Last week’s Budget brought some welcome relief to pubs thanks to the penny off a pint. But, more significantly, the Budget cancelled the beer duty escalation. Bowler hats must have been flung in the air at the The Golden Bowler, one of the last independent, local pubs in Stubbington and the local area.
Built over 90 years ago as a private home by local landowner, market gardener and philanthropist Isaac Hammond, the solid building and gardens still retain a feel of home. Taken over by the Pearce family 30 years ago, the homely running of the pub is underlined by plush red carpets, red curtains and red padded seating within the restaurant and a bar overlooking the pretty gardens.
The menu is untouched by innovation, a wok dish the closest the chef gets to the decade. Otherwise it’s all very familiar and almost retro with a prawn cocktail; smoked mackerel with salad; breaded mushrooms; homemade pâté and soup for starters.
‘Traditional Meals’ include macaroni cheese; ham and eggs; sausages and fried eggs; breaded scampi; baked haddock with peas and potatoes or Chef’s Roast of the Day. Smaller portions of most mains are to be applauded, with £1 or more disappearing from the usual prices.
There are salads, jacket potatoes and a Ploughman’s lunch as well as sandwiches or baguettes. Place your order at the food counter after choosing a table.
A whitebait with salad and brown bread (£4.95) was first up. The crispy whole fish was a generous pile and some of the best I have come across in years. Plump, perfectly deep-fried in exemplary clean fat (a rarity in my book due to laziness/corner-cutting in the kitchen),it excelled.
The salad was a crisp mix of lettuce, tomato and onion, the sliced bread the only let-down thanks to spread (vegetable fats with solvents, bleaching, colouring, sterols, trans fats, emulsifiers, preservatives, salt, etc) over butter (milk, milk proteins, water, some have salt). Who wants to eat this stuff? A shame as the bread was quite good quality.
The pie of the day turned out to be beef and mushrooms with a short crust pastry top. Served with excellent mash, pleasing, tasteful cauliflower and carrots, the filling was well-seasoned with button mushrooms.
But there were rather odd small chunks which didn’t really resemble beef, and the pastry was under cooked. It was a warming dish needed to perk this diner up in the continuing winter weather.
A small wine list offered up a French dry white, more apple juice than wine-tasting. Those local guest beers and ales – Bowman’s Brewery, Droxford, Oakleaf, Gosport and others – are a better bet.
Desserts are of the hearty type with bread and butter pudding and spotted dick coming with lashings of custard. Ice creams and cheeses are also on the menu, with most desserts around £4.50.
The Golden Bowler scores highly due to the welcoming warmth and friendliness of the place.
We need good neighbourhood pubs and restaurants over the corporate stranglehold, fluctuating beer costs aside, so make sure you keep them running by engaging with the owners.
If the food and service is good, shout about it. If not, have a quiet, civilised word and not anonymously online, the coward’s way. My bill came to just over £15.
The Golden Bowler, 122 Stubbington Lane, PO14 2NQ, (01329) 62845. Menu available from 11.30am–2.30pm and 6–9pm (Mon-Fri) and 11.30am–9pm (Sat-Sun).
Disabled access: Fine.
How to get there: Take the A27 to Fareham that heads towards Titchfield. Turn left on to the B3334 then right on Stubbington Lane. The pub on the left.
Ratings (maximum *****)