Wednesday, 28 March 2018

THE MONKEY HOUSE - 167 Southampton Rd, Lymington

I first came across this pub when in The New Forest with my dear wife and our small hairy friend, Wookie. I was looking for a good pub to have lunch in, which was friendly in the way of dogs. The Monkey House was one of the first which popped up, and it came highly recommended by several reviews I found. That sounded very much like a job for gastrohub.

The Monkey House stems from the wooden branch of the pub species. By that I mean there is plenty of wood. Floors, tables, bar etc. It felt instantly welcoming, which was only sharpened by the lovely greeting we received from the staff. It very quickly became clear that dogs are not just allowed here, they are loved and cherished, which makes the whole experience much more relaxing for dog owners.

Rachel had recently turned vegetarian, so it was good to see several interesting non meat options on the menu. She chose the sweet potato and coconut curry. I went all manly with a spicy chicken burger. The pub is a free house, run by a family, and throughout our visit, we met several of them. They were all extremely friendly, some even giving treats do Wookie, who quickly decided this was her favourite pub. The food didn't take too long to arrive, and when it did, we were soon glad we had come. Rachel's curry was delicious, and my burger was a proper burger. A good sized piece of real chicken, not a bought in breaded midget chicken breast. The chips were good, the rice was good, everything was good. By the time we had ploughed our way to the end of our meals, we were both satisfied and delighted to have found such a wonderful new pub for our trips to The New Forest.

Never have I experienced more friendly people working in a pub, and for that, The Monkey House must be congratulated and applauded. It's often not until you have experienced such warmth and enthusiasm that you realise how much difference it can make to your time in a pub, whether you are eating or drinking. There is a good menu on offer, and a good chef putting the food together. There is everything to like about this pub, and we will certainly be back for more.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 10
Food                    8.5
Value                   8
Verdict                 5*

Friday, 23 March 2018

THE DEAN INN - West Dean, Chichester

This week it was a refresh and revisit mission. We would be heading out to The Dean Inn to see how the land lay after a change of management. Being one of the pubs in the legendary slice of pub paradise, we were expecting big things, so we saddled up and set forth.

On our way in, we passed through the garden area. It looked a wonderful place to spend a Summer afternoon, and boasted some amazing chunky wood tables. The pub has a clean and airy feel to it and the cherry was placed upon the pub cake when we were met with a cheery welcome. We collected drinks and homed in on a table, where our menu's were to be brought to us, extra points there. The first items on said menu were of particular interest. There were a handful of snacks on offer between £3 and £4.50 including ox cheek croquette, bubble and squeak rissole and fishcake bonbons. Kind of a British tapas vibe there, something we have thought a worthy idea for a few years now. I was drawn to the salted cod in crispy batter with triple cooked chips at £13.50, while Dad went right off piste and ordered two starters as a main. This is a wonderful way to get a wider sample of what is on offer.

Shortly after ordering, we were given some homemade bread and butter, that's always extra points from me, I'm anyone's for a bit of fresh crusty bread. We really didn't have to wait too long before our food arrived, and we could tell, even before taking a bite that we were in five star town. Before getting in to the food, it is important to mention the service we received. It was exemplary. Our waitress was friendly, genuine, happy and professional, effortlessly making you feel looked after but never pestered. So, back to the food. It was an interesting twist on a classic fish and chips to use the salted cod, and it stood up to the crisp batter it lived in. The chunky, triple cooked chips were a thing of beauty, and the home made tartar sauce was delicious. Dad was almost left speechless by his double starter dinner. He couldn't pick a winner from his scotch egg or squid and crab cake, all of it being amazing. He did manage to give me a useful sound bite though. "Possibly the best cooking we have come across". High praise in deed. I would have to echo his sentiments, but there was still room for one more fruity surprise. Upon paying the bill, we were treated to an orange and passion fruit pastel from the chef. It was truly divine, and a perfect end to a perfect lunch.

In short, our lunch was a gastronomic triumph. Some of the meals here might cost you a few quid more than other pubs, but believe us, it will be worth it. You are talking high quality restaurant food here. The attention to detail and the effort given to create this food is obvious to see, and if you take our advice and try it yourself, you won't be disappointed. When you throw in some homemade bread and perfect service, it's a no brainer.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 10
Food                    10
Value                   8
Verdict                 5*

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

SAMUEL'S REST - Upper Church road, Shedfield

It's getting harder and harder to find pubs that we haven't already visited, so after a bit of tinternet trawling, I came across Samuel's Rest. Turns out, it's another pub that I've never been to, but Dad has, many years back. So our course was set, and a new adventure lay in wait.

