In a world of gastro pubs and copy-and-paste eateries, the King’s Arms Emsworth offers a comforting helping of the pubs we used to know. And I mean that in a positive way.
Friendly service, home-from-home fare and the relaxed atmosphere are a clear draw for both the regulars and dining room dwellers.
Themed nights include the tried and tested pie and a pint rather than the try-hard gimmicks you find too often elsewhere, which all gives you the sense you are in safe hands.
Embracing this and keeping to the classics, my partner opted for the leek and potato soup (£4.95) for starters while, out of greed and a desire to get a measure of the place, I began with the seafood platter (£6.95).
Both portions were generous enough, they could have made for ample lunches.
The soup would have pleased Goldilocks getting a review of ‘just right’ – well seasoned, smooth, creamy and with doorstep slices of bread and butter.
Meanwhile the amount of smoked salmon alone made the platter worth the asking price.
And a tougher foodie might even reason it made up for the less gourmet small shrimps in Marie Rose sauce, but I feel there’s nothing to be forgiven as – and like vinegar scented cockles from a polystyrene cup – there’s a nostalgic part of me that will always welcome them with open arms/mouth.
For main course the venison being sold out forced my partner’s hand and saw the turkey, mushroom and tarragon pie (£11.95) win out.
As for the courgette, aubergine and puy lentil moussaka, it had me at the mention of the accompanying beetroot salad, flatbread and tzatziki (£11.95).
It was rich, deep and earthy in flavour with the contrasting textures, from succulent aubergine and salty Parmesan to crisp leaves and creamy sauce, meaning in terms of food alone I’d go so far as deeming it faultless.
Praise too for it being one of the more interesting veggie options I’ve seen.
My only gripe was the presentation as, with it spread on a chopping board over two bowls and a shotglass for the tzatziki, it felt a bit like dinner-meets-a-game-of-Operation.
There were no such worries across the table, thanks mostly to the plate being big enough to host the side of vegetables and glut of gravy at the party.
With crisp pastry, a decent amount of filling and well flavoured sauce the pie combination proved a hit.
However real praise was given to the perfectly cooked ‘King’s chips’ which were more like mini roasties and left us with no doubt why the pub was happy to put its name to them.
Dessert meant a now routine mock stand-off: Partner claims they are full, I threaten to order their favourite, partner suddenly finds room, we both pretend sharing is an option then order two and accept our fate. This time it was raspberry créme brulée and sticky toffee pudding (£4.95 each).
Despite residing at opposite ends of the pudding-dulux-chart, we had the same compliments: surprisingly light, expertly handled and boasting the 'treat' factor.
In short, it’s a bit of a gem and way better than its location on a busy road next to a petrol station might suggest. Ideal if you’re after all the best bits of home cooking and without the washing up.
The King’s Arms, Emsworth
Tel: 01243 374941
Ratings (out of five)