The Lock, Stock and Barrel in Locks Heath, near Fareham is one of Dorset-based Hall and Woodhouse’s 250-strong pub chain.
It describes itself as ‘an ambitious, independent family brewer developing people, pubs and beers to be proud of.’
The pubs vary in type and style throughout the south, with Rowlands Castle’s Robin Hood and Ye Old George Inn in East Meon part of the stable.
Lock, Stock and Barrel is quite a different pub in looks and feel compared to these two rather genteel ones, one steeped in history and both in iconic village settings.
Smack in the middle of a shopping centre, Lock, Stock and Barrel’s brick building is a popular meeting place for shoppers out for an inexpensive meal or drinkers propping up the large bar with its gaming machines.
The snuggest part of the pub, the dining area at the entrance, is at odds with the rest of the building. The high rise, beamed circular area, with its mauve-painted tongue and groove and brick walls, sports prints which may only be admired by giraffes or clowns on stilts. A carpet beater is also displayed, a mite puzzlingly. Candles and a wrought-iron fireplace light up the interior.
This is an order-at-the-bar pub, the playing safe menu a simple one offering sharing hot buffalo wings; meat larder board of hand-carved ham, roast chicken, grilled vegetables; Great British Soup with crusty roll; smoked mackerel pâtè; blue cheeseburger; glazed chicken with garlic & BBQ sauce; smoked haddock and spring onion fishcakes; scampi and chips; lasagne; gammon steak with chips or ham and eggs; vegetable jalfrezi; macaroni cheese; steak and Tanglefoot Pie (using the brewery’s ale), Prices range from £3.25 for soup to around £8-£10 for mains, puds around £5 for chocolate brownie, trifle or sticky toffee pudding.
Service is chirpy, brisk and motherly, with regulars treated like family friends and outsiders equally given the hospitality treatment. I sat near the fireplace on a cold, wet May day and ordered the soup, a home-made broccoli and blue cheese one.
High calibre soup-making is an obvious forte of the kitchen and the large, just-undercooked white roll that came with it was pleasantly warm. But why was the bowl resting on a sheet of crumpled baking parchment?
The kitchen, however good at soup, let the side down with a hand-battered fish and chips with peas. I suspect the battered fish had been plunged into less-than-hot fat, soaking it all up. It was spoilt, as were the chips. The peas, however, were fat and juicy.
A generous wedge of lemon would have been welcome, while the ketchup came in those hateful sachets. Most of the fish dish was left.
Despite the uneven kitchen’s wares, the pub is a welcome haven – as experienced by many on this miserable May day – and a cheerful drop-in centre for the community,
My bill came to just under £12 for two courses and sparkling water.
Lock, Stock and Barrel, Locks Heath District Centre, Locks Heath SO31 6DX. Tel 01489 539316
Open: 10am to midnight (Saturdays until 1am), and noon-11pm on Sundays
Food: Three (out of five)
Disabled access: Fine
How to get there: Take the M27 to Fareham West and follow the signs to Bursledon and Locks Heath, then the centre. The pub is by a large car park.