Friday, 24 March 2017

THE TROOPER INN - Alton Road, Froxfield

It's not very often that me or Dad have no idea what we are heading for, but this week, that was very much the case. I have never been to this pub before and Dad last visited some 40 years ago when things were very different. I imagine that Froxfield is not a place that many of you will have heard of, so as a point of reference, it's not far from Petersfield.

There's something quite exciting about entering a pub for the first time, not knowing which way things are going to pan out. On this occasion, things were looking good from the start. This is a light and airy pub, well done out and set in the picturesque English countryside. We entered to a very friendly welcome from the Landlord who was stoking up the fireplace. We got some drinks and headed for a table by the window, where menu's were brought over. It didn't take long to tick off all the pub fundamentals. It was warm, there was some nice classical guitar music playing and the overall ambiance was good.

Let's get stuck in to the prices. a main course here can cost anything between £12 and £19, excluding the steak which was £26. The menu itself was excellent, with a good variety to suit everyone. We did feel that some of the meals were a bit on the expensive side and struggled to see how some of the numbers were justified. Putting our judgment on hold, we made some important decisions. We started off with some garlic bread, then I was to have the vegetarian sausage and mash with homemade onion rings, Dad the steak and kidney pudding with mash.

As we waited, it became clear that this pub has a lovely atmosphere, in no small part that is down to the Landlord. He was friendly and made a real effort with every customer which came in. When our garlic bread appeared, it looked good, but looks can be deceptive with garlic bread, just like spiders. This bread however, exceeded all expectations. It was amazing, probably the best we've ever had. We then ordered some more drinks, which the Landlord kindly brought to our table. Then it was the turn of the mains. My three vegetarian sausages were fine, Linda McCartney I think. The mash was smooth and buttery. The onion rings were very good, and the caramelised onions were a nice addition. If I'm being picky, I wouldn't have minded a touch of gravy. Dad's steak and kidney pudding was very nice indeed. It was homemade and of a good size. We felt the vegetable side of things could have done with an upgrade. When you're paying a pinch under £20, we don't think a small bowl of peas quite cuts it. A mound of red cabbage or cauliflower cheese would have taken the whole thing to another level.

We both thoroughly enjoyed our time at The Trooper Inn. And for the first time in living memory, it wasn't all about the food. This pub is carried by the enthusiasm of the Landlord, who clearly loves his job and goes the extra mile to make you feel special in his pub. We realised it is sadly a very rare thing nowadays. It shows you the difference that a quality Landlord can make, if only there were more like that. We do like this pub very much, or at least the sum of its parts. We would certainly go back for another visit, and wouldn't hesitate in recommending you do the same.

Atmosphere                   9
Service                          10
Food                             8
Value                            7
Verdict                          4.5*


Friday, 17 March 2017

THE GEORGE & FALCON - Warnford road, Warnford

I must confess, this review is a little bit late. We visited this pub a good few weeks ago, and it's taken me a while to get it on line.

I must also confess that we knew this pub was good before we started our rigorous examinations. We'd eaten here not long before we started reviewing, so thought it time to return and get something down on record.

As far as we're concerned, this is a member of pub royalty. As soon as you step foot inside, you can tell the pub fairies have been at work. It's warm and welcoming, it has a sense of class about it whilst retaining the feel of a real pub. To put it simply, this is a place where things are done properly.

After careful consideration, Dad chose the 8 ounce steak from the specials board at a decent price of £14. I went a bit dullard with fish and chips. It is worth pointing out at this point that the landlord and staff here are friendly, hospitable and genuine. Something that shouldn't be overlooked or underestimated. We sat back and relaxed in that beautiful atmosphere that you can only find in a first rate pub. Before we knew it, the food had arrived and with it the hard work that we call reviewing. It's not easy eating in a pub and then writing down what you thought of it.

My fish, chips, peas and tartar sauce were all absolutely perfect, with a special mention going out to the delicious homemade chips. Dad also received those same delicious chips with his steak, this was also perfect. If memory serves, it was delivered with tomato and mushrooms to keep the steak and chips company. Two perfect plates of food on a wonderful afternoon spent at the George and Falcon.

You've probably gathered by now that we love this pub. Why wouldn't you, when every box is ticked with one of those giant bingo pens. Not only is it a wonderful place to be, where you can find wonderful food and drink. It is also apparent that the people running things actually care about what they are doing. When all these ingredients are put together in one pot, a five star pub is born.

