East Meon, named after an invading tribe of Danes, the Meon Wara, is an exquisite, ancient village.
Its Court House, now a private home, was home to bishops’ courts in the 15th century, while it also has a Norman church and other architecturally splendid buildings including Ye Olde George Inn on Church Street.
The village attracts South Downs walkers and those in search of an iconic English inn, with Ye Olde George offering up-to-date cooking and comfort. Part of the Hall Woodhouse pub empire, it has changed considerably since my last review of it ages ago.
Pleasant must-have grey paint is now part of its refurbishment, while the simple, plain interior has a few local photographs.
The menu reflects today’s imaginative pub food, including chicken liver and pistachio parfait; Selsey crab, saffron and pea risotto; green pea soup with mint dumpling and warm salad with pancetta and Parmesan as starters or could-be mains.
Sharing platters are available and main dishes include Thai salmon fishcakes with stir-fried vegetables; pork sausages with Serrano ham with apple mash; ribeye steak with Bearnaise and chips; wild mushroom macaroni with poached egg and Parmesan; steak burger with smoked cheese and fish pie and others. Starters are around £6-7, mains £11 - £19, sandwiches with salad and chips at £8.95.
I decided on two dishes, a caramelised beetroot tarte tatin with goats’ cheese and dressed leaves with walnut oil followed by a warm salad with pigeon breast, roasted hazelnuts and figs.
A tarte tatin is an upside-down tart, hijacked in this case. If a true tatin (and it couldn’t possibly work with these ingredients: fruit or caramelised shallots work best), the cheese and beetroot would have formed the base, the pastry cooked on top, the whole turned over on completion.
In its place was a rather soggy puff pastry disc with slices of earthy, sweet beetroot topped by a large melting slice of goats’ cheese. It was nothing exceptional and didn’t appear to be caramelised.
Sounding equally good on the menu, the pigeon breast didn’t live up to its promise. The non-seasoned breast had been un-uniformly sliced in half and the hazelnuts were merely slightly pan-fried and scarce. The figs were fridge-cold and unripe. A little care and attention to detail would have fixed both of these admirably.
Desserts, at £6.25, include a posset trio; warm treacle tart and chocolate cake with bitter chocolate sauce. Service is delightful, the extremely helpful staff working wonderfully together. But although the village is the stuff of dreams, what was on my plate did not match up. My bill came to £17.50, including a glass of acceptable Pinot Grigio.
Ye Olde George Inn, Church Street, East Meon GU32 1NH
Open: 11am-3pm and 6pm-11pm Mon-Sat, 11am-10pm Sun
Food: Three (out of Five)
Disabled access: Fine
How to get there: Take the A3(M) to Clanfield, turn left on Chalton Lane and right to East Meon. The pub is in the centre of the village. Car park and outside seating.