Thursday, 17 December 2015

THE WHEATSHEAF - 1 East Street, Titchfield

Today we ventured in to uncharted territory. We have had our eyes on The Wheatsheaf in Titchfield for a while now, and can now add it to our list of conquests. It's a good old country/village pub, which prides itself on good quality food.

The early signs were good as it was one of the busier pubs we've been to in a while. Things got a little sour upon reaching the bar however. When we asked if we were alright to get some food, we would usually get a reply along the lines of, "Yes of course, take a seat and I'll bring some menu's over". Today though we were first told there might be a bit of a wait, that's fair enough if you're busy. We were then asked if we wanted to order off the bar menu, without having menus explained. We were then given a menu and asked immediately what we wanted so the order could be put through. I'm not someone who has panic attacks, but I wasn't far off it then. I like to take my time looking at menu's and thinking about my options. After resigning myself to ordering fish and chips through blind panic, at the last minute I asked if they were doing a turkey roast, it being nearly Christmas and all. Turns out they were. It was apparently on the main menu, but I was allowed to order it in the bar. Taking a deep breath we collected our drinks and headed for a table to gather our whit's.

As we waited under the oak beams for our food, we chatted and soaked up the atmosphere of a festive and bustling British pub. It was a nice change to share a pub with other humans after last week's solitary experience. It turned out that the wait wasn't that long after all, and as Dad's sausage and mash was placed in front of him and my roast in front of me, I thanked the food God's that I'd asked about the Christmas dinner, I even got a Yorkshire, none of this only with roast beef nonsense. I had a generous portion of rolled turkey breast with a stuffing inside, and beautiful roast potatoes, which I later learned were cooked in goose fat. My vegetables came in their own dish and included stunning little roast parsnips. At the other end of the spectrum, my Dad wasn't quite so excited about his food. He said the food itself was very good, but it wasn't what was offered on the menu. It was advertised as sausage with champ mash and caramelised onion gravy, and there in lay the problem. The champ had been usurped by its less interesting cousin, standard mashed potato, and the caramelised onions were conspicuous by their absence, thus rendering an interesting dish in to a very ordinary one.

All in all we had a good time and enjoyed the food, me more than Dad, but we were reminded of last week's trip and subsequent disappointment at how a pub so close to five star can let itself down in small ways. The atmosphere was pretty good, but it could have been that bit better with a chilled out Christmas playlist coming through the speakers rather than a radio station, maybe we're turning in to pub snobs. Again, as seems to be a regrettable growing trend, most things were a touch overpriced. Dad's sausage and mash was £10, which doesn't sound bad, but think about what it is. Two sausages and some potato, there weren't even any vegetables. I could make that for about £1. Service was a bit of a mixed bag, with one of the waitresses being lovely, and one of the barmaids seeming like she was finding it hard to keep her bad mood under control. 

We wouldn't put you off eating at The Wheatsheaf, the food was very good, mine in particular, and it is a nice cosy pub. We have a few other Titchfield pubs on our hit list and will of course keep you informed as to their quality.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 5
Food                    8
Value                   6
Verdict                 4*

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Monday, 14 December 2015

THE CRICKETERS - 1 Church Road, Steep

After previously attempting to eat at the Cricketers, only to be told that food wasn't available due to a function, we returned to see what they could offer our empty stomachs.

This is a nice looking pub, with a rustic decor set off by stripped wooden tables and a fireplace, which unfortunately wasn't lit. It is also very light inside, unlike your typical dingy pub interior.

We had no trouble finding a table as we were the only people there, always a slight concern. A quick glance at the menu gave us a possible incite in to the reason for the vacuous nature of the establishment. We are I'm afraid back to our biggest bugbear. Everything was overpriced. To give you an idea, Dad ordered fish and chips and I had a chicken burger and chips. I'm sure you'll agree, neither of these are gastronomical wonders, nor do they take rare skills to prepare, yet they cost £12 each. You may think us fussy and that a few quid doesn't matter. Perhaps you would be right, but you can't justify charging that sort of money for those sort of dishes. We shall now concentrate on the food.