Atmosphere                   9
Service                          9
Food                             9
Value                            8
Verdict                          5*


Monday, 13 March 2017

YE OLDE GEORGE INN - Church Street, East Meon

Today we were in fact on our way to West Meon     , but as we ended up passing through East Meon, decided to check in with Ye Olde George Inn. We have visited here before, but it was some time ago.

It was another one of those cold, grey days, so what we really wanted was a nice warm pub, selling good honest food. The first box was ticked as we entered this 15th century coach house, there would be no need to keep our coats on this lunchtime. It's a good looking pub inside, the central bar flanked by the public areas. Although there are plenty of tables, it's easy to find yourself a corner where you can relax in relative privacy if you so desire.

As we looked over the menu, which at first sounded quite imaginative, it soon became clear that we were to be challenged once again on our pricing notions. The cheapest main came in at £13.95, I believe that was the burger. Other meals ranged from £14 to just under £20. We were also surprised by a shortage of vegetarian options and the complete absence of chicken.

Unwilling to pay over the odds any more than was necessary, we decided to stick to the classics. Me giving the fish and chips a go and Dad opting for the six ounce steak from the light menu, both costing £14. This was incidentally the first time we've seen a lighter option costing more than your average standard main. My meal required a choice between peas or mushy peas, chips or triple cooked chips. I chose mushy peas and triple cooked chips, obviously.

After we had commenced eating, there was a very definite split on our little table. Me being very impressed with my food, Dad not so much. My chips were good and crispy, my fish was big and perfectly cooked, and I was given a good amount of mushy peas. Dad's chips were not so impressive and his steak had been beaten out flat giving it the illusion of size whilst making it near impossible to cook rare. As much as I enjoyed my fish and chips, we come back to a point raised several times in the past. Can fish and chips in a pub ever be worth £14? I think the question, is an average steak from a light menu worth £14, is easier to answer.

It is a real shame that pricing can be the downfall of so many upper end gastro pubs. If we had paid £10 or even £12 for our food, we would have come away with an entirely different mind set``. The fact remains though that we feel that most of the menu here is perhaps 20% over priced. It is true that sometimes it's worth paying a bit extra for higher quality food, but there is a limit to that, and we know of other pubs doing high quality food for reasonable prices. We wouldn't put you off going here. It's a nice pub. The service is nice enough and the food is good, but we think it important to make you aware that it will cost you a bit more than you may have been expecting.

Atmosphere                   7
Service                          6
Food                             7.5
Value                            5
Verdict                          4*


Thursday, 9 March 2017

THE OLD HOUSE AT HOME - 2 South Street, Havant

We spent a lovely sunny afternoon here a few years back, and I have since visited several times on nights out. It was now time to give this pub the gastrohub treatment.

This visit was not accompanied by a warming sun, so there would be no lazy alfresco dining for us this time. We ventured inside, acquired drinks and menus, then went in search of the perfect table, whilst being mindful of the low ceilings. We like the way this pub is set out. At first it seems quite small, but as you journey through the various segments, it becomes clear that first appearances are deceptive. As well as the individual areas of the pub itself, there is also an ample garden out the back and a nice undercover arrangement. We found ourselves a table in the corner, right next to the open fire. We sat down to cast our eyes over the menus, duly noting that the pub was warm and comfortable, unlike several pubs we have visited of late.

As the size of the pub is deceptive, so is the food on offer. The Old House at Home has no pretence about it, neither does it try to be a restaurant. It knows it is a pub, but it just so happens that they have decided to do food and do it properly. The menu is varied and interesting, with mains averaging around £12. I picked out the chicken with cabbage, baby potatoes and a tarragon sauce. Dad went for one of his favourites, ham, egg and chips.

It was an encouraging sign that the pub steadily filled with people choosing to come here for their lunch, lending extra expectation. That expectation was to be met and exceeded. My chicken was perfectly cooked, as were the potatoes and cabbage, and the sauce was amazing, a faultless plate of food. If I enjoyed my food, Dad was on cloud nine. His home made chips, two eggs and most importantly, mountain of high quality ham had him purring like a happy kitten. He also struggled to get through his sizable portion.

We half expected that all would be well before we set foot back in this pub. It did however surpass any expectations we had harboured. The pub itself has a lovely feel about it. It does exactly what you want a pub to do, wrapping you up in that special atmospheric blanket like only a good pub can. Also the food was wonderful, absolutely without fault. We would happily come back for more, and we would happily recommend that you do the same.

Atmosphere                   8
Service                          8
Food                             9
Value                            9
Verdict                          5*