Review of The Peat Spade Inn, Longstock, Hampshire:
Travelling around this part of England brings back a lot of memories for me. My father, a doctor in the Army, spent a few years working in Tidworth, about 30 miles away from here and at the time we lived in a small Hampshire village called Shipton Bellinger.
Our house was next door to the village shop and opposite a small stream. And, in keeping with its name ‘Garden House’ it had the sort of garden that every child would like to have as a playground. There was a walled orchard, a dry ‘moat’ that must have originally been some kind of water feature and around 8 different garden huts and summer houses. We all went to the local village school – a two classroom primary school and we all belonged to one of the village gangs. The ‘innocence of youth’ our gangs were fiercely territorial – we ‘occupied’ the garden huts simply by outnumbering the opposition. I don’t remember ever playing indoors and I don’t remember any violence – although I do remember being given a small plastic tablet by one of the boys in the opposing gang and told that it was an atom bomb that would blow up England if I threw it away. Aged seven, at the time I believed him (or thought it was too risky to chance it) and kept it for some years in my secrets box.
Places like The Peat Spade Inn were rare in those days. Pubs were generally for drinking only – or perhaps there would be proper food for Sunday lunch. In fact we did eat out a fair amount, visiting local hotels. I get the impression that the Peat Spade has evolved into it’s current state over a period of thirty or forty years, finding a niche somewhere in-between a local and a gastro-pub. It certainly lacks that polish that comes from refurbishment. Less than a mile from Stockbridge, people come here to fish or to join a local shoot. But, I’m sure that once they have visited the Peat Spade Inn they return to enjoy the food and drink.
The second place offering me a bed for the night during my recent ‘homeless’ phase, The Peat Spade Inn is the newest part of the Upham Pub brewery group. Upham have taken over what appears to be a very distinctive and quirky pub with rooms in a charming Hampshire village. I arrive far too early and sit enjoying a large bowl of home-made soup for lunch and doing a spot of people (and dog) watching. While I’d planned to go for a country walk it’s cold and wet, and the lure of a cosy corner is far too strong.
My room is soon ready and I escape to ‘Churchill’ – clearly named after the large portrait which looks down over the bed.
It’s the kind of place where you don’t expect the WiFi to work…but it does. While everything is very comfy, this is clearly a pub rather than a hotel. My ensuite is a shower and there’s no desk or dressing table large enough to work at. But it’s charming and clean, with a view out to a row of pretty thatched cottages and the village church. I’d be very pleased to find myself here on a normal escape to the country whether for walking, fishing or just enjoying the fresh air.
It’s dinner I am really looking forward to. I’ve noticed that there’s a fine selection of unusual gins and I’ve promised myself a gin and tonic as a reward for moving. It doesn’t disappoint – I’ve grown to really appreciate artisan gins like Monkey 47 and Tarquin’s, definitely best served with a good tonic.
Having resolutely stuck to soup at lunch despite seeing heaving plates of food arriving from the kitchen, I’m keen to try out some of the dishes. The photos of local shoots and plethora of stuffed animals lining the walls encourage me to pick a gamey selection of dishes. I start with quail, served with currants, spelt, walnut granola, cider and patty pan. It’s presented nicely, though the beige plates don’t help my photography and tastes great. Well balanced, slightly sweet and nutty with very tender quail meat.
As you might expect the Venison Loin with wild mushrooms, pumpkin, spiced bread puree, lentils and kale is the star of the show. The venison is perfectly cooked and the accompaniments fresh and seasonally ‘right’. Portion size is generous and I’d be happy if I’d just come in from a day’s fishing. Other options include steaks, halibut, sea trout and pheasant. All served with what on paper look like great pairings of vegetables. Prices for mains are from £17 up to £23, whil starters are from £7 to £11. There’s a set menu available too and a whole selection of bar dishes with battered hake and chips at £11.40 and Sausage and Mash for £11.50
I’d have liked to try to the English truffle and old Winchester fries, but actually there’s no way I could have eaten them. Not AND enjoyed the Salt Caramel Tart with Brown Bread Ice-Cream which the friendly bar staff tell me is a must.
After their rather excellent recommendation I stagger to bed and sleep peacefully.
A brisk shower (I have a preference for a bath, but showers are fine so long as they don’t produce a miserly trickle of water) in the morning and the fresh country air was enough to wake me up in time for breakfast.
Really in this kind of place there is no other sensible option than a full English, though the Peat Spade Inn offers a range of cereals, breads and yoghurt in addition to a comprehensive cooked breakfast menu. I always think my version (without egg, which I personally dislike) looks a little mean on the plate but not here. It was obvious that the ingredients were good local produce and breakfast with plenty of tea was a fitting finale to my stay in this charming country pub.
I’m told that the Upham Group are planning a refurbishment and while I can see that there are areas that are a little frayed around the edges, I hope that whatever is done retains the character of The Peat Spade Inn, which appears to have aged quite naturally and is now a vintage to be appreciated.
Village Street, Longstock