I think it's fair to say we received an indifferent welcome at the bar as we enquired about food and drinks. This is a shame, as we know from experience how much difference a warm welcome can make to your time in a pub, especially one you haven't been to before. Bravely marching on, we took a table in the corner and got stuck in to the menu. I have to say, we both found it to be a slightly unusual one. The prices weren't bad, many meals on offer just over £10, but it was all a bit disjointed. There is a lot of emphasis on burgers, which in itself isn't a bad thing, but it all went a bit far. There was of course your classic beef burger, as well as chicken, lamb, venison, and about five different vegetarian burgers, which to be honest all got a bit confusing. Never the less, as the burgers seemed to be a big thing here, I opted for the chicken version. Dad picked out the steak and kidney pudding with mash.

We made several mental notes as we waited for our food, and I shall lay them out for you now. There were two fires in the pub, but neither were in action. I always feel a bit sad when a pub fire isn't roaring. It lends a wonderful cosy atmosphere, as well as the obvious warming qualities. The walls were festooned with paintings which are for sale, the one next to our table was up for £75. There was music playing in the pub, but it was only on one side, so our half was a bit quiet, which I suppose may suit some people. Last week, we discussed the acceptable time to wait for your food in a pub. We decided that around 15 minutes was about right, depending on how busy things are. There were four tables eating, including us, so we were a bit surprised when that time came and went. It was actually over 30 minutes before our meals appeared. It was even more of a surprise to see a specials board appear after us and two of the other tables had already ordered.

My chicken burger came with a choice of fries or gourmet chips, I of course chose the latter. I'm not sure they qualified as such. They were in fact big frozen chips, but were fine. The burger itself was fairly small, and closely related to the Birdseye family. The coleslaw was good, and the accompanying salad was very good and surprisingly substantial. Although we are pretty sure Dad's pudding wasn't made on site, he said it was excellent, and his mash was also very nice in deed. The portion sizes were certainly healthy, both of us struggling to finish, and in all, it wasn't a bad showing for the money.

The food we experienced here wasn't bad, neither was it out of this world, it was very much of this world. We think it's safe to say that much of the produce on offer isn't made in the pub kitchen, more prepared. Despite this, it wouldn't be fair to say we were disappointed. Dad particularly enjoyed his steak and kidney pudding. As with so many pubs, there are some basic fundamentals which could be addressed, but you could certainly do worse.

Atmosphere                     6.5
Service                              5
Food                                  6.5
Value                                 7.5
Verdict                              3.5*

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

HUNTERS INN - Cott street, Swanmore

Another one of those pubs that we had visited several years ago, and thought it time to revisit. Our last journey to this particular pub was just before the age of reviews, so this would be another groundbreaking expedition.
We found the pub without too much trouble, and found a parking space which always makes life easier. The car park was certainly busy though, often a good sign of things to come. We entered forth in to what is a fairly sizable pub, and approached the bar. We gathered up some liquid refreshment, and headed to a cosy two seat table in the corner. On our way we checked out the specials board. Rather than your standard specials board, this is more of a menu in its own right, leaning heavily on the meaty side. It transpires that they do, or at least did, have their own on site butcher, which explains that. One curious thing about this pub. As well as the vast specials board, and the main menu, a roast dinner can be acquired here all through the week.

While I was tempted by several of the options, I do find it hard to resist a roast, so went for a Christmassy roast turkey. Dad picked out the lamb shoulder. This is available as a one person meal, or as a sharing plate for two. As the car park indicated, it was indeed busy inside, as well as being a touch cold. To be fair, it was a very cold day outside.

Before too long, our food arrived. The first thing we noticed, was the vast collection of vegetables on show. Potatoes, parsnips, carrots, cabbage, baby corn, peas, beans, there may have been more. As well as the veggie metropolis, my plate contained stuffing, a small sausage, and a good amount of turkey. All finished off with a small pot of cranberry sauce. The turkey and the stuffing were both good, and for the most part the rest was pretty good, particularly the parsnips. I wasn't quite convinced by the roast potatoes though, and my peas were cold, but on the whole, I was quite happy. Dad didn't fare as well. Although his lamb was cooked very well, all his vegetables were cold. We assume that his was plated up and left for a bit too long while my turkey was being prepared.

This is a pretty big pub, and its menu is vast and laden with meat. It is generally the excepted wisdom that big menu's are a bad idea, but if it works for the Hunter's, who are we to argue. I get the feeling this is a pub where you could very easily have two very different experiences. It may just depend on the luck of the draw as to which you have. The welcome and service could have been a bit more polished up with warmth, and there is no excuse for cold food. Dad's cold vegetables and my warm ones summing up our opinion in a convenient nutshell.

Atmosphere                   7
Service                          6
Food                             7
Value                            8
Verdict                          3.5*