Chairmakers, World's End | Carvery review
The Dish Detective sometimes wants to be cool, to stalk the pavements of Southsea for the new burger and hazy ale joint, to chase novelty and try out being stylish.
But sometimes the DD just wants to be cossetted, looked after and indulged, and that’s where Sunday lunches come in.
Let’s face it, it’s hard to really cock up a carvery or a roast. The tardy diner may find that the veg has either dried out or got a bit sweaty, and that the choicest slices of meats are gone, but in general you know what you are getting.
So it was with high hopes that we arrived at The Chairmakers, a proper country pub that’s in the wonderful sweep of countryside between Denmead and Wickham.
It’s not quite in the South Downs National Park, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was, as it sits at the junction of two pretty country lanes, and really feels – in the nicest possible way – that it's in the middle of nowhere.
Because of that, you can tell it depends a lot on the food side of things – there’s a big car park and plenty of seating, both inside and out.
Despite its rural feel, it’s only a 20-minute drive from the middle of Portsmouth, which seems truly amazing.
The first thing we noticed was how friendly all the staff were. Really, genuinely, smiling and happy, and knowledgeable about what was on and what was off.
With two kids in tow, we were shown to our table. The Dish Detective was starving, and beginning to salivate.
A huge tick for having a carvery that includes pork belly. The DD is a big fan of the lesser cooked piggy dishes and instantly got very excited.
The DD is also a bit of a glutton and when offered a choice of three meats – in this case also gammon and beef – is always going to answer ‘all three please’, and was delighted this request was heeded.
And you know what? We struggled to find a weak link on the carvery plateful.
The meat? All cooked to perfection, all decent quality, with fat only where fat should be. The potatoes? Two types, both with the correct crunch.
The swede? Peppered as it should be. Vegetables? Still with some crunch, not undercooked. The Yorkshires? Home-made, as they damn well should be. And the gravy? Given some extra zing and zip with a liberal amount of herbs added.
The two adults who had the luck of choosing the carvery (£14 each) were perfectly happy. There was also half a chicken (£13.50), a lamb shank (£16) and a vegan nut roast (£12) on the Sunday menu.
The kids, who were both on fish fingers, chips and peas from the children’s menu, were also happy, and even more so when they were told their meal included a scoop of ice cream as well.
One section of the pub seems to have been designated a family area, a wise move and, while the DD was there, all youngsters were well behaved (even ours, to the DD’s surprise).
More for completeness than for needing to, we shared a sticky toffee pudding afterwards, and my goodness it may have been the meal’s highlight.
Lumpy and bumpy, as puddings ought to be, it was slathered in both custard and toffee sauce. The dense pudding was simultaneously filling and yet encouraging you to eat more and more of it.
It crowned a great meal, a proper Sunday dinner, one that meant we didn’t really need to eat again for the rest of the day, despite the early start.
In some ways it doesn’t need to be repeated what a hard time pubs and restaurants have had in the past 18 months but, as the world in many ways gets back to normal, actually it is very important to remember this.
Nobody is obliged to eat out, and lord knows there is not much spare money knocking around for any of us at the moment, but places such as The Chairmakers make you realise how much worse off the world would be without them.
When we were there – at the beginning of the dining day – the pub was filling nicely and there were reassuringly plenty of ‘reserved’ signs on tables. Long may that continue; it really deserves to.
RATINGS (out of five)
Tel: (023) 9226 5235
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