The Old Drum in Petersfield has undergone quite a transformation to re-establish itself as a going concern.
New owners took the 17th century building by the scruff of the neck to reveal a singularly beautiful ‘contemporary country pub in the centre of town.’
Reclaimed timbers now grace the pub’s two distinct floors, one a restaurant and the other a pub bar with a L-shaped, grey-green painted bar.
A rescued pinwheel cellar door, now part of the snug bar, might have been inspiration to Mr Time Machine man as H G Wells was a regular diner/writer in the pub. However, he might not have recognised the outside garden, now a smart town getaway haven complete with wood-burning heaters and raised beds. Great jazzy music plays and the atmosphere is homey and comfortable.
It will come as no surprise to you, having read about the transformed décor, that the menu is equally smart and up-to-date. The ex-chef of the nearby Hawkley Inn has upgraded his inn menu to higher heights, and his true abilities are given free rein to add dashes of originality to dishes such as the pig’s head and ham hock terrine with parsley jelly and beetroot and pear tatin with goat’s cheese ice cream, two of the starters.
Courgette and basil soup with homemade soda bread or pan-fried scallops with chorizo might kick off a meal or suffice for lunch.
Service is incredibly nice, not in the chain mould of the insincere ‘have a nice day,’ and ‘my name is XX and I’m your server’, but pleasant.
I soon had an excellent glass of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, but could equally have chosen one of the five real ales from local micro-breweries.
First up, the pig’s head and ham hock terrine. The owner laments tight guidelines on refrigeration and certain foods – terrines, cheeses – are not allowed to be served at room temperature to really show what they’re made of.
I let my terrine sit for a while for the cold to subside, the chunky, piggy flavours coming through. The parsley jelly, a clever touch, was surprisingly effective as were the excellent homemade sage biscuits and moreish pease pudding.
Then, those scallops with chorizo. The latter can dominate totally, but the chef does not allow this to happen. Fashionable peashoots added some colour but were really superfluous. The two main ingredients are more than ample to get the message across: Simon Hartnett can cook and cook to a high standard.
Finish with chocolate parfait, honeycomb, chilli hot chocolate and toasted marshmallow or banana brioche bread and butter pudding. There’s also tonka bean ice cream and banana fritter or a local cheeseboard (Godminster cheddar, Isle of Wight Soft or Blue and Barkham Blue).
Baked Petersfield rose-hip custard with calvados apples and blackberries was beautifully executed, and the delicacy of the custard married excellently with warmed blackberries and crunchy sweet apples. Only an espresso, slopped in its saucer and poorly made, was disappointing.
The Old Drum has hit an impressive stride. This diner relished the new pub in a well-off town which has surprisingly few pubs of this calibre. My bill came to just over £25, not including a well-deserved tip. I’ll be back without a doubt.
The Old Drum, Chapel Street, Petersfield, GU32 3DP
01730 300 544.
FOOD: Five out of five
SERVICE Five out of five
ATMOSPHERE Five out of five
Disabled access: A bit cosy in the bar area, but staff are accommodating.
How to get there: Follow the signs in Petersfield to the centre of town on Chapel Street. The pub is on the left. Parking is either in the main car park or on Lavant Street.