Cams Mill, a Fuller’s pub, has had a controversial time of it, planning permission fraught with problems and objections for years.
The 400-year-old Fareham mill, torn down in 1920, had its plans to be made an upmarket restaurant put on ice in March, 2008. Civic groups opposed the build for more than three years but lost.
The brick and black-painted-wood pub finally opened in November 2013. On the way, the intention went from ‘fine dining’ with reconstructed water wheel, to ‘pub/restaurant’ with a painting of a water wheel.
But people have embraced this large, characterful pub in droves, the place packed when I queued for a table. However, everyone was corralled into the bar and adjoining room while other areas were left fallow. Mirroring the mill with reclaimed bricks and old wood beams, it opens on to a vast dining area.
The menu reads well, with the likes of ham hock with root vegetable terrine and London Porter smoked salmon, starters from £5.50.
Fish and charcuterie platters join Classics (fish and chips, ham, eggs and chips) and Mains, duck with celeriac Dauphinoise; risotto with more celeriac and chicken with chorizo (from £10.50-£19.95).
After a 15-minute wait I had a table and ordered seared scallops, pancetta, pea purée and micro salad (£9.25) and brisket of beef hash, poached egg, treacle (£6.50). The shellfish was tasteless, the pancetta overcooked. The pea shoots had seen happier days. After a 20-minute wait – the first course plate, pushed to one side, was ignored – I got up to find a waitress.
Finally, the brisket turned up. It looked like dessert. The treacle resembled chocolate drizzled over two wedges of hash and egg. Whoever thought adding a sweet, sickly taste to a savoury dish needs forensic questioning by the recipe police – and a tastebuds’ test. The dried-out hash lacked any taste. Would the egg salvage this disaster? The tiny yolk was less than runny.
But, despite the wait, I applaud Sian, the co-manager. Her team is stretched almost beyond human endeavour. The staff terrific, pleasant, knowledgeable and hard workers, all of them. It is out of Sian’s and other managers’ control that there are too few chefs to go around this vast chain. Fuller’s has gone upmarket, for which it deserves applause, but it now finds itself lacking kitchen skills.
My bill was £19.45 including an excellent New Zealand sauvignon. I left but Sian chased me, refunding me for the brisket. Let’s hear it for Sian – and her front of house team. It’s a poisoned chalice, this catering game, planning permission angst the least of this industry’s problems.
Cams Mill, Cams Hall Estate, Fareham PO16 8AA 01329 287 506. Open seven days a week from 11 – 11 pm (12–10.30 Suns).
Disabled access: fine. Lift to first floor toilets for wheelchairs.
How to get there: Take the A27 from Fareham going east at the Delme Roundabout, then the first right filter to Cams Hall Estate, the pub on the right. Huge car park.