Friday, 30 June 2017

THE ROEBUCK INN - Droxford Road, Wickham

This was another one of those pubs that Dad had been too many moons ago, and I had never had the pleasure of entering. Wickham seemed as good a place as any to explore, so we jumped in the car and headed off with The Roebuck firmly in our sights.

When you get out of a car near a pub, you can usually smell the food straight away. This can be a pretty good indication of the quality of the food on offer, at least to the well practiced nose, and luckily, mine is well practiced. It smelt very good, not that all encompassing reek of frying fat that welcomes you at some questionable fooderies. I know that's not a real word, but I shall use it never the less, Shakespeare was allowed to make up words.

We followed the standard procedure of drinks, menu's, table, then it was down to business. We were intrigued by the starter sharing boards on offer, £20 for four people. Perhaps a good idea if a group of you are feeling a bit munchy. Pub classics were all £14 each, where as other meals were mostly around the £16 area. Ordinarily, we may question such pricing, but you can generally tell from the menu if the amount is justified. In this case we thought it probably was. The menu was excellent, taking many of the things you would expect on a pub menu, but using some class and imagination to take them to another level.

We happened across several points which are worth making a note of. On Monday's, you can choose two meals for the price of one, including the specials board. Friday is two for one on fish and chips, and there are two pie of the day options, one being vegan.

After some intense deliberation, I picked the slow roasted lemon and thyme chicken. This came with skinny chips, I refuse to say fries, salad and a garlic mayonnaise, (Aioli). Dad went for Beef baby ribs in BBQ sauce, served with bone marrow mash and baby turnips. That's not something you see every day. As we waited, we took in our surroundings. Dad said it was shabby sheik, without so much of the sheik.

The food was delivered and my nose was vindicated. We knew it was good before we even started eating. Importantly, for a pub with such a refined menu, the portion sizes were good. There aren't many things worse than paying £14 for a tiny plate of food which leaves you hungry, and all in the name of pretence. My chicken was beautiful, the lemon subtle but lending its own citrus magic to my grateful mouth. The chips were tasty, the salad dressed perfectly and the garlic mayonnaise was a most welcome addition, making particularly good friends with my chips. Dad's mash and turnips were also beautiful, but the star in his eyes was without doubt, the ribs. The best he has ever had, and I did double check with him on that.

The service was what it needed to be, if a little on the shy side. The pub itself was nice, but not quite the finished article, but the food was very good indeed. All of it living up to the smell and the description on the menu. It was presented well and cooked perfectly. In terms of value, we consider £14 for a plate of quality food decent value, even more so if you were to visit on a Monday.

Atmosphere          7
Service                 7
Food                    9
Value                   8
Verdict                 4.5*

Friday, 23 June 2017

THE RAILWAY INN - Station Hill, Curdridge

This pub was a new one on both of us, Dad coming across it whilst flicking through a good food guide. We took that as an invite and headed for Station Hill.

Upon arrival, it was clear that there was plenty of outdoor seating, and since the temperature was holding out, we thought we would make the most of it and eat alfresco. Inside, the pub is beautifully appointed, and the staff friendly and helpful. We grabbed a drink and checked out the specials board before heading outside to our chosen table.

For a pub with a good reputation for food, we were expecting the old £14 blanket pricing which has become so prevalent of late, but not a bit of it. Despite the clearly well designed menu, most meals were nearer to the £12 mark, which would prove good value if the food lived up to its promise. I chose the chickpea and sweet potato burger which was to arrive in a caramelised onion bun, accompanied by sweet potato fries and a red pepper hummus, and all for £12. Dad's ham, egg and chips was even more of a bargain at £11.

My burger was immense, everything you would wish a burger to be. A lovely bun, toasted inside, onion, gherkin, tomato and a grilled mushroom, which I must confess to removing. The fries were well cooked and the hummus was very tasty. Dad's ham was good, although the marmalade it was prepared in was somewhat lost. He was blessed with two eggs and a selection of triple cooked chips, which in my mind should have perhaps been a little crisper after a triple seeing to.

In short, this is a lovely pub. The staff were excellent and the food was very good, and perhaps most surprisingly, it was good value for money. If you find yourself in the area known as Botley, drop in and try it for yourself. It's a perfect all round pub. Good for Summer lunchtimes, evening drinks or anything in-between.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 9
Food                    8
Value                   8
Verdict                 4*

Saturday, 17 June 2017

THE STILL AND WEST - Old Portsmouth

We've been eager to get a few more Portsmouth pubs on the gastrohub map, and since we are in the midst of a precious slice of Summer, it seemed like the perfect time to head towards the coast. We had visited this pub before, but it was back before the times of reviews and the weighty responsibility that brings.

