Friday, 24 November 2017

THE BUCKS HEAD - Bucks Head Hill, Meonstoke

In search of a new pub this week, I bowed to Dad's memory. He had heard tell, maybe even seen a pub near Exton, but wasn't sure what it was called. So with our target selected, we saddled up and headed off on another adventure.

It turned out that the pub in question was called The Bucks Head, and is located in Meonstoke. It looked like a nice country pub from outside, and so it proved on the inside too. A warm greeting and lots of wood were in evidence, along with the spitting of an open fire. Unfortunately, the fire was on its way out, not to flourish again during our visit. A particular shame, as it was a rather cold day, and the pub could have done with an extra heat blast. There were plenty of tables for us to choose from, although the pub would fill up over lunchtime.  This is incidentally a dog friendly pub, popular with walkers, AKA, ramblers.

The menu read pretty well, with average prices between £12 and £15, pretty standard for your modern gastro pub. All the usual pub classics were in situ, with the addition of a few more imaginative offerings. There was also a specials board for extra spice, and this is where my lunch was advertised. Jerk chicken with sweet potato wedges, served with homemade coleslaw and corn on the cob. Dad picked out one of his favourites, ham, egg and chips, with the added flourish of a pineapple fritter. This is one of those little touches that we really appreciate, to lift a meal in to a more interesting dimension.

Two of the basic pub fundamentals were not in practice here. Firstly, there was no music, although there was enough custom generating sufficient noise to avoid the painful silence syndrome. Secondly, it was a bit cold. When the food was delivered, it looked pretty good, and more significantly, tasted pretty good too. My chicken, although not the biggest, was perfectly cooked, and was ably assisted by a small pot of spicy sauce. The sweet potato wedges were again perfect, not too soft, and not over crisped, as can easily be done when trying to produce the perfect sweet potatoes. My coleslaw was clearly homemade, and the corn was sweet and coated in butter. Dad's ham was maybe, just possibly a tiny touch overdone. The chips however were truly epic. I'm not meant to go on too much about chips, but if you want to see how a chip should be made, this is the place to go. His two eggs were poached, one more runny than the other, I suppose variety is a good thing. We were very impressed that the pineapple fritter was made from fresh pineapple rather than a tinned ring.

All in all this was a thoroughly good lunch adventure. The pub is nice, light and friendly. The food is very good, and the prices are bang on average for a good foodie pub. They are just a spiders pencil away from getting it all 100% right. A bit of music and some love shown to the fire would have gone along way. Perhaps examine the idea of a set lunch menu? It's only a small thing, but we did think the dying fire was a real shame. It's not just the warmth it gives off, but the pleasing aesthetic quality. Everyone loves a roaring pub fire in the Winter. That said, this is a very good pub, and we would happily return, and maybe we will.

Atmosphere          7
Service                 7.5
Food                    8.5
Value                   8
Verdict                 4.5*

Monday, 20 November 2017

THE WHITE HART - The Street, South Harting

Every now and again, we don't have a plan. Sometimes we just pick a direction and drive, hoping that we eventually find a pub that sells food. Placing your fate in the hands of the pub Gods can be a risky business, but it can also prove ultimately rewarding. Both cases were summoned in to reality this week as we headed in to the unknown, so settle down and jump on board our latest adventure in to Pubington.

We turned right, then went forward, then turned right again, I can't remember the rest of our directions. But at some point we ended up heading for Midhurst. The first pub we found that we hadn't already visited, was The White Horse, A stunning bit of poetry, considering we reviewed a different White Horse last week. We parked up, strolled in and stood at the bar, where we were ignored for ten minutes. Eventually we were acknowledged and offered drinks. After ordering, we asked about food, and were told uncertainly that there was no food today, something about a wedding. We promptly cancelled the drinks and leged it.

A memory string was twanged in Dad's mind as we passed a sign for Harting. We promptly followed the sign and found ourselves at The White Hart in South Harting. Upon entering, we could instantly feel that mysterious pub magic in the air. A friendly welcome, oak beams, a slightly worn parquet floor and that smell which is particular to the finest of English pubs. We took a table by the fireplace, which unfortunately wasn't lit, although we did have a candle on the table which was. We, especially me, got very excited as we ploughed through the menu. Great variety, fair prices and a clear eye for imaginative details set this menu a class above the norm. I even made the bold statement, that this may be the best menu we've ever seen. The cherry on the top was the lunchtime set menu, offering two courses for £15 or three for £18. This is the direction that we decided to take. Dad chose, smoked ham hock and black pudding terrine with piccalilli, pork crackling and bread. For his main, beef and horseradish sausages, mustard mash, onion gravy and crispy leeks. You can see already how we were excited about this menu. It shows effort and care, making you want to eat the food. For my part I picked the roasted, curried parsnip soup with lime crème fraiche, parsnip crisps and bread. This would be followed by tempura fried red mullet with noodles in a lime and soy dressing. That is not the sort of food you would usually find on a set lunch menu in a pub.

It quickly became clear that our instincts were correct. The food was beautifully presented. The soup was perfect and the parsnip crisps light and delicious. The terrine was wonderful, taken to another level by the piccalilli and crackling. The bread was fresh and the service continued to be just right. By the time the mains arrived, we were already convinced that we had found something special, but the food set before us only served to cement what we already believed. There is a serious chef at work here, who wouldn't be out of place in a fine dining restaurant. My tempura mullet was absolutely perfect and the dressing on the noodles was immense. Dad's was equally as impressive, with the crispy leeks acting as a perfect balance to the creamy mash.

