The Wheelwright’s Arms, Havant – Food review
There's a sense of humour to The Wheelwright Arms, Havant, a likeable quality that just makes you want it to do well.
There is the quirky, but not forced, wheel-themed decor – think lampshades made of bikes and funny photos of bygone transport contraptions. Plus they have professional but personable staff, proof of that came at pudding when my husband follows my order with a request for an extra spoon.
His wish was granted however the waiter, having read the situation perfectly, decides to limit his stealing potential to a teaspoon. Service that comes with, and causes, a smile counts for a lot. The menu also radiates a desire to do things a bit differently but without leaving the crowd-pleasers behind.
Among the staples of soup, burgers and crumble are cashew crusted halloumi, vegan curry, as well as pineapple with coconut and lime foam.
Meanwhile some options manage to marry both, such as the build-your-own sharing platter.
Feeling intrigued, and greedy, this is our starting point and we select cheese-stuffed baby peppers (£4) patatas bravas (£4) panko squid rings (£5) breaded whitebait (£5) from the list.
Served with bread, salad, rapeseed oil and aged balsamic vinegar it is nothing short of a feast – so much so, add a glass of something, and you'd have the making of a perfect lazy weekend lunch.
Our favourite is the potatoes in their delicately spiced sauce.
While the others are nice they didn't hit the same mark.
Keen to see what the kitchen can do, I go for one of the most expensive – and more elaborate – mains: pan-fried chalk stream trout, olive oil mash, crab bonbon, confit carrot and spinach (£18).
All together, which is quite a forkful, it is really tasty but the individual components are lacklustre on their own.
The fish is slightly dry, the mash under-seasoned, the crab ball had a burnt bottom and the carrot was so sweet you felt it had ambitions to be topped with cream cheese and served with a coffee.
Thankfully, my companion is having more success with the roast ham hock with honey and thyme, glazed pineapple, triple-cooked chips, soft ducks egg and watercress (£13.50).
If Cinderella is ham, egg and chips this is her going to the ball.
Replace fairy tale magic with culinary skill and the result makes a classic, even classier.
The egg was creamier, the ham slow-cooked and tender and the chips are that perfect balance of crisp and fluffy. Yes, at this point we have eaten enough food to span us and the surrounding tables but with a self-confessed sweet tooth no meal is complete without pudding.
Knowing my husband is flagging and that he wouldn't be able to resist 'helping out' I choose to go out in style with the dark chocolate pave, boasting Oreo crumb base, rum jelly, banana puree, honeycomb (£6.95).
It doesn’t disappoint and needless to say it leaves me feeling very grateful to the waiter for his forethought with that teaspoon.
The Wheelwright’s Arms
(023) 9247 6502
Ratings (out of five)