Titchfield Mill, the iconic building on the main A27 by the River Meon, was a mill for over 150 years until it ceased working in 1939.
The look inside the lovely brick and wood building is, however, hardly original. It’s part of the 200 pub-strong Vintage Inn chain and could be mistaken for a Wetherspoons.
It comes, therefore, as no surprise that its owners are the huge conglomerate, Mitchells & Butlers, whose 13 key brands include Sizzling Pubs, All Bar One, Harvester and Toby Carvery.
That’s why they use identikit templates to simplify their strategy, driven by economics over quality.
There’s an identikit menu in all 200 Vintage Inns, the same corporate wording from Durham to Plymouth to Titchfield.
From lamb shank pie to whole grilled plaice, they reckon every one of their lovingly-made dishes is served with a generous helping of rustic charm.
Well, let’s see.On the menu are Sharers and Nibbles; Starters (onion soup, beer-battered mushrooms); Our Famous Pies (lamb shank, bizarrely, presumably without the bone); Classics (fishcakes, Hunter’s chicken, cod and chips); Chargrill Favourites; Seasonal Favourites (venison Wellington, grilled plaice with prawn butter) and Puddings. Prices are reasonable, with most mains around £13.
I order one of the specials, the liver and bacon with pommes Dauphinoise and wilted spinach leaves ‘and our Vintage gravy’.
It is delivered to my table via less than assured service, and, although stylishly presented on the predictable rectangular plate, it is equally predictable ‘cooking’.
Despite sending the system into orbit when I ask for the liver to be pink (‘it is just, well, cooked’ I am told), it comes well, no very well, cooked.
Like shoe leather and inedible.
The bacon is the best bit, along with the potato, a lovely, creamy concoction.
But the sauce is poor. And the wilted spinach?
Ah, green beans were substituted and they never thought to inform the person picking up the tab.
The very unfinished plate is removed without any comment by the waiter.
A very solid, sickly crème brulée with an overly thick, sweet brulée follows. A liberal dusting of icing sugar is plum ridiculous.
This and the crumble seem to be the only two desserts made in-house, others including raspberry sorbet, banoffee pie, giant profiteroles, Sussex pond pudding, Kentish Bramley apple pie and sticky toffee pudding.
All are around the £4 to £6 mark.
No doubt Titchfield Mill has its admirers and its returnees.
But I can’t help feeling that this country is awash with conglomerates whose vision is for their shareholders, not for the likes of you and me.
I say support your local independent, who offers some sense of individuality but is often struggling to survive when up against the big boys.
My bill came to just over £23 for two courses and a glass of red wine, the Shiraz the best bit of the experience.
The less said about the service, the better.
Titchfield Mill, Mill Lane, Titchfield, PO15 5RF, (01329) 840931, Open: Noon – 11 pm (Sun: Noon – 10.30 pm).
FOOD: Two out of five.
SERVICE: Two out of five.
ATMOSPHERE: Two out of five.
Disabled access: Fine
How to get there:
Follow the A27 from Fareham down towards Southampton and turn off at the Titchfield by-pass to Mill Lane. The pub is on the right. There is a car park.