Friday, 26 February 2016

THE HAMPSHIRE ROSE - 44 London road, Waterlooville

Today we set sail for the Hampshire Rose, a pub we visited once before a few years back. We weren't particularly blown away, but it's important to give pubs another chance.

As you make your way to the bar, you can't help but notice the cavernous nature of this place. It's big and it's open, almost feels like you could hold a school assembly in there. There is a self-contained function room available for hire and ample seating. This proved irrelevant as we were the only customers upon entry. We were greeted warmly and shown menus as our drinks were poured. There is an option of two meals for £12, you certainly can't argue with that value. Offerings on said menu included several different curries, plaice and chips, burgers and liver and bacon.

We decided to pick from the 2 for £12 menu. I went for the plaice and Dad had the liver and bacon which was served with mash. As we waited for the food, we looked through the standard menu. Again, the prices were very reasonable, most meals coming in around £8, but it was lacking imagination. It read like a typical menu from a pub ten years ago that sort of does food because it has to, not because it loves to. There was nothing much more adventurous than fish and chips, sausage and mash or lasagne. It soon became apparent that the pub was quite cold. It is as previously mentioned a big pub, with lots of big windows, but we still maintain that a successful pub can't be a cold pub. We were then bombarded with too loud dance music, which was a strange experience in a big empty pub.

When the food arrived, it was pretty much what we expected. Dad's liver was tough and his mash lumpy, although my plaice, chips and peas weren't too bad. I asked for some vinegar which was delivered in its own little plastic packet, I haven't seen one of those in a pub for a while.

In short, the service is friendly and the food cheap, but that's about where the positives end. If the pub was busy, things might be different, but sitting in a near empty cold pub with bizarre lunchtime music isn't conducive to a magical atmosphere. The food is uninspired and of an average standard. For these reasons we are afraid The Hampshire Rose doesn't make it on to our lists.

Service                7
Atmosphere        4
Food                    5
Value                  8
Verdict                2*

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

THE OLD HOUSE AT HOME - Cot lane, Chidham

This is a pub we visited years ago, and to be honest, I couldn't remember it, so when Dad suggested we make a return trip, I was happy to go back and see what they were doing.

It's a little bit out the way and is in every sense a traditional old pub. I think traditional is the word here, much overused, but in this case it is perfect. You can feel the decades of history which have taken place within the walls, creating an atmosphere that no design can replicate or equal. We had a good feeling about The Old House at Home, it's a rare moment when you just know everything will be alright.

We were greeted warmly, served drinks and offered menus, as well as being pointed in the direction of a specials board. There is a set lunch menu which offers excellent value at two courses for £12 or three for £16. The main menu is a little more expensive, but as we shall discover, sometimes it's worth it. Steak pie and a selection of burgers are on offer at just over £10, where as other options can be up to £13. It was a wonderful sounding menu, making it clear that the chef knows what he's doing, and just as importantly has a passion and imagination when it comes to his food.

Our orders were taken at the table, which is always a nice way to start. Dad was drawn to the pie, which he chose to have new potatoes with. After my usual prolonged indecision, I eventually opted for parmesan crusted cod on a bed of sun blushed mash. Sounds good doesn't it?

The pub was nice and warm and slowly filled with other lunchtime punters as we spoke over a side of garlic bread. As mentioned in several previous reviews, there are certain things which make a pub a good place to be, one of which being background music. This is where the mould was broken. I noticed immediately that there was no music and was worried that the atmosphere would suffer, but strangely it didn't matter. Other pubs have become frigid boxes of solitude due to their lack of sound, but here it wasn't an issue. The feel of the place negated any such concerns.

I told Dad, I knew the food was going to be good, and bless my buttons if I wasn't right and then some. It smelt good, it looked good, and it tasted even better. Dad was blown away by his pie, not literally of course, much better than several, "Award winning pies", he has tried at other pubs. My cod was amazing, the texture and flavour from the parmesan crust lifting it to a whole new level. The mash was also a wondrous thing, rippled with sun blushed tomatoes and seasoned by some mystic power. This is in a nut shell what we've been saying for so long now. The difference a bit of love and imagination can make is immeasurable, not only to the customer, but to the profits of the landlord/lady.

In our post-meal discussion, we were both in no doubt that The Old House at Home is a five star pub. More than that, it is one of the best we've found. The service was friendly and sincere and the food was immaculate. The main meals may cost a touch more than some other pubs, but it really is worth it, and if you want more for your money, the lunch menu is an absolute bargain.

Atmosphere                     9
Service                              10
Food                                  10
Value                                 9
Verdict                              5*

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Saturday, 6 February 2016

THE SEVEN STARS - 56 Winchester road, Stroud

This week it was the turn of The Seven Stars to get the full GastroHub treatment. We'd been here several times before and had been really impressed with the food. It's one of the bigger pubs we've been to, but it doesn't feel like a big pub, which can sometimes feel a bit soulless. It's long, but not too wide, and is effectively broken in to smaller parts, making for a comfortable pub experience.

They have a good, well balanced menu here, and on the whole it's surprisingly well priced for a pub of this quality. Many main meals are on offer from £6.99 and most are under £10. There's a lunchtime menu consisting of baguettes and the like, the main menu and a specials board. There is a selection of pies on the main menu, including an award winning steak and ale pie. My Dad was drawn towards this acclaimed pastry, one because we both like pies, and two, because we are a tad sceptical when it comes to "Awards". Anyone can give you an award for anything and then suddenly you are award winning. To be fair, the details of the award were on the menu. After some protracted deliberation, I went for the buffalo chicken burger.

We had a casual nibble on some garlic bread while we waited for the main meal and judged our surroundings. It's a nice looking pub and they had some appropriate music playing at the right sort of level. It could have been a touch warmer, but we soon got used to it, or maybe it warmed up. As Dad's pie was placed before him, he tucked in eagerly. Turns out the pie was good, but not the award winning masterpiece we were hoping for. The mash however was apparently wonderful. Soft, buttery and well seasoned. My burger was very good, a class above your average burger. It was a whole chicken breast, hand battered and served in a bun with Blue Vinniey mayo. I must confess though to being a bit disappointed with the chips. I had hoped for homemade, crispy chips, but instead received a very average, pale, pub chip. In a curious twist of modern concepts, the chips were served in a can, as in a baked bean can. It's one thing getting your burger on a wooden board, but I'm not sure how I feel about getting my chips in a can.

Certainly taking in to account our previous visits, The Seven Stars is without doubt a quality pub, and remains one of our favourites. The food is very good and unusually you can get it for a good price. There is also a good standard of service. Considering the size of the place and the covers they get through, you don't have to wait too long for anything and the staff are welcoming and friendly. If you happen to be driving along Winchester road and your tummy rumbles, you know where to go.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 9
Food                    8
Value                   9
Verdict                 5*

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