It being a lovely sunny day, Eric, Nigel, Lord North, Mike & Si set off on the long cross-country trek from Bishops Waltham, ably led by Nick along a 7km route carefully avoiding The Hampshire Bowman for all the obvious reasons. It was a long walk, and certainly when we crested the brow of the last hill and saw the pub in front of us we had worked up quite a thirst and an appetite, so we sped down the hill as fast as we could.
We were joined in the pub by fellow member Gordon, who is lucky enough to count this pub as his local, and who organised this outing. We immediately set about deciding which beers to try first.
There was a choice of Greene King IPA, and 2 ales which were new to us: Belhaven Wembley 67 and Oakham Ales JHB. Most of us followed what has become our usual convention of choosing to try the lightest ale first, then working our way up to the stronger stuff. So we tried the JHB (Jeffrey Hudson Bitter) first, and found that it was very acceptable (as, indeed, were the other ales). By now we were beginning to worry about our vegan member, who had told us that he would definitely be taking time off from work to join us for this outing, but there was not yet any sign of him.
As we were quenching our thirst, our lovely host Nicki explained what she had in store for us this time. It was a pulled lamb pie served with roast and mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. Just as it was about to be brought to the table a car pulled up outside, and out tumbled our vegan friend, who had been given a lift to the pub by his boss! He was only just in time. After that commotion we all quickly settled down at the table to wait for the pie. As we took our seats we noticed with approval the condiments which had already been set out on the table, including two types of mustard, and some mint sauce.
When the pie arrived there were gasps of appreciation from all around. The chef had been expecting 11 of us, so he had prepared a pie large enough to satisfy 11 hungry men. But only 7 of us had turned up! Would we be able to handle it?
The pie came with ample accompaniments:
Two dishes of mixed vegetables, gravy served separately in jugs (just the way we like it), and mashed and roasted potatoes. Nobody felt confident enough to have a go at dividing the pie up into 7 equal portions (Joe would normally volunteer for this job, but sadly he is no longer with us as he has fled the country), so we summoned the chef, and after to congratulating him on his magnificent pie, asked him to do the honours.
When served out, the final result was a dish fit for kings.
And we were 7 happy men.
As for the question that was raised earlier - would we be able to handle such a big pie? - Of course we would!
Our considered opinion was that the pie was excellent. It was in a deep 12" dish, lined and capped with perfectly-cooked pastry, packed with tender lean meat and just the right amount of gravy, and the roast potatoes were the best ever. The vegetables were so good that we ate nearly all of them. Some felt that the pie filling was a bit too sweet, but that was easily remedied by adding mint sauce to cut through the sweetness.
You might think that after such a satisfying meal, we'd have no room for puddings, but as there was such a good choice, of course we did.
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 were reasonably priced, with the beer at around £3.95/pint, and the pies at £13 each, so we felt it was good value for money, although we noticed that prices had gone up a bit since our previous visit. Nicki took the edge off the pricing by presenting us with complimentary glasses of port as she gave us the bill. We were pleased to see that she'd taken some notice of the advice we gave her on our previous visit, when we suggested that a round of port would finish us off nicely!
Scores (max of 5 in each category, 25 overall):
- Pastry 4.79
- Filling 4.64
- Beer 4.61
- Ambience 4.64
- Value 4.6
- Overall 23.29
Congratulations to Nicki & Shaun, your score in 2014 was 22.32, so once again you have excelled yourselves and raised the quality of your pies to another level. Thank you for a most enjoyable meal.
Unfortunately the taxi that was supposed to take us all home failed to turn up, so we had to walk all the way back home - another 7km walk after such a big meal! But it wasn't such a hardship - this time we stopped that the Hampshire Bowman, but that's another story.