Saturday, 30 January 2016

THE BIRD IN HAND - 269 Lovedean lane, Lovedean





Before we begin, I must confess this is one of my favourite pubs. We've both been here plenty of times, but never in a reviewing capacity. Knowing that the food is of a high standard, we just hoped that today wouldn't be the exception.

On a cold blustery day, you need a warm and welcoming pub, and thankfully that's what we found. When we ordered drinks, the barman was very friendly and chatty, and upon choosing a table, we were told that menus would be brought to us, which was a nice change. One of the reasons we like this pub, is that it serves two purposes very well. On the one hand there is a restaurant section for more formal eating, but if you just want a drink, the bar feels like a proper pub, complete with open fire. You have several options when ordering food, including the main menu and a lighter version. Dad plucked his choice from the lighter menu, his attention grabbed by the pork belly. I ordered roast chicken with gnocchi. Another perk of eating at The Bird in Hand, is that you are given a bread board after ordering. The homemade bread is kept company by a flavoured butter, in this case, olive.

This was one of the busier pubs that we had visited in recent months, which certainly helps the atmosphere, but wasn't detrimental to service. It didn't take long for the food to come out and when it did you could tell it was going to be good. The food at The Bird in Hand is in a different league to many of its fellow pubs. Dad was very impressed with his pork belly and considering it was from the lighter menu, the size of the portion was more like that of a standard meal. On the other hand, my chicken which was ordered from the main menu, was smaller than Dad's meal. There was enough gnocchi, but the chicken breast was a touch on the small side, although it was cooked perfectly with beautiful crisp skin, something you don't see too often. The food was of the highest order at The Bird in Hand and couldn't be faulted. We were left wondering about the discrepancy in size and price of meals though. Dad's lighter pork belly cost about £8.50 and was an absolute bargain, where as my meal was nearer £15 and left me wishing there was a bit more chicken. Some of the main meals here are a touch on the pricy side, but this is one of the few exceptions we have found on our travels. It's worth paying the few extra quid because it really does make a difference here. I'd rather pay £13 or £14 for something stunning than pay £10 for something forgettable. If the penny's are an issue, you can simply order from the lighter menu and the odds are, it won't be too much different from the main menu anyway.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 9
Food                    9
Value                   8
Verdict                 5*

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Friday, 22 January 2016

THE QUEEN'S HEAD - High street, Titchfield





We completed our trilogy of Titchfield high street pubs today by visiting The Queen's Head. We must confess to being slightly disappointed thus far with the standard of pub and food on offer in Titchfield. We had expected it to bare rich pickings for those of a foodie persuasion.

Alarm bells were quick to ring as we entered. It was noticeably cold inside and deathly quiet. By this I don't mean a lack of people, although there weren't many of those, I mean there was no music playing. This may seem like an unimportant detail, but if you sit down to eat in a pub where there is no noise at all, it sucks the atmosphere away like a giant pub plug hole. It's terrible, every word you say can be overheard by anyone else in the room.

There were two menus, one for the bar and one for the restaurant. I chose salmon in a cream and white wine sauce with sauted potatoes while Dad went for the "famous" steak and kidney pie with new potatoes. The prices were at odds with the pub, both meals coming in at around £12 - £13, too much. It didn't take too long for the food to arrive, and when it did, the pricing really has to be questioned.

My salmon was cooked well enough, and Dad's pie was fine, he was impressed with the pastry, which incidentally only appeared on the top of said pie. After that it all goes downhill I'm afraid. A bowl of vegetables for us to share held a rather uninspiring mass of pea's and cauliflower. My potatoes had escaped from the freezer and the wine in my sauce hadn't been reduced enough, leaving a slightly unpleasant acidic note throughout.

It's a nice enough little pub with its oak beams and fireplace, but you can't get so many simple things wrong and expect to impress anyone. The two unforgivable crimes in pub land are to allow your pub to be cold and silent. If on top of that you overcharge for average food, you truly are looking down a big old pub plug which will swallow you up.

Atmosphere          3
Service                 5
Food                    6
Value                   4
Verdict                 Poor

Saturday, 16 January 2016

THE RISING SUN - North lane, Clanfield





When we heard that The Rising Sun was under new ownership, it was immediately plotted on our future review map. We have previously reviewed this pub, but think it only fair to start with a clean slate and an open mind when a pub falls under new stewardship. This is an account of our most recent adventure in to pubington.

I have always had a bit of a soft spot for this pub. We have often spoken of the potential. Even though the food hasn't always been the best, I always feel warm and comfortable there. As well as being a good size, the general layout is good whilst being light and publy, (If publy isn't a word, I've just made it up, so now it is).