We couldn't really fault the food at all. My burger was beautiful, the chips were perfect and cooked, refreshingly, until nice and crisp. Even my side salad was good, kissed by a lovely pesto dressing. Dad's fish and chips were also good, his fish accompanied by a different species of chip to my burger. His were much more chunky and rustic. He was however slightly disappointed with the portion size. This is not to say that we demand vast mountains of chips, but it was on the small side, rubbing salt and vinegar in to the wound inflicted by the £12 price tag.

After our post-lunch deliberations, we have decided to award The Cricketers four stars, but we were left frustrated. Although the pub itself is lovely and the food very good, it is the smallest things which stop this becoming a five star pub. We couldn't believe that in the run up to Christmas in a beautiful country pub, you wouldn't have your open fire going, especially if you insist on having the back door open the whole time. The menu is at least 20% over priced, minimal effort had been made with Christmas decorations and Dad found the music quite annoying. The Cricketers is a nice pub, but they are a roaring fire, a shut door, an easy listening playlist, a Christmas tree and 20% off prices away from being a five star pub.

Atmosphere          6
Service                 7
Food                    8
Value                   6
Verdict                 4*

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Friday, 4 December 2015

THE HARROW INN - Harrow lane, Steep

On an unseasonably sunny day at the beginning of December, me and Dad went back to a pub we last visited several years ago. The Harrow Inn is the ultimate olde world, unspoilt pub. A tiny 17th century building complete with beams and fireplace. Probably the smallest pub I've ever been to, it can seat around 16 people, maybe 20 at a squeeze. There are plenty of seats outside for when the weather is fine.

This is where I usually recount how we grab a menu and find a table. It's not quite like that at the Harrow. Firstly the menu is very small indeed, consisting of quiche, soup, sandwiches and a few other offerings. Secondly, you sit wherever you can, even if that means sharing a table with other diners, most unBritish. I had quiche and Dad had flan, which lead us in to a debate about what the difference is. Unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion, we perched on the end of a table and awaited our food.

A good thing about being a small pub with a fire is that it keeps the room warm and cosy, which is welcome as Winter draws in. I collected our food from the dinky bar and sat down to tuck in. A quiche comes with salad and crusty bread and will set you back £11. At first glance that sounds like quite a lot, but The Harrow dress your plate with the King of salads. We aren't salad sort of people, but this is truly more than a salad. It is hard to think of something which wasn't on the plate, it's like the Noah's ark of salads, everything is welcome alongside the quiche. The quiche/flan was beautiful and obviously homemade, but what I loved most was the bread. There's not much better than fresh crusty bread served with plenty of butter and we were given a basket full of great chunks of it. Any pub who gives me a basket of bread goes straight in the good book.

Eating at The Harrow Inn can best be described as an experience. When it's busy, the cramped bar won't be to everyone's tastes, but its charm is without question. You can feel the history in a room which has barely changed in the last 400 years or so. The food is wonderful and without fault, but, and I'm afraid there is a but, the menu is very limited as is the seating. If you like quiche, traditional pubs and you can find a seat, there's nowhere better. If you want a burger or pie and mash and you like your own space, it's probably not for you.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 9
Food                    9
Value                   8
Verdict                 4* 

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Friday, 27 November 2015

THE HALF MOON - 32 London road, Sheet

After revisiting a few pubs over the last few weeks. we thought it time to try something new. With that in mind, we headed towards Petersfield to see what we could find. After a quick cruse through Petersfield town centre, we decided to aim the car at Sheet and in particular The Half Moon.

