Friday, 23 October 2015

THE ROYAL OAK - 19 Langstone High street, Langstone





Today we undertook an adventure in to the heart of Langstone, somewhere between Havant and Hayling island. We had been there once before on a Summer's day, and I had good memories of it. For some reason I think of it as a Hobbit pub. I can imagine Frodo and his mates sitting round a roaring fire and drinking from tiny mugs.

Today wasn't a glorious Summer's day so we were to have our first experience of indoor eating at The Royal Oak. It is by no means a big pub, and there are more tables inside than seems possible. When we arrived there was plenty of space so we grabbed a table in the corner and hunkered down to weigh up the menu's. There were several menu options including specials, standard and value. The value menu, which I believe was available from Monday to Friday, offered such things as fish and chips and curry for £5 to £6ish, you can't argue with that. Even the specials and standard menu were sensibly priced between £8 and £10. There was also a bit more imagination on show than we have witnessed in recent menus elsewhere. Having said that, I fancied a burger and Dad had sausage and mash.

I had a particularly good feeling about the chipps in this pub. The menu mentioned triple cooked chips and rosemary and salt chips, the latter were served with my burger, as well as coleslaw. Dad's sausage and mash was a good price, but we did find out upon ordering that it was literally sausage and mash, and if you wanted vegetables you had to order them separately. Never the less, on delivery we found it all to be good. Dad said it was right up there with any sausage and mash he'd had, with particular reference to the quality of sausages. My burger was very good, homemade coleslaw and excellent chips. Regular readers may know I have a thing about chips. How they are often a waist of space on your plate, but can also be one of the best things in the world. These were good chips, just what a potato would long to become. We may have to start awarding a separate chip title to worthy pubs. My point is made by the amount of pubs I would give such an award to. Just three off the top of my head. The Royal Oak (Langstone), The Farmer Inn (Catherington) and The White Lion (Soberton).

All in all it was a wonderful lunch in a lovely little pub. I always think it is a very hidden away pub, unknown to most, but it was actually one of the busiest pubs we've been to in a while. It did get a bit loud towards the end. No fault of the pub of course, we just happened to get a very loud man sitting near us, TALKING VERY LOUDLY!

When looking to eat in the Langstone area, you are actually spoilt for choice. I would however suggest that you give The Royal Oak a go. It's a lovely pub selling good food at good prices, and just to top it off the sea is about twenty feet away.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 9
Food                    8
Value                   9      
Verdict                 4*

Friday, 16 October 2015

ISAAK WALTON - East Meon


This is one of the pubs that was on our list to revisit. We had been here a long time ago, before GastroHub, and wanted to have another look. It's in a pretty part of the world, sitting merrily in the  village of East Meon.
This is a rare breed of pub, found in limbo land somewhere between the old school boozer and contemporary gastro pub. It has a pool table and a T.V. on the go, but serves homemade food at value prices. There's also a garden out back with a play area for the kids should the sun be shining.

The menu was fairly straight forward with all the standard offerings we have come to expect from a modern day pub, including three different types of tart, not seen that before. I went for smoked haddock and spring onion fishcakes with cheesy chilli chips, while Dad went for the burger. The mains were on offer at a very reasonable £6 - £7, while starters and deserts were hovering around the £4 mark.

We didn't have to wait too long for the food to arrive, and it looked pretty much as you'd expect it to. Upon munching, my fishcakes turned out to be delicious. Very much homemade and just the right proportions of fish to potato. The cheesy chips were good, though I did struggle to pick up on any chilli, and I was also treated to a bountiful array of peas. Dad's burger was good and was also homemade. It was joined on the plate by onion rings and exactly ten chips, this may or may not be an issue depending on your appetite.

A great pub is more than you can put your finger on, and equally you can't always explain why a pub doesn't float your boat. The food at the Isaak Walton is good enough, if not too imaginative, and you certainly can't argue with the value. It just didn't feel like a top pub. I want a pub to pick me up and give me a massive cuddle when I go in, especially if it's a bit cold outside. I want to feel like I've been valued and looked after, I want to feel sad that I have to leave. It probably didn't help that it wasn't exactly warm and cosy inside. We think this is the epitome of a three star pub. It still feels like an old fashioned pub that has done food because they have to, not necessarily because they love to. That may be a bit unfair, I don't think the food is the issue, more the pub itself, and that's not so easily fixed. To put this in to perspective though, I'm talking in comparison to the top pubs. If you want some decent food at a good price, you could certainly do a lot worse.

Atmosphere           6
Service                 6
Food                     8
Value                   8
Verdict                3*

Friday, 9 October 2015

THE CHAIRMAKERS - Worlds End, Denmead





After me and my brother visited The White Hart a few weeks ago, I was quite interested to scope out the competition in Denmead. With that in mind, me and Dad decided to pay a visit to The Chair makers.

The sun was mostly out, so we grabbed a drink and a menu and took them out to the garden to see what was on offer. At first glance the menu seems pretty standard, and I think that was what bothered us. Maybe we've just read too many menus, but it isn't hard to come up with something a bit different. It doesn't have to be anything fancy or Hestontastic, but I think a little imagination can make the world of difference to a menu. Something that grabs your interest and makes you want to try it. This is of course not just something we'd level at this pub, we think most menus would benefit from a bit of extra thought and invention. The second, and more obvious issue was one we have come across a few times recently, the pricing. As previously stated, you don't mind paying a little over the odds for something wonderful or interesting, but £12, £13, £14 for a pretty standard main, it bothers me. I think the lower end of the pricing bothered us even more. Bubble and squeak with an egg, £8. An omelette, £8. We did wonder if the bubble and squeak was a misprint and they'd forgotten the main part of the meal.

Curiously, the specials were much more reasonably priced, and that's where we ordered from. I had a roast and Dad had beef casserole, both were about £8.50. When the food arrived it was well enough presented and looked well made. We did note though that the casserole didn't come with dumplings, which we thought was missing an obvious trick. My roast was pretty good and I could find no fault with it. The meat was cooked well, the potatoes were quite good without being spectacular and the Yorkshire pudding was okay, maybe a little old and slightly on the tough side. The vegetables came on a separate plate and were cooked well enough. This is another aspect where we feel so many pubs could make big improvements. I don't have a problem with simple vegetables, but when you're paying to eat out it would lift the whole meal if you were given some cauliflower cheese or creamed leeks, rather than standard boiled carrots, etc. Dad said his casserole was pretty good, but maybe on the small side. It did come with a lump of crusty bread though, which is always a good thing.

This is a nice enough pub in a nice enough location, and the food is nice enough. But the cost of the food does bother us and would put us off in the future. If I was in the Denmead area and looking to get some sustenance, to be brutally honest I'd head to the White Hart instead.

Atmosphere  8
Service        6
Food           7      
Value          6
Verdict        3.5*