In a fit of irrational over-exuberance brought on by the fine summer weather, most of our members decided to walk there, taking a cross-country route devised earlier by Nick. Most such routes involve passing one of our favourite pubs, The Hampshire Bowman, but we knew that if we went that way we'd be quite unable to go past without popping in to sample their fare, and there was a good chance that we'd never come out again, so Nick cleverly worked out a route that avoided this hazard. It was a very pleasant 7km walk (or, according to Trev's pedometer, 11200 steps) which took us 90 minutes and (again, according to Trev's pedometer), meant that we each burnt off 577 calories. We saw this as ample justification for what was to follow.
When we finally caught our first glimpse of our final destination the pace noticeably picked up as we had by now worked up quite a thirst and an appetite.
On arrival we were given a warm welcome by our hosts, Nicki & Shaun, who had been expecting us, and were probably worried that some of us may have fallen by the wayside, exhausted by the undue exertion of the walk.
Happily we all made it to the pub, where we met up with Stephen, who had got there by some other means, probably not involving any exertion at all. This being a Greene King pub, we had a choice of Greene King ales: Greene King IPA 3.6%, Old Speckled Hen 4.5%, and a seasonal ale Old Nutty Hen 4.5%. We started with the IPA, which we all agreed was in exceptionally good condition, except for Tall Paul, who as usual stuck to Guinness, but he said that that was in good condition as well. Later on we found that the other ales were also very good. Of course, we had just walked 7km in the summer heat, so we had worked up quite a thirst and we would have drunk anything.
As we were supping our first pint, Nicki explained what lay in store for us. They'd made some Game Pies and Pork & Cider Pies for us especially, but rather than expect us to make a difficult choice, each of us having to choose on or the other, they'd made small individual pies of both varieties for each of us. So we had two pies each! And this is how they looked when they were brought to the table:
The pies came with mixed vegetables and either mashed potato or chips, and this is how they looked on our plates:
The gravy was served in the approved manner, separately, in jugs on the side. To be honest, it was a bit of a plateful, and several of us left some of the pastry as there seemed to be quite a lot of it - an unintended consequence of simple geometry which shows that the ratio of pastry to filling increases as the pie gets smaller. But the the chef assured us that the pies were hand-made using hand-made pastry, and they tasted delicious.
We were so stuffed that we weren't going to bother with puddings, but then we looked at the pudding menu:
This is quite an unusual menu, and when we noticed the "Sweet Temptation Platter" we ordered 2 of them, to be shared between the 8 of us. This is how they looked when they were served:
There was a bit of difficulty, and some argument, when we tried to share these out equally, but we all agreed that the puddings were delicious.
We all thought the meal was excellent, and we really appreciated the effort that Nicki, Shaun, and the chef made for us. The pub itself has a very good ambience, having recently been refurbished very tastefully. The food and beer very reasonably priced, with the beer at around £3.70/pint, and the pies at £10.50, so we felt it was very good value for money. Clearly we were in no fit state to walk all the way back to Bishops Waltham, and we just had time to finish up our beer, and pay the bill when our taxi arrived.
Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
- Pastry 4.3
- Filling 4.55
- Beer 4.34
- Ambience 4.53
- Value 4.6
- Overall 22.32
Congratulations to Nicki & Shaun, with your bold innovation of presenting us with 2 pies each you've raised the competition to a whole new level. Your score puts you straight in at number 1 in our charts, a whole 0.7 points clear of the previous leader, and puts you in a very strong position to scoop the "Pie of the Year" award this year. Don't forget the helpful hint that we gave you just before we left, when we suggested that the only way you could have improved this meal would be if you have left a decanter of port on our table at the end, as one of your competitors did earlier in the year!