The Still and West is a grade two listed building, and as you would expect, is a lovely place to be on a sunny day. A child's stone throw from the ocean, this is a pretty big pub, set over two levels, as well as an outside area. It has been recently refurbished, and we can confirm that they have done a sterling job. We headed straight upstairs and laid claim to a table by a big window, affording us a majestic view of the harbour.

Fish features heavily on the menu, which is good to see from a food establishment by the sea. There are though plenty of non fish related meals to choose from. It is clear from reading the menu that the meals have been designed with a level of sophistication and foodie know how. Extra touches here and there which set the offered dishes on another level to your average pub. Prices for a main range from £13 to £19, excluding steak, which I believe was £23. Some meals seemed fairly priced, where as others seemed surprisingly high. I was however seduced by the fish sharing board, so in a change from the norm, we jumped on board and did the sharing thing, plus some chips on the side. We can of course only comment on what we eat and the experiences we have, and we both thought the fish board sounded like good value. Trout pate, smoked salmon, cod gusions fish cakes, bread and butter and tartar sauce for £16. I don't mind telling you, I was quite excited.

Before I get on to the food, we wanted to remark on the staff. All were helpful, polite and gave just the right amount of attention. Now to the food.

The board looked impressive, and our hopes for value were proved well founded and possibly surpassed. Four pieces of perfectly battered fish, two beautiful homemade fish cakes, a pile of high quality smoked salmon and some delicious pate made for an extraordinary lunch event. This was all jazzed up with some nice bread and butter, tasty tartar sauce and some lovely homemade chips. It is no exaggeration that we were both blown away with our food, and particularly with the value of it. Next time I return to the Still and West, I will find it a struggle to order anything other than the fish sharing board, although next time, I might not share it.

Atmosphere                     9
Service                              9
Food                                  9
Value                                 9
Verdict                              5*

Thursday, 15 June 2017

THE GRETHAM INN - Petersfield Rd, Liss

This one has been on our, "To visit", list for some time. It also qualifies as one of the rare pubs which neither me or my dear old Dad have never visited. Eager to fill this missing gap, we set off in the pursuit of food and truth.

The village of Gretham may not be one that you are all familia with. The main thing is, like all good villages, it has a pub. Once inside, it became clear that this is a charming little pub, with a character filled brick fireplace and oak beams. We ordered drinks and collected menu's from one of the friendly staff, then made our way to a table with our metaphorical names on it. That is when the serious work began.

We had read through the lunch menu before entering, a copy being conveniently displayed by the front door. I must confess, we did then debate whether to take our journey any further at that point, the menu being on the short and unimaginative side. But like the brave soldiers we are, we headed in regardless, seeking the secrets within. There were sandwiches, jackets and omelettes on offer, but if you needed something more substantial, you would be very limited. On the up side, the prices were reasonable, everything on offer for less than £10. Dad was happy to go with one of his favourites, ham, egg and chips. In the quest for the spirit of accommodation, Dad asked if it would be possible to get some fish and chips, even though, surprisingly, it wasn't on the menu. To their credit, this was given the okay, and our destiny was sealed.

A pointer to any publicans who may be reading, with regards to atmosphere. Having no music in a quiet pub is a no no. That is made in to a triple no if you can however hear music coming from the kitchen. Sadly this was the case whilst we waited. The food didn't take too long to arrive, but then the pub wasn't too busy. Firstly, extra points for home made chips, a nice touch which is always appreciated on these pages. The ham was good quality and the fish was okay, elements of the batter being slightly doughy. There wasn't really too much wrong with the food, yet it wasn't by any means earth shattering. To be honest and fair, as we always are, it is pretty much what you would expect for the price. Two decent plates of food for a decent price. Can't say fairer than that.

The evening menu here may indeed be more expansive, but bear in mind, if you are out for lunch, and on the lookout for something imaginative and substantial, you may be disappointed here. If on the other hand you are happy with an omelette or a sandwich, this would be a nice pub to quell your hunger. It's a charming pub, with friendly staff, and a garden for those Summer days.

Atmosphere          6
Service                 8
Food                    7
Value                   7
Verdict                 3.5*