Petersfield has at least 25 places to eat out. But, in my opinion, only some are worthy of the journey. I include in that list Annie Jones, Fez, Lemongrass, the Folly Wine Bar & Restaurant Upstairs and JSW.
For such a well-heeled town, I find it surprising the standards aren’t higher in the rest.
Take the Folly Wine & Ale House, for instance. It is no relation, oddly, to the place upstairs with its highly commendable food, service and wine.
It looked welcoming, laid back from the outside and somewhat scruffy once inside. The Clash song Should I Stay Or Should I Go? came and went in my head. I stayed – the menu looked pleasant enough – and found a small, round table by the bar.
There’s a recessed space with chunky sofas and TV, another large screen at the far end, plus several sticky pine tables, a funky clock, a 1974 photo of the Twickenham streaker with strategically placed policeman’s helmet – and that’s it.
Salads feature heavily alongside a sirloin or ribeye steak with all the trimmings; minted lamb shank; chicken goujons with fries and chilli mayo dip; bangers, mash and onion gravy; chilli con carne; Alresford watercress and falafel burger; scampi and chips.
They also do breakfasts, sandwiches, paninis, jacket potatoes, a bowl of tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa with bacon and mozzarella. Meanwhile the ‘specials’ dish of the day was a lasagne. Prices run from £4.25 to £12.95.
Those salads – including strips of steak with goat’s cheese, a warm salad of chorizo, new potatoes and red peppers or crayfish tails and avocado – seemed the thing to have. You order at the bar and service is pleasant. They smile.
My choice, chicken, bacon and avocado, was produced quickly. The bacon was disappointing and the chicken poor quality and cold. The mixed leaves were fresh enough, but why not give the diced tomatoes, peppers and other ingredients the benefit of a little dressing? The only item I found okay was the avocado. At least it was ripe. The salad was mostly left.
The wine list of 36 choices including fizz declared that ‘life is too short to drink bad wine.’ But I’m afraid a Crianza, described as ‘the thinking man’s wine, elegant, sophisticated,’ was anything but.
Two desserts were on offer, a fruit crumble and a chocolate pud. I chose the crumble. A hockey puck-sized mushy crumble with jam filling might have been palatable in the 1970s when the streaker in the photo was making headlines, but food has moved on since then – thankfully. After one mouthful, I covered it in a napkin to spare its blushes.
My meal came to a whopping £16.40. For £1.10 more I could have had a two-course Michelin-starred meal at JSW or a fabulous feast at Fez. If you’re going to the Folly, I suggest you stick to the charming one upstairs.
The Folly Wine & Ale House, College Street, Petersfield GU31 4AD
Open: 9am for breakfast, food served until 9pm (Mon-Thurs only), open for drinking only from 3pm Fri-Sat. Food Sun to 3pm.
Food: One (out of five)
Disabled access: Okay
How to get there: Take the A3 (M) and follow signs to Petersfield. The Folly Bar is on the left on College Street (end of the High Street). On-street parking or at Waitrose.