FOOD REVIEW: Is this a new dawn for the Hunters?Â
A former work colleague '“Â who was at that point already pastÂ retirement age '“Â told Dish Detective about the parties that used to take place at The Hunters Inn.
Apparently, this village pub, on the edge of Swanmore and abutting the South Downs National Park, was a hotbed of activity in the '˜60s and '˜70s.
I'm told that coachloads of people would be bussed out to the countryside from Portsmouth. And that the pub was well-known among the navy.
Looking at the place in 2018, it seems almost impossible.
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A couple of years ago, Dish Detective was out exploring the Meon Valley and called in at the Hunters. Its large car park was packedÂ '“Â usually a good sign '“Â however on entering the pub, the smell of cabbage and sea of white hair put us off and we shipped out to our old favourite and trusted Shoe at Exton instead.
New owners Conrad and Lorna proudly posted on Facebook about their arrival and Dish Detective's curiosity was piqued.
It was pleasing to know that the pub, which is set in large grounds with a large garden, car park and kids' play area, had not fallen into the hands of developers.
Could Conrad and LornaÂ bring a new dawn to the Hunters?Â Armed with a 20 per cent off voucher and a couple of friends, we went to find out.
The place has had a lick of paint, there's new carpet, and some of the old clutter has disappeared. The huge specials board '“Â that famously used to have every meal known to mankind on it '“Â has gone. In its place,Â traditional pub menus.
We opt for a burger,Â which comes with red onion jam, lettuce, tomato, onion rings, fries and coleslaw for Â£11 and stilton for an extra Â£1. It's delicious, a cracking pub burger, well presented and fresh.
Our friends opt for a small fish and chips, for Â£7.50, which comes with mushy peas, and a large fish cake, for Â£10.95, with sweet potato fries and salad.
They are all good portions and the food has clearly been prepared well by an experienced pub chef. Excellent pub food fayre and a marked improvement on the grub previously offered. Although we do note the rise in prices, it's a nicer meal so in our opinion worth a bit extra.
For pudding (all Â£5.95) two of us go for the brownie, served with ice cream, and I opt for the sticky toffee pudding, served with salted caramel ice cream. All as expected '“Â super sweet and delicious. Again, they'd been nicely presented and clearly well prepared.
On this sunny evening, there were a few people eating in the garden, and another family making the most of the pub's board games. There were also a couple of middle aged men sinking pints in the snug. The place is so big this smattering of people left the place feeling empty.
There were just two people serving '“Â and they looked like they were finding it hard to keep a handle on such a big place.
We were left waiting at the bar when we first walked in, menus were promised but didn't appear, no drinks were offered at the table, we had to go to the bar to place our pudding order after waiting an interminable amount of time with the menus tantalising placed in front of us.
When we had the attention of the staff, they were pleasant and friendly, however a bit of order wouldn't go amiss.
For those of you who enjoyed the parties of the past, or who knew the place as it once was, it's definitely worth the trip down memory lane.
The place is certainly fresher '“Â and the food miles better than it was. But it lacks a certain sparkle. This will hopefully come with experience and itÂ can return to its heyday, but until then if it's amazing customer service you're after, it might be better to keep on driving to Exton. Â
The Hunters Inn, Swanmore
Ratings (out of five)