FOOD REVIEW: An idyllic setting, a beautiful sunset, and '˜bizarre'Â brulÃ©eÂ
My husband's telling words, uttered in disappointment to his plate, were, '˜You are paying for the view here aren't you?'
Â Â Â Â The location was perfect '“Â outside The Ship Inn, Langstone, it wasÂ a warm Friday evening, our drinks were cold,Â and we'd got the last tableÂ right on the shoreline just as the sky was turning a hazy pink over the still water, the famous mill in the distance.Â
On the food front it had looked promising too, with the concise gardenÂ menu boasting both of our favourite go-to pub meals'¦
In short, it could have been brilliant but it wasn't.
To be fair, the steak and ale pie served up what you'd expect; thatÂ combination of juicy, tender filling and flaky pastry, the mash wasÂ 'nice' and the red wine gravy 'good'.
So far, so average. There was nothing to moan about but nothing really to remember either.Â
But when you are paying Â£13.50 you want a bit more than run of theÂ mill, and you want more than raw spring greens and a side plate ofÂ buttered carrots (Â£3), which managed to be both dry and curled up onÂ the outside and solid in the middle '“Â like they might have been nice,Â yesterday.
'˜I've had better meals, and pies, at Wetherspoons,'Â my husbandÂ concluded '“Â cutting but correct.
Across the table I couldn't pick fault with my Frontier beerÂ Â battered fish,Â the crisp coating contained well-cooked, succulent flakes.
The homemade tartare sauce was also pleasant, verging on theÂ subtle/flavourless side but I'd take that any day over being punched hard in the tastebuds by capers.
The peas, well, were peas '“Â but the chips were a waste of potato. I've had nicer ones from a supermarket freezer.
And I'll be shocked ifÂ more care and preparation had gone into these than simply being tipped from aÂ bag and then cooked unÂ til just warm and anaemic.
It Â wasn't good enough, full stop, and at Â£12 you couldn't helpÂ feeling we were both shortchanged and that a chippy dinner on the bench acrossÂ the water would have been a better investment.
We should have known better than to go for pudding.
You can call it glutton for punishment, just gluttony,Â or a keenness toÂ see the job through '“all three are true.
For the most part the options, from sticky toffee to Eton mess, keptÂ to the classics with one more unusual exception '“Â chocolate and orangeÂ crÃ©mÂ e brulÃ©Â e, Â£6.
It was one of the most bizarre things I have ever eaten and not justÂ because, aside from the token strips of candied peel decorating theÂ top, it tasted nothing like orange.
Then again, it tasted nothing like crÃ©me brulEÂ e either.
Instead of the rich, silky, set custard which has seen three countriesÂ fight over being credited with the dessert's origin, this helping wasÂ almost unpalatable.
Eyes shut, and you could have been forgiven for thinking someone hadÂ taken a dehydrator to a cheap brownie.
It was claggy, almost gritty,Â and tough.Â
In fact, if it wasn't for not wanting to blow the Dish DetectiveÂ cover, I would have sent it back and suggested the chef tried aÂ spoonful.Â
Fuller's salted caramel ice cream, which accompanied the banoffeeÂ cheesecake Â£6.50, was the best thing '“Â and saving grace '“Â of theÂ course.Â
But despite being packed with flavour it wasn't enough to erase theÂ bad taste the visit had left in our mouths or quieten the question onÂ the tip of our tongues '“Â would the pub survive if it wasn't for theÂ setting?Â
The Ship Inn, Langstone, Havant
(023) 9247 1719
Ratings (out of five)