Friday, 23 September 2016

THE HAWKLEY INN - Pococks Lane, Liss

Another Friday, another beautiful day. It was my turn to choose our destination today, and when the sun is out, I am always drawn to the country. We are also working our way through a list of pubs which need to be revisited, and top of that list was The Hawkley Inn in Liss.

We have visited this pub before, and it is no secret that it has a good reputation for both food and drink. So let's be honest with each other. We love this pub. Luckily it is signposted from some way out, otherwise it could prove tricky to find without the aid of sat-nav. Whenever I see this pub, it always puts me in mind of a saloon from a Western, with its lean to and rustic wooden charms. I'm always a little disappointed that it doesn't have a swinging door, ready for trouble makers to be tossed out headfirst. I digress slightly.

Just like you imagine a saloon of old, this pub feels friendly and full of life. It is bright and airy inside, embracing the sunshine outside. There is a garden out back, but we opted for the cowboy veranda out the front. That's the end of the Western references. We sat on our wooden benches and sipped on our iced coke as we perused the menus. The specials board was gametastic, including pigeon, rabbit and venison. The main menu had plenty of options if game isn't your thing. It's one of those menus that has something for everyone. It is our duty to point out that it is on the pricy side for pub food, but as we are increasingly finding with the heightened quality of gastro pubs, sometimes it's worth it. We'll do all the hard work for you. If we pay top end and it's not worth it, we'll be sure to let you know.

I was seduced by the chicken supreme with stilton sauce, sautéed new potatoes and vegetables. Dad found himself drawn to the pork belly. Let's start off by saying it certainly is worth the extra outlay. All the ingredients are of noticeably high quality. Everything is made in house and the execution is without fault. It's also important to point out that the portion sizes are good. For some inexplicable reason, many eateries think that when you charge more, you provide less. As far as we're concerned, if you get a tiny portion of high quality ingredients, it should cost the same as a big old portion of fish and chips. That's enough of that. Safe to say, that when we put our cutlery down, we were well and truly satisfied.

I think you've already noticed that we are very keen on this pub. It oozes charm, it's everything we want in a country pub, and let's not forget, the food is wonderful. It might be a little bit out the way, unless you happen to live in Hawkley, but once you've been there, you will be a fan forever.

Atmosphere          10
Service                 8
Food                    9
Value                   8
Verdict                 5*

Friday, 16 September 2016

THE SUSSEX BREWERY - 36 Main Road, Emsworth

Today, me and Dad headed to Emsworth with empty stomachs. The pub we would charge with filling those same stomachs was The Sussex Brewery.

Out the front of the pub are some mighty wooden tables that wouldn't be out of place in a Viking banqueting hall. As lovely as it would have been to feast on the half trees that make up said table, the weather was rather changeable and certainly not to be trusted. We didn't mind though, as this is a nice cosy pub. It's what I always think of as a Hobbit pub. Lots of wood, open fireplace and a wonderful example of an old English pub. I can easily imagine those bare footed Halflings craning their neck at the bar and carrying off huge flagons of ale.

We received a friendly greeting as we collected menu's and drinks. We then took a seat and got down to the real business of the day. There is a specials board, largely dominated by O'Hagan's sausages. The main menu was imaginative and scattered with clues to the chef's obvious propensity to make everything in house, even the baked beans. There are also a range of sharing plates priced around £15, as well as smaller nibbles such as olives, pork pie and sausage and black pudding roll.

 Dad opted for the fish and chips, with crushed, minted peas. I went for sausage and mash with onion gravy. But these weren't just sausages, in fact they weren't really sausages at all. They were vegetarian Glamorgan sausages with leek and cheese. My choice was just over £10 and Dads fish and chips was just under £12. As is becoming common in many gastro pubs, some of the meals were perhaps slightly over priced, though some, my sausage and mash for example, were pretty much on point.

As we chatted and waited for our food to arrive, I warmed to the pub even more, thinking what a lovely refuge it would be on a cold and damp winters night, with the fire roaring and a bunch of merry Hobbits in the corner. We are increasingly finding that the smell of the food in pubs is an accurate portent of the food to come, and there were some wonderful smells filling the room as we waited. Sure enough, our food appeared in a cloud of wondrous sent, reassuring and comforting. I was keen to try the mash first, past experience teaching that mash is a very good gage of the chef's capability. I wasn't disappointed, the mash was beautiful, as were the sausages, and just as important, the gravy. A nice bonus was the spoonful of caramelised onions, very tasty indeed. Dad was given a lovely peace of fish in a very crisp batter, accompanied by well cooked chips and tasty, minty peas. A solid showing on the fish and chip front.  I was curious as to whether the vegetarian sausages were home made. When our plates were cleared, I asked that very question, and I am happy to report that they certainly are.

This is definitely one of the top foodie pubs in Emsworth, we should know. The food is of a high standard and virtually everything is made in house. As I said earlier, the pub itself has a lovely warm feel to it and the staff are genuine and friendly. We are happy to recommend this pub, so if you fancy eating out in Emsworth, be sure to give it a try.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 7
Food                    8
Value                   7
Verdict                 4*

Monday, 12 September 2016

THE GOLDEN LION - 99 Alresford Road, Winchester

Last week, to celebrate a family birthday, we visited The Golden Lion. We also had a dog in tow, so a canine friendly pub was essential. Luckily, The Golden Lion fulfilled all our needs, so a table was booked and our destiny decided.

This is a good sized pub, with a good sized car park and a fair sized garden out back. This pub has the rare quality of making you feel immediately welcomed, transporting you to a wonderful pubie world, where the warm lighting and polished wood protect you from the stresses of the world outside the reassuring walls. The menu read well, with a good range of food, including a specials menu. There are also gluten free options for those of you who are that way inclined.

Amongst our orders were steak and ale pie, homemade chicken keeve with bacon, and a chicken burger. I suppose on paper that doesn't sound very exciting, but upon reading the menu, it becomes clear that this is not average pub food. The attention to detail is obvious and the food here is freshly made.

When the food arrived, I am happy to report that the pies were indeed proper pies, none of this pastry lid nonsense. Having ordered a simple chicken burger, I was presently surprised with the effort and imagination put in to the presentation of my humble food choice. The burger stood proudly next to several items you would more usually find in the kitchen. My chips came in a little metal basket, like a mini frying basket. And my substantial salad was served in its own little colander. Everything was dished up with a high level of care and attention, and that was also evident in the eating of the food.

Everyone enjoyed their food, and we certainly couldn't fault the service, especially when they came out with a birthday cake, fireworks irrupting from atop its iced glory. Maybe they weren't fireworks, but they were quite impressive. If you happen to be wandering the Winchester area in search of a pub you can visit with your four legged fluffy monkey, give this pub a go. You'll come out the other side better for the experience.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 9
Food                    8
Value                   7
Verdict                 4*