Charming service at an elegant Wickham hotel

GUIDE AWARDS 2008''BEST RESTAURANT''4. THE OLD HOUSE HOTEL RESTAURANT (WICKHAM)''The Old House Hotel, Wickham''PICTURE: WILL CADDY (071604-129)
GUIDE AWARDS 2008''BEST RESTAURANT''4. THE OLD HOUSE HOTEL RESTAURANT (WICKHAM)''The Old House Hotel, Wickham''PICTURE: WILL CADDY (071604-129)
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Carol visits the attractive Old House Hotel in Wickham.

At Wickham Village – or is it a small town? Georgian architecture surrounds the broad medieval square, and it’s coveted style is dazzling.

Embellished with luscious 18th century elegance, the vine-clad Old House Hotel overlooks the square.

It’s not the only place to eat in town but it certainly prides itself on being the most upmarket.

The entrance bar dispels that Georgian feel of well-being with masculine and leathery furniture.

Moving through the narrow area housing Bar No.2 and past an open door displaying furniture storage, you’ll find a delightfully light and airy parquet-floored restarurant with a beamed convervatory overlooking a garden.

Pristine white tablecloths, attractive pale green upholstered chairs, flowers, plants, and striking primary colour art add to its attractions.

Two British Mediterreanean menus offer a remarkable set menu at lunchtimes (£17.50 , two courses, £20.50, three courses including wine and coffee) or an à la carte.

Choose from Itchen Valley watercress soup; ash goats cheese and walnut salad; ham hock terrine with red onion marmalade; beef fillet stroganoff and grilled turbot fillet à la Niçoise with ajillo butter. From the carte menu the Stinking Bishop cheese soufflé and micro herbs salad may pique your interest.

Scottish smoked salmon and butter poached salmon terrine may precede saddle of lamb, cream of celeriac, salsa verde and pickled okra, or confit pork belly and seared medallions.

Alternatively enjoy one of their grilled steaks also found at sister restaurant, Rowleys, near Piccadilly.

Dishes range from £6.50 to £29.95 for the Rossini while the wine list runs from £18.90 to £99.00 with most in the £20–£30 bracket. Service is amiable and personable.

My pleasantish ham hock terrine with red onion marmalade, was marred by fridge chill and over-processing.

The turbot, a lovely meaty fish of quality, was excellently cooked – another pretty summer dish thanks to its chilli-butter sauce forming a glaze.

The chilli and ajillo (Spanish for garlic) were not apparent in the dish and the buttery juices were mopped up by OK bread.

The charming foreign waitress told me all desserts were made on the premises and are completely homemade. Perhaps a chocolate and pecan nut fondant, hazelnut praline tiramisu or deconstructed pavlova or Roquefort cheese will tempt your tastebuds.

I settled for a mango Eton mess, assured that the meringues were homemade. They were, but the lack of mango in the very creamy, rather school-like unstylish mix, missed the point.

Old House Hotel is endeavouring to appeal more to locals than relying on long-distance hotel trade.

Downmarket outdoor signage, a bar area and a low-cost lunch menu are a couple of the changes they have made in order to survive in an over-crowded market, where existing pubs have stepped up their game with better food, classy bedrooms and a casual approach rather than a formal one.

May Old House succeed even though we are now accustomed to varied attractive choice, especially cloaked in Georgian looks.

My bill came to £20.50 not including a tip.

ESSENTIALS

The Old House Hotel, The Square, Wickham, Hampshire, PO17 5JG Call: (01329) 835870

FOOD: 3/5

SERVICE: 4/5

ATMOSPHERE: 4/5

Disabled access: Good.

How to get there:

Follow M27 to A32 to Wickham, the hotel is at the top of the square. Small car park available or park in square.