Mead End, Denmead

Festival Choir performs the Passion

The Mead End certainly loves Christmas. The large pub with its two bars and raised dining area was awash with decorations, every surface decked out with silver, red and purple tinsel, baubles and lighting.

Co-diner Sue and I sat in the restaurant part of this large brick pub, where the tables are tightly packed together.

Service, unlike too many pubs who wish their customers to work for their food – queue here, queue there, get a table number – is tableside.

There's no doubt about it, Mead End staff are about the most hard-working and pleasant you'll find anywhere in the area.

The kitchen makes them work hard too. There's the specials board which sits on each table with a slew of possibilities, a full menu in a sizeable book, the fiver menu and the kids' menu. And don't forget the Christmas menu.

The kitchen must be remarkable to be able to prepare so many dishes.

There are stuffed mushrooms with stilton and bacon; soup; prawns in filo pastry; potato skins; chicken wings; several types of burgers; scampi and chips; chilli; cottage pie; meat pie; fish pie; liver and bacon; curry; scampi and chips; Cajun chicken; lamb shank; steaks; ham, egg and chips; gammon steak and a whopping mixed grill with no less than a gammon steak, sausage, steak, lamb burger, egg, tomato, mushrooms, chips and onion rings.

And this is only the main menu. Then there are the desserts too.

They do breakfasts on weekends and takeaway fish and chips. There must be an army of chefs working away in the kitchen coalface.

Prices are reasonable: from 3.95 for a starter, most mains around the 8-9 mark bar the steaks and mixed grill (15.95).

But my breaded mushrooms with garlic mayo tasted like the frozen variety, the cheap mayo devoid of garlic.

Neither Sue nor I could figure out what exactly her vegetable soup was made of.

Sue's strong liver and bacon was acceptably cooked, but the the onion sauce was incredibly salty.

My fish pie, billed as homemade and with cream, dill, onion and spinach, had none of these bar cream.

The fish was virtually non-existent and very over-cooked, the mash just odd.

Why do pubs persist in making life difficult for themselves by offering so many dishes? Why not reduce the menu and up the quality?

The staff are hugely pleasant and the pub's a cornerstone of the community, as good pubs should be.

Now, just add some good grub and we'll all go home happy.

Our bill came to just under 30 for two courses each and two rather unpleasant glasses of wine.

Carol is a chef, former restaurateur and editor of Savour, the Guild of Food Writers magazine

Mead End, Meadend Road, Denmead PO7 6PZ

(023) 9226 4593

Open: Midday-2pm (Sun midday–3.30pm), 6pm–9pm (9.30pm Fri-Sat), closed for meals Sun and Mon evening

Food: **

Service: ****

Atmosphere: ****

Disabled access: Good

How to get there: Take the A3 (M) towards Waterlooville, then go left on the Hambledon Road (B2150). Turn left along this road down Meadend Road and the pub is on the right.