First impressions were mixed, dead flowers in pots outside the door and an exterior which could benefit from a touch of love and attention. On the up side, upon entering, the temperature was good and there was some inoffensive music playing at just the right volume. When eating here you have a choice of the bar area or the restaurant, which in Dad's opinion was suffering from a slight case of tacky decor. We took our drinks and menu to a window table in the bar and sat down to make some big decisions.

The bar menus offerings were priced around the £8 mark, that's a good start. Though if you chose to eat from the restaurant menu it will cost you more like £12 for a main. It wasn't a bad menu, including pie, quiche, salmon, butternut squash curry and tuna. Dad opted for the pie of the day, this day being lamb and mint. I chose goats cheese and pepper quiche, though I did exchange new potatoes for sweet potato fries.

As we waited for our food, the pub began to fill up. Quite a few of the customers were obviously local and were known to the staff, always a good sign if people keep coming back. It didn't take too long for our food to arrive, which was fortuitous indeed as me and Dad were both very hungry after forgoing breakfast.

With regards to the food, I'll start from the top and work down. My quiche was beautiful, with plenty of goats cheese and lovely crisp, homemade pastry. Dad's pie was good, a real pie in the literal sense, surrounded on all sides by pastry. The mash accompanying the pie was good if not outstanding. My sweet potato fries were nice, but certainly not home made. Dad also got his own little dish of vegetables, nothing too exciting though, carrots, cabbage and broccoli. I also had a small salad and some coleslaw, which were indeed what they claimed to be.

The Half Moon is our exact idea of a 3* pub. The food isn't going to blow your mind, neither will it offend you. The prices are fair and the pub isn't cold or deathly quiet. Would we recommend that our friends and family go there? No, probably not. Would we warn people off eating there? No, certainly not. It is fine, there's nothing particularly wrong, yet there is nothing particularly memorable or inspiring.

Atmosphere          7
Service                 6
Food                    8
Value                   8
Verdict                 3.5*

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Friday, 13 November 2015

THE KINGS HEAD - The Square, Wickham

Today we continued our theme of revisiting pubs. We went for The Kings Head in Wickham, a five star pub which we had high expectations for. We remembered it as a proper pub selling top quality food, so were keen to see if that was still the case..

We were greeted in precisely the way you would wish to be greeted when entering a really good pub. Made to feel immediately welcome and offered drinks. After collecting said drinks, we were proffered menus and invited to take a table. After taking a seat we were both quite sure that we had ended up on the same table that we had occupied on our last visit. It was conveniently near the specials board, though there wasn't that much on there, perhaps a soup and two mains. The menu read pretty well, though if we were being picky there could have been a bit more choice and seasonality, some good old English comfort food as we head inexorably in to Winter. I chose fish and chips while Dad went for lamb and mint sausages with mash and onion rings.

As we've found with several pubs of late, the pricing was a touch on the steep side. Average mains came in at around £13 and sandwiches, although they were rather posh sandwiches, were between £8 and £9, with chips added for an extra £1. The other thing that struck us was a side order of vegetables at a whopping £3.50, I'd need them to be some pretty good vegetables.

When the food came to visit our table, it was indeed as good as we remembered it. My chips were homemade and delicious and the fish was perfect with crispy batter. The only thing I would change would be the peas. Firstly I would offer mushy peas and secondly, if I provided standard peas I wouldn't put them in a little dish, it makes it quite awkward to eat them. The sausages, mash and onion rings on Dad's plate were all of a high standard and were enjoyed mightily.  Curiously, as we discussed the merits of the pub and its food, we were asked to complete a survey about the pub and its food, that's a first.

This is without doubt a good pub. The pub itself has a good feel about it and also has a substantial garden complete with play area. It also has a separate building out the back with skittles, which is available to hire. As mentioned, the food is of a high standard, though I can't help but be irked by the overpricing. Even so, I would certainly recommend this pub which we also said in our survey. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Wickham and no doubt will someday return.

Atmosphere 8
Service        9
Food           9
Value          7
Verdict        5*

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