We had visited this pub several times in the past, and I think it's fair to say, we left feeling disappointed. The pub itself was always nice, certainly on the larger side of the pub family, and the service had been good. It was literally just the food that had let us down in the past. This was to be our 100th gastrohub review, and it just so happened that The Hampshire Hog would be getting another chance to impress on this most auspicious of occasions.
There is certainly no lack of parking here, a giant's stone throw from Butser Hill. Although it has the ora of a big corporation pub, it still manages to pull off friendly and welcoming. This point was made particularly well as we approached. There are speakers outside, allowing you to listen to music whilst taking in the fresh air. Being that we are rapidly approaching Christmas, it happened to be Christmas music pumping from said speakers. As we took the steps to the entrance, we were treated to an uplifting blast of "All I want for Christmas", instantly lifting the spirits.
We followed standard procedure, collecting drinks and strategically choosing a table. The menu sounded good, but it did on our previous trips too. Much like a TV salesman, it had promised so much but not delivered. The prices were also pushing in to the upper reaches of gastropubdom, averaging between £13 and £14. At first, nothing was jumping out at me, so I defaulted to fish and chips, while Dad picked a rather more exotic faggots with bubble and squeak. Dad had promised to check out the specials board on his way to the bar, and low and behold, there was a Christmas turkey dinner on offer. Not one to ever turn down the chance of a roast dinner, my lunch suddenly became a bit more exciting.
As already mentioned, there was Christmas music, the pub was warm, which in itself was no mean feat, being that it was a cold day and the building is of substantial size. The service was also of a good standard. So far, things were looking good. The pub certainly wasn't running at maximum capacity, so it was a little surprising that it took a while for the food to arrive. Not quite too long, but it wasn't far off. The food looked good, and as we tucked in, it also proved to taste pretty good. As I was in the middle of a roast frenzy, Dad asked me what I thought about my portion size. I hadn't really noticed until he said, but then I had a good hard think about it. All the components were there, but it did seem that a few of them were a little light. I did acknowledge that it would probably be fine for most people, and that I am somewhat greedy when it comes to roasts, but I could have done with just a few more vegetables. It was all cooked well, especially the sprouts funnily enough. The potatoes were nice, but I'm not quite convinced they were genuinely roasted. Dad's faggots with bubble and squeak was good, but I got the impression he was far from blown away. He felt that a bit of vegetable action on the side wouldn't have gone a miss.
We have concluded, and can report, that this was a great improvement. As I've already said, the pub is lovely, the service is good, and the food is of a good standard. Whether it quite warrants the prices is another debate. And that in truth is our only point to raise. We believe that if you are going for the top end of foodie town, you have to deliver on all counts. There is no room for negotiation. If we pay £14 for a pub meal, we expect to come away impressed and content. We weren't too far off that, but a few pounds off the bill would have restored a food based equilibrium.