Wednesday, 31 May 2017

THE SPREAD EAGLE - Farnham Road, Liss

We haven't been to this pub for some years, so thought it time for a visit. After a few miserable days, we were lucky enough to have the sun today, so wanted to make the most of it in a nice pub garden.

There's plenty of parking here, and there was indeed a lovely pub garden, so that was a good start. Like so many good pubs, The Spread Eagle is a very old building, lending it plenty of character. The service was welcoming as we ordered drinks and collected menus, as it was throughout our experience.

The menu started out very well, with the initial items showing great care, with additions to meals that would put them a notch above the norm. After that it becomes a bit harder to explain how we felt about the menu. At first glance, there seems to be a lot there, but closer inspection uncovered that much of it was either children's food, burgers, sandwiches or a selection from their smoke house. This was mainly baby back ribs, chicken wings, pork belly and beef brisket. There were a few pub classics, ham egg and chips and of course fish and chips. We weren't entirely convinced by some of the prices either. Some meals like the classic burger and ham egg and chips were £12, but other meals were inexplicably notched up at £15 / £16. It is worth pointing out here that with the purchase of an adult meal, children can eat for just £2, and you can't say fairer than that.

I had the chicken burger, with the addition of blue cheese, (£12), Dad went for his favourite, ham, egg and chips, (also £12). We felt that this was a case of the food having to be very good to make up for the erratic pricing, and it wasn't long at all before the food arrived and our judgement could commence.

First of all, both meals looked excellent, glaringly made up of good quality ingredients. Secondly, and I'll try not to go on about this too much, the chips were amazing. Homemade, beautifully crisp, and seasoned perfectly. So we are off to a good start. My chicken was enveloped in a wonderful bun with a seeded top and a toasted inside. The chicken within was big and juicy and topped by an oozing lump of blue cheese. I was also the proud owner of a little pot of coleslaw, this was also very good. Dad's ham was home cooked and of a high quality, he was also blessed with those same exemplary chips. After our misgivings over the prices, we were quickly won over by the quality of the food. Not a single problem could we find, and we do always try.

The sun does of course always help, but we had a lovely lunch in the beer garden of The Spread Eagle. The service was great and friendly, the food was delicious, especially the chips, and we both agreed that the food we chose was very good value. Weather we would be happy to pay £15 for the same thing is another question entirely. If you happen to find yourself on Farnham Road, whistling through Liss, and if the sun is shining, and if you happen to have a few under 13's that need feeding, it's certainly worth dropping in.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 8
Food                    8
Value                   7
Verdict                 4.5

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

THE BLUEBELL INN - Bell Lane, Cocking

We finally got to this pub in a very roundabout way. We first came across it, whilst driving back from another pub jaunt, and make a note of it. Today, we were due to visit a different pub entirely, no names mentioned, but after waiting, unacknowledged at the bar for some time, we decided to go elsewhere, and that's how we ended up at The Bluebell.

It was a horrible, horrendously soggy day today, so it was a relief when we made it inside. The Bluebell does seem to be a pub to all intents and purposes, but it makes a point of advertising itself as a B & B come restaurant. It's warm and comfortable inside, with a splash of background music to stop the atmosphere turning stale. Menu's and drinks were brought to the table, a touch which is always appreciated. We had the choice of an a la cartmenu, a bar menu, and the specials.

The specials were all on offer at just under £15, including cottage pie, that is too much for a cottage pie, that's a scientific fact. We were then wary that we could be in the midst of some serious blanket pricing, half expecting everything on the menu to cost £14.50, luckily this wasn't the case. Many meals were more reasonably priced at £12.50, including the pasta with chicken, spinach and broccoli in a blue cheese sauce. Dad went for the trio, yes trio of sausages at £14.50. Now, these weren't just sausages, they were three very different sausages. One wild boar, one duck and one venison. These were served with bubble and squeak. After talking with the owner, we discovered he had tried over 100 different sausages to find the best, that's dedication.

Dad had great fun with his sausages, ooh err, when they arrived, trying to identify which was which. Not sure how well that went, but they were all very tasty. My pasta was also very good, and I'm not a huge pasta fan, unless it is truly very good. It always helps if there's blue cheese involved. There was plenty of chicken, and the broccoli was cooked perfectly, a skill unbeknownst to many. The presentation was good, and the portion sizes were just right, leaving me particularly full.

The food here was good, though the pricing was a little slued in places, particularly when it came to fish and cottage pie. All the basic pub boxes were ticked, and it is hard to find a major fault with our visit. The most glaring issue, is that this pub/B & B, is located in the golden slice of pub paradise, meaning that competition is fierce, and at present, The Bluebell isn't quite up there with the big boys.

Atmosphere          6
Service                 6
Food                    8
Value                   6
Verdict                 4*

Friday, 5 May 2017

THE STAR AND GARTER - Main road, East Dean

After a bit of research this morning, I uncovered another pub which is located in the golden slice of pub paradise between Chichester and Midhurst. We've already found plenty of gems there, and set off hoping to find one more.

