The Bun Penny, named after a coin depicting a bun-wearing Queen Victoria (such coins were found at the pub), is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Lee-on-the-Solent.
Taken over in 2009 by new landlords Tom and Jen Sunley, the pub certainly looks far more engaging than in its recent past, with internal and external makeovers.
There are fireplaces, exposed brick, a large L-shaped bar, an attractive conservatory and garden, plus prints on the walls. But it feels somewhat impersonal, more Wetherspoons than the free house it is. Maybe when the music flows on regular nights, it feels more individual.
Tom is the chef and is said to cook all the food from scratch, with Jen running the bar. They source from local food suppliers including bread, meat, fruit and vegetables, their website declaring that Tom loves to cook fish and seasons are followed.
Odd, then, that fish features little, only devilled whitebait, smoked salmon wrapped around unseasonal asparagus and seabass making it on to the menu.
The eclectic mix includes tempura battered chicken (£5.25); soup; tomato and red onion bruschetta; garlic and rosemary crusted camembert with crudités (£8.95) for starters or as nibbles.
Move on to beer-battered cod and chips; local sausages and mash; lemon-glazed pork chop with a celeriac and wholegrain mustard mash with wilted spinach; chicken and coconut curry; sirloin or rump steak with choice of vegetables and sauce; shortcrust pie with rich gravy, plus burgers and salads. Prices are from £7.25 for a small portion of sausage and mash to just under £16 for lamb rump.
I sat in the large part of the pub, where tables are nicely spaced out, after ordering that lemon-glazed pork loin chop from the bar.
The pork chop was cooked from scratch – it took a long time to get to the plate – and was a tough nut to crack. I needed a saw. Not the fault of the chef, but of the pig industry.
The mash, potato, not celeriac, was dumped on a plate which swam in a thin gravy, the spinach the saving grace of this dish. I had bought some pork at Petersfield Farmers’ Market a few days before, an organic roast at a highly reasonable price – under £9 and enough for five – so it can be well-sourced.
Desserts are billed as homemade, but a lemon meringue roulade (£4.95) failed to convince. However, it did look pretty with its redcurrants and fruit coulis.
The Bun Penny is very much a community pub and serves many purposes, its friendly staff ensuring that you have a good time. Was I just unlucky in my choice of food? I hope so. Maybe I’ll try the kitchen’s prowess with fish next time. My bill came to £19.40 including a glass of so-so Sauvignon Blanc.
Bun Penny, 36 Manor Way, Lee-on-the-Solent PO13 9JH
(023) 9255 0214
Open: 11am–11pm (11am-12pm Fri-Sat) and noon–9pm Sun
Food: Three (out of five)
Disabled access: Good
How to get there: Take the M27 to Fareham, follow the signs to Lee-on-the-Solent on the Titchfield Road, turn right on to Broom Way which becomes Manor Way and the pub is on the left. Car park.