Back-street boozers, gastropubs and everything in between (except for noisy warehouse-style town centre places), we like them all.
But as the years have gone by, the trip to the pub has become a rare treat. It’s not just us growing older – goodness knows we’d like to use our advancing years as an excuse to never leave the bar – but it’s the cost.
We simply cannot afford £4-plus on a pint, nor £12 on a burger, on a regular basis (yes, we know there are deals to be had in the chain pubs, and there is a time and place for those, but much like popular global fast-food purveyors, the food is never as fun, or as filling, as you think it will be).
But one weekday recently we properly pushed the boat out.
The Dish Detective and their companion had a miniature celebration to mark – nothing too showy, and nothing that needs sharing – and we both had a day off so we had the ultimate weekday treat… lunch you don’t eat out of a plastic box.
Shorn of the burden of work, we decided to strike out, to try somewhere we’d never been. And so we found ourselves in Droxford, the first picture-postcard village you reach when heading north on the A32 up the Meon Valley.
Walking into the Baker’s Arms, the first impression is… this place is great. It’s a proper pub, a good size, with an open fire.
The second impression is that it’s busy for a weekday.
It’s fair to say that the grey pound is much in evidence, and there’s a rather relaxing hum of well-spoken chatter from the tables.
We haven’t booked, as we’ve come on impulse, and first it seems as if there may not be space, but the – very friendly and efficient – barmaid finds us a table for two, apologising unnecessarily for placing us next to a radiator. It’s fine. We’re delighted.
The menu offers up a lot of treats.
We pass over the starters as neither of us is a regular big lunch eater, but we like the sound of a butternut squash, sage and walnut tart (£7.50), and a fried pigeon breast served with a beetroot puree (£8).
We’re both firm advocates of only ordering what you can’t cook yourself, and we’re fairly sure we wouldn’t make a good job of, say, a celeriac remoulade, which also accompanies the pigeon.
Leave that to the experts.
Excited by the thought of game, the DD’s companion opts for a main course of roasted pheasant (£16.95).
It comes with a potato rosti, which soaks up a fragrant juniper and rosemary gravy, and also chunky charred courgette slices and green beans. It’s the first time they’ve eaten pheasant and they are impressed.
I am also enticed by a game dish, a venison and pancetta pie (£14.95), but it’s off the menu today.
There’s a lot of seafood on offer – mussels in white wine, a crab thermidor, and sea bass – which doesn’t float my boat so I go for the tried and tested option of a burger.
It’s a beef burger for £12.95, but it comes with the unturndownable option of making it dirty for an extra £3.50, by adding barbecue brisket and onion rings.
What can I say – this was a once-every-four-months treat and I’m not going to say no.
We deeply enjoy this meal. Everything was cooked with such assurance – the pheasant tender and not dry, the home-made rosti holding together nicely, and the vegetables perfectly done.
The burger was clearly home-made too, the meat of good quality and the dish well put together.
The only duff note is a treacle tart for pudding – there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not as much of a cut above a shop-bought version as the rest of the meal.
We leave delighted, and we may have found a new venue for future special occasions, and in an uncertain world, goodness knows we need them.
Our bill comes to just over £60 – but we’ll start saving soon for another visit.
The Bakers Arms, Droxford 01489 877533
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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