Not only were we amazed to find such food on a set menu at such reasonable prices, but we were also pleased to see good portion sizes. Set menu can so often mean less food for less money, but not here. There was quite literally nothing wrong with our food, it was of an incredibly high standard. Thankfully, it was a rare case of finding amazing food in a wonderful pub, thus creating the perfect pub storm. This may even be our new best pub ever, or at least in the top three. If you haven't been here, we urge you to give it a try, you won't be disappointed.

Atmosphere          9
Service                 9
Food                    9.5
Value                   9.5
 Verdict                 5*

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

THE WHITE HORSE - 51 Southsea Terrace

In a bid to cover more of the foodie options available to the gastrohub readership in Portsmouth, we thought it time to take a look at The White Horse. This is a pub which has been on our radar for some time, a source of much frustration I am sure to the foodie public, AKA, THE FUBLIC. So with the minimum of silliness, let us get on with the real business.

Ideally situated, near the common, a stone's throw from Castle road, and a slingshot from the sea, The White Horse has an expansive area out front, which greets you like a pair of open pub garden arms. There is plentiful seating, and I can vouch from personal experience that this is a wonderful place to be in the Summer months. However, this certainly wasn't Summer, so it was through the front door and inside for us.

There was a nice, light feel to the pub, with music in plain earshot, and a general warmth which was most welcome after the chill outside. As is our habit when visiting a pub, we took our drinks to a table and sat down to explore the menu's. There was a good range of food on offer, including a selection of Asian choices, but what really caught our eye, were the prices. There are many meals to be had here for under £10, a rare treat indeed these days. Being near the seaside had its usual effect, drawing me to the fish and chips. My greedy side was also nudged by the, "Moby Dick", naming of said fish. Dad went for the Winter classic, steak and kidney pudding with mash, which came in at a bargaintastic £9.

The pub absorbed more punters as we waited for our food, helping to create a pleasant atmosphere. We were starting to think that we may have happened across a most rare beast, in a good pub that not only sells good food, but sells it at a very good price. We didn't have to wait long to find out. My fish was indeed of a good size, the chips were delicious and the mushy peas were perfect. Even more impressive was Dad's order. The mash was wonderful, but the steak and kidney pudding was, "Amazing". Dad even added that it may very well be the best steak and kidney pudding he's ever had, and all for under a tenner.

There was simply nothing to dislike about our trip to The White Horse. The fundamentals were all present and correct. The food and service were all good, but the biggest and most unexpected of bonuses, was the price you pay for that good food. We were always going to rate this pub highly after our visit, but we were put in an unusual position. Most of our top rated pubs are there because there food is outstanding, and often you have to pay a bit more for that. Here however, the food might not be quite so refined, but it is very good, and we are left mightily impressed with the value. A pub is not just marked on its food, but the whole experience, including the bill. Would we come back here? Without a doubt. Although it would certainly be much harder to get a table when the sun is out.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 9
Food                    9
Value                   10
Verdict                 5*

Wednesday, 8 November 2017


This was one of those pubs pointed out to us by the pub Gods. We happened across it whilst on our way to another pub, and promptly added it to our "TO VISIT" list. Every pub has its day, and this day was all about The Greyhound.

First impressions were fairly good as we entered. Greeted by the smell of an open fire, and wrapped in the warmth that fire can bring. The landlord was particularly friendly and cheerful as he lead us to an available table. It was then, on closer inspection, that the higgledy-piggledy nature of the pub became clear. A myriad of differently styled tables and chairs had found a home together, sitting atop the slightly tired paisley carpet. I suppose you could argue that this gives the pub its own particular charm, but you could equally argue that it could do with a freshening up.

Things looked on the up when we got stuck in to the menu. After having to get used to the average meal in a gastro pub sneaking up to £13, we were delighted to see some very reasonable prices here. Many meals coming in at £10 - £11. There were also several offerings on the specials board, but we both opted for something from the main menu. On the lookout for something a bit different, I chose leeks and parsnip in a tarragon sauce, topped with mash and cheese. Dad went for one of the pub staples in sausage and mash. Both of these were a fair price, falling under that £13 mark.

Other punters filtered in as we waited for our food, and it felt very much like an old school, traditional, locals country pub. This is not to be detrimental in any way, in fact I think that holds its own charms. When the food appeared it looked pretty good. My leeks and parsnip were hiding amidst a rich tarragon sauce, covered by a mound of well seasoned, smooth mashed potatoes. This was served with a separate dish of well cooked, fresh vegetables. Dad's mash was equally good, and the sausages were of a high quality. The dish was however crowned with a single onion ring, which wasn't too far from cremation. It seemed an odd gesture to proffer a lonely onion ring, surely three would make more sense. It also surprises us that sausage and mash is often unaccompanied on the vegetable front. This is not just the case at The Greyhound, but at many pubs across our great nation. Some peas, or a few spoons of red cabbage, would surely add an extra layer to a British classic.

We found it tricky to come up with the marks for this one. It is in no way bad, but there are just a few things holding it back. With so many pubs, the frustration is caused by the level of simplicity to rectify so many of these negatives. When we arrived, I could hear music, but it was only coming from a certain area. We later came to the conclusion, that that music may have been leaking out from the kitchen, that's not the way to do things. When you run a pub or restaurant, your first thoughts should be about the customer. Provide music for them, not second hand from the kitchen. Don't serve one onion ring, especially if it's overdone. On the other hand, the service was good, the prices very reasonable, and most importantly, the food was good. Although this might not be top of our list of pubs to revisit, we certainly wouldn't be put off coming back. Just a few simple tweaks, and this could be a really good gastro pub.

Atmosphere          6.5
Service                 7.5
Food                    8
Value                   8.5
Verdict                 4*