Upon entry, we were greeted warmly enough, and after ordering drinks, were told that menu's would be brought over. They were true to their word, and menu's were delivered. We wasted little time getting stuck in to our options. The menu wasn't huge, and to the best of our knowledge, wasn't supplemented by a specials board. The average price of a meal in a gastro pub has ticked up to £13, and that was pretty much the deal here, although some meals did sneak up nearer the £16 mark. What we did appreciate, were the extra little touches and attention to detail. A good example being the fish and chips, which came with either a pickled onion or pickled egg.

Dad went classic, choosing the fish and chips. I picked the supreme of chicken. I also took the opportunity to test the pubs policy on flexibility. I asked if I could have chips instead of new potatoes, this I was told was no problem, extra points there. The chicken came with either a mushroom or stilton sauce. I of course chose the stilton. Firstly because stilton is a beautiful thing, secondly, because mushrooms are the spawn of hell.

As we waited for food, we took some time to tick off the list of pub fundamentals. Warm, check. Music, check. Clean, check. Friendly staff, check. The final test would be the food, and we didn't have to wait too long for that. When it arrived, it looked very good. Our chips were of the home made and tasty variety, Dad's fish was jacketed in a crisp batter. It was also sizable, leaving Dad struggling to finish. My chicken was well cooked, though not of the same proportions as the fish. The stilton sauce was perfect and the caille was just right, although I would have liked a touch more of it.

After mentioning the potential of this pub, we feel it is now in the best hands it has ever been to fulfil that promise. They have addressed all the basics and the food is very good. Afterwards, in the car, we found it hard to find fault with anything. But if pushed, we would suggest the following. A slight downwards tweak to some of the pricing, a few more imaginative meals on the menu, and I know this is a small thing, but I do think you should get the option of mushy peas when ordering fish and chips. These are all small things which are easily rectified, and none of them detracted from our lunch. We like this pub and would recommend that you try it for yourselves.

Atmosphere          8
Service                 8.5
Food                    8.5
Value                   7
Verdict                 4.5*

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Friday, 8 January 2016

THE BUGLE HOTEL - Titchfield




After the Christmas break, me and Dad were eager to get out there and explore some new pubs. After our last adventure to Titchfield, we thought we'd follow up and see what else was on offer there. Upon arriving in the town centre we thought we'd give The Bugle a go.

The Bugle is called a hotel, but it is essentially a pub with some rooms upstairs. The first thing which was blatantly obvious when we entered was that the fire's chimney hadn't been swept for a while. There was a strong smell of smoke which became more apparent and irritating throughout our lunch. This wasn't the pleasant smell you get from a well maintained fire, more a back up of smoke seeping in to the room. The second thing we found out, was that there are no menus, unless they were being hidden away somewhere. Taking it all in our strides like the professional pub critics we are, we stood at the blackboard to see what wonders the menu held for us. The menu wasn't small exactly, but could have done with a few more options. The prices seemed very reasonable, Dad chose gammon, egg and chips £7.50, and I had chicken pie and mash £9.95.

As we waited for our food we talked and took in our surroundings. It wasn't badly done out, in fact it may have had a bit of money thrown at it in the last few years, but something didn't sit quite right for me, just one of those things you can't put your finger on. When we arrived there were a few people milling about by the bar, but as we ordered and took a table, they all left. I don't think it was us, more that they had stayed the previous night and were on their way home. This left us alnoe in the pub, not a good sign.

At first glance, my food looked alright when it was placed before me. I started off with a fork full of mashed potato, and this is where the story really begins. Me and Dad have eaten a lot of mash in our time, some of it wonderful and some of it not so wonderful. This was, and I'm not exaggerating here, the worst and most peculiar mash I've ever had. Not only was it bland, devoid of any seasoning, but it was of a most bizarre texture. smooth, stretchy, slightly too viscous with lumps for good measure. I am finding it hard to pull the words out my head which can aptly describe what I ate. If you imagine flour mixed with water and then added a few lumps of potato, you might be getting close. Weirdly, the pie wasn't too bad. It was a half pie really, just pastry on the top. I've also just realised there was no gravy, I think that's a first for me. Dad's gammon was seemingly made of plastic and accompanied by your standard frozen pub chips and two eggs.

We have been doing this for a long time now, though we only started posting reviews last year. This is only the 2nd time we have deemed a pub unfit to feature on any of our lists. It simply isn't good enough and we would feel terrible pointing anyone in the direction of The Bugle Hotel, especially when there are other options within a short walk.

Atmosphere          6
Service                 6
Food                    4
Value                   6
Verdict                 Poor