, it wasn't long before we were sat down with a drink, mulling over our options. Dad being a sucker for anything advertised as award winning, was immediately on board with the fish and chips, or should we say the best fish and chips in the land, according to The Times. Kean to follow the fresh fish theme, I went for smoked haddock on a bed of mash, with spinach, a poached egg and a cheese sauce.

As we waited and chatted, we soaked up the perfect pub atmosphere in a proper old pub turned gastro pub. In fact, when food is in high demand, it's fair to say that The Bluebell becomes more of a restaurant than a pub, but thankfully this doesn't detract from its charm. Main meals here come in between £10 and £14, and all things considered, we think that's just fine. Starters and deserts can be had for around a fiver, whilst a range of sandwiches and other such lunchtime regulars are also available.

When the food arrived, we could see the care and quality reflected on the plates. Dad's chips were homemade, as were his mushy peas and tartar sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked and the batter was nice and crispy. Unlike so many pub "AWARDS", Dad felt this one was deserved. My smoked haddock was again perfect, but it was the extra little touches which stood out. My spinach was formed in to a perfect little green ball and the dish was finished with a sprinkling of pea shoots. At this stage, some of you may be saying poncey and pointless. The thing is, these little touches, as well as adding to the presentation and in some cases the taste, are an indication of the care with which the food is prepared. It also shows levels of skill and understanding above that of your average chef. That said, if we had one slight criticism, it was that my mash was slightly under seasoned and could have perhaps benefited from an extra knob of butter.

In all, we were both very happy with our trip to The Bluebell. It's a friendly, warm and busy gastro pub, and we wouldn't hesitate to come back. It is very rare that a pub manages to bring together all the elements necessary to form a five star experience, but in The Bluebell, Emsworth most definitely has one.

Atmosphere          9
Service                 9
Food                    8.5
Value                   8.5
Verdict                 5*

Join us on