The Harrow Inn, Steep, near Petersfield

Britishness is alive and well and living in Steep. The Harrow Inn, one of Hampshire's mercifully time-has-been-forgotten pubs (it's been in the same family for over 80 years).

It has walls covered with images of a bygone age plus a plaque from the National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors.

This is a small and cosy village pub, a 17th century drover's haunt with two bars.

The Tudor bar seats a mere 15 or so at a pinch.

Two long tables sit at right angles opposite the handsome inglenook fireplace with its fierce heat. Plus there's a hatch where local beer and food is served.

Hops, beams, a higgledy-piggledy pile of books, pictures, daffs and a wicker basket of nuts on the tables - complete with homely kitchen knife - add to the charm of the place.

The heads swirling around to stare at newcomers is the only off-putting thing about the pub. Had I stumbled across a We Don't Want Strangers sect?

The welcome, however, is really rather wonderful and inclusive.

Soon I had a half of Bowmans Swift One bitter and had placed an order for a bowl of ham, split pea and carrot soup.

'No, you won't want anything with this,' smiled the woman behind the hatch when I also ordered a rare roast beef sandwich, one of the few dishes on offer.

Others include cheddar ploughmans, hot Scotch eggs, ham salad and baked potatoes with fillings.

Evening meals are much the same 'but if we have any leftover beef we might make a shepherd's pie.' Good housekeeping. Prices are 4-8.

I perched on one of the tree trunk stools by the fire. When the soup arrived, two local drinkers at one of the tables were told to 'budge up so the lady can have her soup.'

No wonder I was warned off having a sandwich too.

The soup brimmed over the sides of the bowl and was thick enough to withstand that nearby kitchen knife. It was ample for several hungry drovers.

A half loaf of warm bread helped to mop up the remaining soup, the use of the ham bone again demonstrating forgotten housekeeping practices.

No music, just conversation floated around the pub. Hampshire accents, rarely heard, added to the timelessness.

Somehow I found room for the banoffee pie (4.50), truly one of the best examples of its kind I have found in the British Isles.

Two sets of cutlery were discreetly placed on the plate, so I offered the extra spoon and fork to my table sharers to tuck in. It's that kind of place.

Don't ever change a thing, Harrow Inn. This was fabulous and my bill came to 10.60.

The Harrow Inn, Harrow Lane, Steep, near Petersfield GU32 2DA. Tel: 01730 262685 or go to

Open: Noon-2.30pm (Sat 11am-3pm, Sun noon-3pm) and 6pm-11pm (Sun 7pm-10.30pm). Closed Sun evenings in winter. Food served noon-2pm and 7-9pm

Food: ****

Service: *****

Atmosphere: *****

Disabled access: Not great for wheelchairs inside or out.

How to get there: Off the A3 west of Petersfield. Take Midhurst on A272, then along Shear Hill past Sheet Church, along School Lane, under the A3 and up the hill. Pub on the right down cul-de-sac.

Carol is a chef, former restaurateur and editor of Savour, the Guild of Food Writers magazine