Having a leisurely Saturday lunch in the pub is simultaneously the height of decadence and one of the most fun things you can do with your clothes on.
It’s a way of putting two fingers up at domestic chores and being active – instead, it’s far more important to buy an armful of papers, stuffed with magazines and supplements, and to find a comfy corner of a welcoming boozer.
An hour is too short a time... you’re not doing it properly. Two hours is okay – but if you can spend three hours over a pint and sandwich, then you’ve truly made it. And, on one warm Saturday, that is why during an amble around Wickham’s square we decided to test the Kings Head and see if it passed the lunch test.
The first impressions were good – there was a low hubbub of conversation; not raucous, but certainly not dead. There was a mixed clientele as well with some families, some older groups of friends, and a group of lads in their 20s. And sitting down, away from shoppers, away from thoughts of cleaning the windows, doing the Hoovering or – perish the thought – going to the gym, this Saturday lunchtime became a bit like a small holiday. A mini-break from life. What pubs are for, basically.
So.... what’s the lowdown on the Kings Head? Similar to The Crown up the road in Bishop’ s Waltham, it’s a Fuller’s pub that the brewery has done a good job on, in that it’s not instantly recognisable as a personality-drained chain pub. The original feel of the coaching inn has been retained – check out the wide side entrance through which you can imagine horses being led – and there is, should you be inclined, a large garden with climbing frame and other things to make children happy. It’s missing an apostrophe, but not much else.
The menu is what you’d expect from pub fare, and that’s not a criticism. You can spend a decent amount of money should you choose, with a ribeye steak on the menu for £22, and starters such as a crispy ham hock Scotch egg with pickled vegetables (£7), smoked chicken and bacon salad (£8), and potted salmon with cucumber and watercress crème fraîche (£7) all coming in north of a fiver.
It’s missing an apostrophe, but not much else.
But there’s also a good range of sandwiches to had from the lunchtime menu, which is served between midday and 5pm (although not even we dared to spend the full five hours over lunch. Now that would be admirable...).
So, for example the Dish Detective went for the bacon, brie and cranberry sandwich (£7), with a side helping of chips for an extra £2. The sandwiches, which also include the exciting-sounding Frontier battered Atlantic cod ciabatta (£7), prawn and crayfish with marie rose sauce (£8), and lemon pesto chicken (£7) are all available on malted farmhouse, white farmhouse or ciabatta and come with coleslaw; a fine addition to any meal, most civilised people agree. Our dining companion went for a burger, which comes with HSB-infused gouda, pickles and chips. A touch expensive at £13 maybe, but good quality ingredients (The Dish Detective has previously noted the oddity of serving chips in small buckets – here one portion came in a small silver pail and the other in a mug. But we’ll leave that for now).
The only gripe that we had was the time it took for the food to arrive. As mentioned, it was fairly but not noticeably busy, but we were waiting for longer than 45 minutes for the plates to leave the kitchen. In many ways not a problem – we had the lifestyle supplement to work our way through – but while it was a relaxing place to while away time, hunger brought us back to our senses. But that may be a one-off, and on lazy Saturdays we’re not here to point the finger. Instead we should recognise the plus points – if you’re made to wait anywhere in this world, then a pub the quality of the Kings Head is probably one of the better options...
RATINGS (out of five)
Tel: 01329 832123