Tuesday, 11 April 2017

THE VINE - West Street, Hambledon

Fate was to play a large part in our review this week. We were already on our way to our chosen pub, when we happened to drive through Hambledon, and therefore, The Vine. Now, we are in the habit of telling nothing but the truth on these pages, so we should point out that we had a few bad experiences at this pub over the last few years. Before that, it was a wonderful pub, selling wonderful food, but as it passed from one new owner to another, it fell in to a sorry state, that at least was our experience. So this seemed like a perfect opportunity to put those bad times behind us, to draw a line and start a new tab.

We were blessed with sunshine, so thought it our duty to take a table in the garden. On our way through the pub, we were served drinks and handed menus. It's a nice, cosy, traditional country pub, with an atmosphere much improved from our last visit. After checking the menus, where an average meal will cost you between £12 and £14, we decided to take advantage of their two meals for £15 offer. I'm afraid we were both tempted by those pub classics, fish and chips for me, and ham, egg and chips for Dad. I was tempted by the cheese e, but the greedy part of my brain demanded something more substantial.

We commandeered the decking area, which afforded us sunshine and a good view of the garden. There was also a very entertaining pigeon who seemed to delight in bouncing round inside a holly bush. We can't guarantee he will be there every day though. The garden was nice enough, raised up a notch by the golden rays, but it could be so much more. A touch of love would make it a more special place to spend time.

From here on in, we are getting in to sliding doors territory. Two very different stories happening at the same time. As you can imagine, this makes marking very difficult. Dad's ham wasn't bad, but neither was it good. It certainly wasn't home cooked, rather out of a packet. His meal was therefore slightly underwhelming, but for £7.50 you can't complain. Mine on the other hand was a thing of beauty. The fish was a good size and perfectly cooked, crisp batter n' all. The little mug of mushy peas were good, although a little salty. But the star of the show, here I go again, sorry Dad, were the chips. Some of the best we've had, just like chips from a really good chippy. They were super tasty and cooked to the perfect level of crispiness.

So where do we go with our summery? If I had been eating alone, I would be looking, or at least thinking about 4.5 stars, with a 10 for value. But I wasn't on my own, and was witness to my Dad's ham disappointment, I can't just let that go. Pubs are also always much nicer places to be when the sun is out, bending our objectivity, but we can only comment on what we experienced. The staff were friendly, the value can't be questioned, and my fish and chips were excellent. If you are looking for a lunchtime bargain, you would struggle to do better than The Vine, but if you can't decide between ham and fish, we suggest you go for the fish, you won't regret it.

Atmosphere          7
Service                 7
Food                    7.5
Value                   9
Verdict                 4*


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

THE BARLEY MOW - Walderton

My Dad was unable to cross over to the mystical land of pub reviews this week due to being so excited about his upcoming birthday. My desperate need to eat and review was however satiated by my dear sister, who stepped in to the breach for the first time. Though me and Dad, or Dad and I if you are an English student, had previously visited, and knew it to be good, but Emily had never been, meaning that her fresh input would be most welcome.

This is a pretty pub, set in the small village of Walderton. There's a nice little garden round the back which is flanked by a small river. The pub itself is a good size and is on the whole light and offers plenty of seating. Saying that, it turned out we were lucky to get a table. Certainly one of the busier pubs I've seen on a Friday lunchtime, generating a warm and relaxed atmosphere.

After a scan through the menu, I thought I'd go for something a bit different, opting for the nut, root vegetable, apricot and goats cheese roast. This came with chips and a salad. Emily went for good old fish and chips. This choice will bring several questions your way as there is a small and a large version. You can also choose between battered or breaded fish, although my sister wasn't given that option. Most meals here will cost you somewhere between £12 and £15, I believe deserts were under £5.

Before long, the food arrived and we got down to business. My nut roast was very nice, although the apricots weren't forthcoming. The chips were unfortunately not homemade, but the salad was a thoughtful one. What I mean buy this, is that it wasn't just some leaves with a slice of tomato and cucumber. There were peppers and sweet corn and a lovely dressing. Emily's fish was very good with a crisp batter, but the chips were of course from the same bag as mine. After eating all our food up like good children, my sister bullied me in to ordering a desert. She chose the sticky toffee pudding, while I picked the brownie sundae. Both puddings were delicious, and I was particularly excited about having a special long spoon for mine.

This is a lovely pub, not long taken over by the current regime, who are very friendly and helpful, and are clearly trying to do things the right way. It is probably worth pointing out at this stage that they also have their very own skittle alley. It is certainly worth a visit, and I'd quite like to go back in the Summer and sit out in the garden, enjoying a lazy afternoon. I don't want to go on about chips again, my Dad will tell me off, but I do believe that good homemade chips would make a world of difference, especially since chips will often make up a large part of the food you are paying for.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 8
Food                    8
Value                   7.5
Verdict                 5*