“ Address: Chairmakers, Worlds End, Hambledon, Waterlooville, Hampshire, PO7 4QX „
Sunday lunchtime on a very sunny weekend in early spring: we'd intended to have a roast at one of the two pubs in the Hampshire village of Southwick, but both were full to bursting. We drove off, wondering if we would find anywhere nearby with a table; then my son and his partner remembered once going to a place called the Chairmakers at Worlds End near Hambledon. It is right out in the countryside and involves driving along some narrow twisty lanes; very pleasant on a sunny day if you are just a passenger. We managed to find a space in the car park, but the place was obviously busy and we were preparing ourselves for another disappointment. On entering, we were told that there were no tables inside but we were welcome to sit in the garden area. In such weather, that seemed a good option. There were one or two tables in a patio area in complete shade, but we decided on a table on the lawn with partial sun. Seating consisted of double stools, but they were perfectly comfortable. A red parasol offered some shade. There were plenty of people around but the tables are well spaced out.
The menu at the Chairmakers begins with small plates, such as Tomato, Garlic and Red Onion Bruschetta (£4.95), Whitebait with paprika and lime mayonnaise (£5.25) and Chicken Liver and Ham Terrine with crostini and piccalilli (£5.75). Then there are sixteen main plates to choose from, including Pancetta and Cheese Carbonara with garlic ciabatta (£8.95), Apple and Herb-Crusted Pork Chop with sage and onion mash, green beans and Madeira sauce (£10.95), Salmon Steak with a Hint of Orange served with new potatoes, spring greens or salad from the bar (£13.95) and a Posh Mixed Grill that features a 5oz rump steak (£15.45). Side orders range from Onion Rings (£2.25) through House Chips or Vegetables (£2.50) to Cheesy Garlic Bread (£3.20). Some of the mains are available in children's portions with prices starting at £5.95.
In the bar and garden areas, you can also order from a section entitled Nibbles, sharers and basket meals. Here you will find Pork Pie and Piccalilli (£4), Sausages of the Day and Chips, including a vegetarian version (£5.95) and a Whitebait and Spring Roll Sharing Platter (£12.50) among others. On Monday to Saturday lunchtimes, hand-cut bloomer sandwiches with a salad garnish are available. Fillings include Tuna Mayonnaise (£5.95), Cheddar Cheese and Chutney (£5.95) and Bacon, Brie and Cranberry (£6.25). An accompaniment of chips can be ordered for £1. On Sundays and Wednesdays, the Chairmakers serves a carvery for £9.95 (under twos £2.95, two to twelve £5.95). This is available from noon to 8pm on Sunday, and from noon to 3pm and 6pm to 9pm on Wednesday.
We decided against the carvery and choose from the main plates. My son's partner went for Seafarers Battered Haddock with chips, peas and tartare sauce (£8.95). I picked the Leek, Broccoli and Stilton Pie served with herbed new potatoes and green beans (£8.95), and after some deliberation my son chose that too. We went to the bar to order, and asked exactly what kind of pie it was. The barmaid wasn't sure as it was a new menu, but she happily went off to enquire and came back to tell us that it was a shortcrust pastry pie with a top. It sounded good so we went ahead with our order. With three fruit juices, the bill came to just over £32.
At such a busy time there was bound to be a bit of a wait for our food, but with beautiful views of the Hampshire countryside to take in that didn't seem to matter. Several families with children were in the garden area, and there were outsize versions of draughts and Connect 4 to keep them amused. Some people had their dogs with them, and they seemed content just to sit in the sun.
The wait for our food wasn't unreasonably long, however. It was served on white oval plates and looked appetising. The leek, broccoli and stilton pies were round and had what was presumably vegetarian gravy poured on them; if it looks rather red in the photo, I think that's from the colour of the parasol. When I cut into my pie a lot of white sauce came running out and I wondered if the gravy was really necessary, but there was no conflict of taste. The vegetables were in good size pieces; the leeks were beautifully cooked and the broccoli just about right. No complaints about the pastry either. The green beans did have a rather tired look, and I found it quite hard to cut them, but the new potatoes were lovely. My son's partner enjoyed his fish and chips, and I loved the containers that the chips and tartare sauce came in; they had recipes written on the outside, and the chip container was shaped like a piece of newspaper wrapped around.
We didn't have room for dessert, and in fact there was no mention of puddings on the menu. I didn't see any sign of boards listing desserts inside either, which did seem a little strange.
I visited the ladies' toilet before leaving; although a little old fashioned, the standard of cleanliness was high. The hand drier was right outside one of the cubicles but I don't see where else they could have put it, as the wall above the hand basins was covered in large mirrors. I noticed that there was a separate disabled toilet.
I would happily go back to the Chairmakers in the future, but I think it would be advisable to book a table in advance if the weather wasn't good enough for sitting in the garden area. It is obviously a good place for families with children and for dog owners, although again this would be in fine weather. It is situated between Denmead and Wickham, and is a lovely spot for anyone who appreciates a drive through the Hampshire countryside. There is a bus service from Portsmouth to the village of Hambledon, which is about a quarter of a mile from the Chairmakers.
Tel. 02392 255990