We're getting quite into this walking business, and 60 minutes is a better length for a walk as it allows you to build up a big appetite and thirst without getting too exhausted. Just as people were starting to wonder "Are we nearly there yet?" we saw the welcoming sign.
It didn't take us long to find our way in.
And soon we were confronted with the most difficult decision of the day: which beer to start on?
After such a long hot walk we felt a light refreshing ale was called for, and most of us chose the Upham Tipster 3.6%. The Upham Brewery is our nearest local brewery and has come a long way since its rather shaky start a few years ago, and this Upham Tipster was excellent. Also available were 2 more fine ales: Ringwood Best and Gales HSB. We took our pints out into the garden and waited for the pies to arrive. Lord North had previously arranged for us to be presented with a Venison Pie made specially for us. When it arrived we were impressed.
We each had a good-sized individual pie, served with a choice of mash,
or new potatoes, and a selection of freshly-cooked vegetables (carrots, leeks, swede)
For some reason the pies were accompanied by a cooked tomato, and we noticed a light sprinkling of green stuff all over, and we didn't know what to make of that. But we did approve of the gravy served separately in a jug on the side.
On closer examination we found that the pie filling was near-perfect: Packed full of tender meat and tasty gravy and absolutely delicious. But we weren't so sure about the pastry. It was the correct short crust pastry, nice and crisp with no soggy bottom, but disappointingly thin and tasteless. Not bad though, but not up to the standard of the filling. All in all, the meal was excellent, as were the puddings. We tried the Eton Mess (made with Durley strawberries, which are locally grown, and the best)
and fresh Durley strawberries
and someone always has to have the Sticky Toffee Pudding
The Upham Tipster, at £3.20/pint was excellent value. The pies were £11.95, which is not an unreasonable price to pay for a specially-made venison pie, the puddings were reasonably priced, and the quality of the food was top notch (it is just a shame about that pastry). We liked the pub very much: It's clean and nicely furnished, and has a big garden with lots of tables. The service was good, and they gave us some chocolates with the bill, which came to around £28 each (incl. service).
Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):
- Pastry 4.22
- Filling 4.53
- Beer 4.45
- Ambience 4.22
- Value for money 4.27
- Total 21.68
All in all this was a very pleasant experience and the final score means that this pub leaps into 1st place in our rankings of pubs visited so far this year, well ahead of its closest rival, The Woodman, which we visited in March. On our previous visit to this pub, in October 2011, it scored a very sad 16.3, so this score reflects a dramatic improvement in the pub, and just shows how quickly things can change (and what a change of landlord/chef can achieve). Our congratulations go to all involved in bringing about this remarkable transformation.