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.