As we cruised through the beautiful South downs, we passed through village after village, each with its own pub. When we finally made it to East Dean, we were struck with some reservations. We think it's fair to say that this pub doesn't look like much from the outside, but never the less, we bravely marched inside to confront our fate.

It turns out that all of the character has been saved for the inside. Oak floors , beams and bare brick walls are the very definition of rustic. This is a free house, and they make the most of that by offering a wonderful selection of beer, cider and wine, not to mention proper coffee. After taking in the inner charm of this pub, we were plunged back in to our pool of uncertainty when we were left standing at the bar for some time. We were however eventually served and told we could have any free table, where our drinks would be brought over.

The lunchtime menu here isn't big, but it is big enough, and after some of our recent reviews, we were pleasantly surprised at the prices. All the meals on offer were £10 or less, including your classic sausage and mash, fish and chips and gammon. Dad went for the sausage and mash, while I went for a smoked salmon ciabatta with lemon mayonnaise. I also bullied myself in to ordering a side of chips to go with it at £3.50.  I believe both of our orders came in at £9.50.

After the small service blip at the bar, we were there after treated with much courtesy and friendliness, and it wasn't long before our food was placed before us. Dad was delighted with his choice, polishing it off while I was only half way through mine. The mash was smooth and well seasoned, the gravy delicious, and the sausages, and I quote, "were exactly what sausages should be". My food was also excellent. The bread was fresh and crisp, the smoked salmon was plentiful, the chips were golden and crispy and the mayonnaise was full of lemony goodness.

Luckily our bravery prevailed over the initial trepidation, as we thoroughly enjoyed our trip to this pub. It is a rare thing in deed to get high quality food for under £10, especially in the golden slice of pub paradise. Out here in the country, within a stone's throw from Goodwood, you can expect to pay slightly over the average. It is hard to find fault here, and if we were being picky, we think a touch of background music may have taken the atmosphere up one notch. This is though a good pub, run by good people and they sell good food at a good price. What's not to like?

Atmosphere          7.5
Service                 7
Food                    9
Value                   10
Verdict                 4.5*


Wednesday, 3 May 2017

THE CROWN AND ANCHOR - Dell Quay Road, Chichester

After a few weeks off, me and Dad were very hungry, and keen to get back on the pub horse. The Crown and Anchor has been on our radar for a while now, so we thought it time to venture in to the unknown, like two brave pub warriors.

This is one of those rare pubs which oozes class and runs like a very slick machine. The location is perfect, with stunning views over Chichester harbour. There are, as you would expect, plenty of tables outside to make the most of this. Unfortunately for us, the weather wasn't quite good enough to warrant utilising said tables. Instead, we made good with an inside table by a window. It's a surprisingly light pub, with plenty of big windows to take in the view. There is also a log burner to warm the cockles when the cold wind blows. As you would hope, being near the sea, the menu is heavy on the fish. There are of course other options on offer for those who prefer food which used to have legs, and for those of a vegetarian persuasion, although that did involve mushrooms.

The staff were incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, able to tell us where the produce was sourced, including the samphire which is often collected from the edge of the harbour. I eventually decided on the sea bass with samphire and new potatoes, although I was so interested in the truffle chips, I swapped my potatoes for them. Dad went for the wild boar burger with shoe string fries. This was just over £13, which we thought was pretty good. My bass was more like £16, which we thought might be a touch expensive, but we shall come back to that in a bit.

This is a nice pub to be in, whether you are drinking, eating, or indeed both. The main attraction must be the location, rendering this an incredibly busy place when the sun is in full working order. It wasn't long at all until our food arrived and the serious business of food judgment could begin in Ernest. Dad's boar burger was good, and probably warranted its price tag, but my meal was not to be so easily ticked off. First of all, my food was delicious. The fish cooked beautifully, the sauce and samphire both lending their own twist, and the truffle chips were an interesting change from their simple cousins. Then we come to the nitty-gritty. The old price = quality portion squared conundrum. The price was, as mentioned earlier, around £16. The quality was without question, that just leaves the portion. Baring in mind, chips are made from potatoes, which are of very little worth, the rest of my food consisted of one small fillet of sea bass, a few mouthfuls of samphire and a tablespoon of sauce. Just to simplify, it wasn't very big. I could live with that at a lower price, but the two parts of the equation don't add up to us.

We do like this pub very much. The service couldn't be better, the food was very good and the location is priceless. Some of the food is priced fairly, some of it not so fairly. Perhaps there's a bit of a field of dreams phenomenon going on, if you charge it, they will pay. This pub will always be busy, simply because of where it is. This is not to say they don't deserve to do well. They are doing almost everything right. We would just suggest lowering a few prices to reflect the food served up, or up the portion size to match the price.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 9
Food                    8
Value                   6
Verdict                 4.5*