However, there have been a few developments that have been a step in the right direction. The upsurge in kindness that filled our hearts in spring last year. An acceptance that talking to people remotely is OK, if it saves hours of travelling just for a 15-minute meeting. Perhaps a greater appreciation of the small things in life.
And to that list the Dish Detective would like to add ‘and little plastic devices in pubs that you can press to get served at your table or request to pay the bill’.
Honestly, what a game-changer. No more trying to catch the eye of busy waiting staff when you want to settle up and go home, and even better, being able to request a pint in a seating-only pub when you want to, not when someone checks up on you. The Dish Detective knows their own beer speed, and is liable to take offence if it is suggested they look like they may be a person who drinks faster or slower than they actually do.
Anyway, the Dish Detective is now in love, having bonded with an electronic gizmo that adorns each table at the Square Cow in Wickham.
We go on a Wednesday evening. It’s summer in Britain, so of course it’s raining, and we are forced to be thankful that it is not raining as heavily as was forecast (later that night, on the drive home, mist forms in front of the Dish Detective’s eyes as they drive home, meaning that we will forever associate the night in the Square Cow with a spooky sensation not far distant from seeing the three witches in Macbeth, although this is no bad thing).
The pub is fairly quiet but by no means dead – there are a few drinkers downstairs, and a few tables of diners upstairs. The building itself is lovely; it’s the old Wickham Wine Bar and before that was Knockers and the Old Curio Shop. It probably dates from the 1500s and is a wonderful reminder of the rich history of Wickham Square.
We’re met by a friendly barmaid who directs us upstairs. The staff – to a (wo)man – are lovely, very friendly. The Dish Detective is reminded about the small joys of eating out; it’s not just the food, it’s the whole experience, of briefly being made to feel special. Here, they do it well.
So, with a pint of British IPA from the Bowman brewery at Droxford (a source of many excellent beers) which is on the guest ale list, and a bottle of fruity cider for my companion, we’re ready to roll.
Because the Dish Detective cannot help it, we go for a Square Cow burger (£13.50), which is promised to come with Emmental cheese and a ‘dirty sauce’. This is music to the ears.
Our companion goes for ham, egg and chips (£12.50), The menu is from the pub grub end of things – there’s fish and chips, a pie of the day, sausages and mash and a chilli, as well as a vegan linguine on offer the night we go.
So, what of the food? It’s good stuff. It’s not going to blow you away, but that’s not why we are here. We want quality ingredients, served to us so we feel relaxed, and we want to enjoy a gentle midweek evening of proper chat.
There are a couple of quibbles – the meat burger is great, the filling spot on, but the bun surprisingly tough. The only issue with the ham, egg and chips is that it is such a big plateful – but rather too much than too little. For dessert while the lemon cheesecake (£6.50) is top-notch, the apple pie has been left in the oven for a touch too long and also, coincidentally, suffers from lid toughness. But things feel home-made and rustic in the best sense of the word. It feels like a kitchen that does what it does with love.
So we come to leave, happy that while the Square Cow may be a ‘new’ pub – it only opened in 2018 – it’s very much in the tradition of pubs we know and adore. And please, keep using the gizmos. Lovely stuff.
Square Cow, Wickham Square
(ratings out of five)