Hampshire is one of our most varied countries, the dock towns, new towns and monied towns providing a compelling range of architecture and pubs.
One of my proudest travel experiences was surviving the whole 90+ minutes of Basingstoke Town v Thurrock in 2009, a game that bettered Portugal v Croatia for tedium. Grass roots football indeed ! Luckily Basingstoke itself is better than it looks from the M3.
Five miles east, you hit the real stockbroker belt. Hook has the shops and craft burgers (and Mrs C’s Auntie), but villages like Hartley Wintney and Mattingley have the £1m houses.
Rotherwick is the sort of place Americans believe that all of England is like, and the Coach and Horses very much the sort of country pub they hope for. I found it pleasingly unpretentious, which is more than just a case of not looking like a restaurant.
While it feels like a destination pub, the lunchtime menu had nothing priced over a tenner, which is a rarity around here. It even had Welsh rarebit, which these days seems to be the preserve of Yorkshire tea houses. They had their reward with the fullest car park I’ve seen all week, all a dining room of gentlefolk (this is a recurring theme).
It helped that tables (with beer mats !) weren’t all set for dining, and the ring of small rooms round the bar all felt like places to snooze through the afternoon (except that I was kicked out at 3). We can start an argument about the scatter cushions if you wish.
I can’t say I hold Hall & Woodhouse beers in as high regard as Otter, Ringwood or Butcombe, but their First Call was decent enough (NBSS 3). The friendly barman knew enough about his products to recognise this was the closest replacement to the Badger best I asked for in ignorance.
The perfect accompaniment for First Call is those lovely looking Eccles cakes, a little bit of Salford in the wealthiest district in England. The Old Rosie can only be enjoyed with scratchings, of course.
A few tourists (apart from me) were cooing over the old furniture and inglenooks, while I was more taken with the toilets. It really was a gem.
It’s good to see such a compact beer range in a pub, maintaining quality in a situation where folk aren’t looking for a choice of six beers (which is most of them).
Like Palmers and Arkells, there’s very few Hall & Woodhouse pubs in the Beer Guide these days, though Tangle Foot still pops up regularly as a guest.
Gorgeous Tylney Hall dominates the village, and is just outside my budget (by about £250) but I’m sure they welcome casual drinkers if you’re more smartly dressed than I was.