Upham Pubs and Upham Brewery have created three pubs and three beers since 2009, all top end ventures.
The Thomas Lord, West Meon, was recently taken over by the company.
The old pub, originally rescued by Richard Taylor and his gardener partner, has an ethos on locale or growing produce in the garden.
It’s named after Thomas Lord, the founder of Lord’s cricket ground, with West Meon the choice of village for the cricketer to retire to in 1830. If you’re a cricket fanatic you should feel right at home among the plethora of memorabilia.
It’s a cosy and toasty warm place. The welcome and professionalism is impressively obvious from the first step inside the handsome pub.
Lunch and dinner menus overlap, with many of the same dishes available. There’s butternut squash soup with curry oil, toasted seeds and char-grilled bread; deep fried goat’s cheese, beetroot and walnut salad; rarebit on toasted English muffin with a poached duck egg or smoked salmon, horseradish and celeriac remoulade, capers – most cost about £6.
Mains include venison sausages, root vegetable dauphinoise, savoy and sweet red onion gravy; pan fried fillet of sea bream, white crab and herb crushed new potatoes, spinach and brown crab butter; belly and fillet of Hampshire pork, fondant potato, confit parsnip and apple. There’s also Hyden Farm guinea fowl breast and bacon- wrapped leg, duck fat-roasted potatoes, charred leeks, golden raisins and marsala jus. These range from £11 to £17.
There’s a grill too, with a ribeye at £20, pork chop at £14 and dry aged beef or venison burger. Sandwiches are offered as well as bar snacks.
The pub is user-friendly and promising. I sat at one of the small tables facing the fire and had a small glass of French Sauvignon Blanc from the well-formed wine list.
First up was a chicken leg confit, chicken mousse and charred bread with chutney. Served on a smart wood board, the meat content was served in a fashionable kilner jar, but it needed far more seasoning, so the resulting dish was rather bland.
Upham ale battered hake, hand-cut chips, crushed peas with a caper and parsley mayo arrived at my table.
The crispy, moreish batter was covering a beautifully moist, flavourful fish of merit. The rich mayonnaise could have swamped this fine dish but the crushed peas added a measured flavour.
The glorious-looking fat chips were regrettably flavourless due to bland, floury potatoes.
These minor aberrations don’t detract overly from a kitchen offering two AA Rosette highly-polished food of quality.
Desserts include almond rice pudding with raisin jam, granola bar and warm coffee foam or ginger cake with rhubarb ice cream and warm vanilla custard – enough to get those sweet juices going.
There’s no doubt about the many winning attributes the Thomas Lord offers.
From the superb yet informal service, the comfortable, welcoming interior and the stunning garden (given over in part to producing some of the ingredients for the kitchen), this local has a huge draw.
There’s just one thing missing: more seasoning in the food.
This would make the pub a real test match winner.
My bill came to just over £22, not including a tip.
The Thomas Lord, High Street, West Meon, GU32 1LN. (01730) 829244.
Mon-Fri 12–2.30pm, 6– 9.30pm, Sat 12–3pm and 6-10pm, Sun 12–4pm and 6–9pm.
Disabled access: Fine.
How to get there: Take the A32 from the M27 to West Meon. Turn right into the High Street. The pub is on the left and parking is available.
FOOD: Four stars (out of Five)