On arrival we were greeted by a charming barmaid and immediately offered a choice of welcoming beers, including the always reliable Sharps Doombar 4%, the ever-popular Ringwood Best 3.8%, and (best saved until last) Ringwood FortyNiner 4.9%, as well as some other drinks favoured by our newer members.
We'd booked a table for 4, but there were 5 of us, and this seemed to cause a bit of consternation as the pub was quite busy and there weren't many spare tables. We were offered a choice of a table in the conservatory or one in the pub. Perhaps unwisely we chose the table in the conservatory. As we were shown to our table we noticed that the conservatory was full of old pensioners chewing steadily on their food, looking bored, and not talking much. Now some of Pieman's best friends are old pensioners, and he's one himself, but this can be a bit off-putting. On the positive side, though, this probably indicates a value-for-money pub. And anyway, Paul E soon started to liven the place up a bit. Later on, Joe suggested that in future we should avoid tables in conservatories, and we all agreed.
There was only one pie on the menu (actually a Steak & Kidney Pudding), which should have made the ordering process easy. We ordered 5 pies but were then a bit puzzled when the waitress asked us if we wanted our pies with vegetables. Pieman asked if there was any alternative. She said "there's always one awkward one" and offered chips as an alternative. What? One or the other, but not both? Still confused, some of us ordered vegetables and some ordered chips.
When the food arrived we discovered that "vegetables" meant mixed veg with new potatoes, and "chips" meant chips with frozen peas.
The service wasn't very good, but in their defence we have to concede that the two waitresses were kept very busy dealing with all the old folks and didn't have much time to spare for trouble-makers like us. We got the impression that they were mother and daughter, but we couldn't tell which was the mother and which was the daughter. They wouldn't bring fresh beers to the table for us - we had to go to the bar each time.
It is a value-for-money pub. The main courses were £7.95 each. Most of us were too stuffed by the enormous Steak & Kidney puddings and couldn't manage any puddings, but Nick managed some Stewed Fruit & Custard (£1.95):
Paul E had Apple Crumble with Custard & Ice Cream (£3.95), which looked good but he wasn't able to finish it:
The beer was good value for money as well, averaging around £3/pint, but due to the poor ambience in the pub (ands the fact that we had a bus to catch) we left after only having had 3 pints there. We made up for that by stopping off at the Crown on our way home. We had thought of moving on to the Rosebowl to watch some cricket, but the weather was grim so we didn't bother. Some of us had to have a lie down when we got home, to recover from the Steak & Kidney puddings, which (did I mention this before?) were big.
Scores for The Southampton Arms, West End (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):This is quite a respectable score. The food, drink and value for money were good, but the pub was let down by its ambience, and nobody feels any great urge to return to this pub for another go.
- Pastry 3.8
- Filling 3.9
- Beer 4.1
- Ambience 3.1
- Value 4.2
- Overall 19.1