“ Address: High Street, Buriton, Petersfield, Hampshire, GU31 5RX „
After an afternoon walk at Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Horndean, we were looking for a pub that served good food. Not far away is the little village of Buriton. My son and I could remember going to the Five Bells pub there with an aunt of mine who lived in Petersfield. We thought it was worth going to see if it was still as good as it used to be.
The Five Bells is on Buriton High Street; the village is so small that the pub is easy to find. There is rather a steep slope in the forecourt, and my son's partner thought it was going to be tricky parking there. Then we realised there was a sign indicating a car park further back which thankfully was on more level ground.
It was about 4.30pm on a Saturday when we arrived. The barmaid was taking a telephone call, so we had a look at the specials listed in the dining area while we waited. They sounded promising. Crab and avocado salad is served as either a starter (£6.95) or a main (£8.95). Steaks are around £13 to £15, but on a Wednesday night you can have two for £17.95. There are pork, salmon and chicken breast dishes at £12 to £13, and the rest of the mains are between £6.95 and £8.95. These include moussaka, Buriton burger, and fish or scampi and chips. For vegetarians there is penne with a tomato and chilli sauce.
When the barmaid finished her call, she told us that they stop serving lunch at 2pm and start serving dinner at 7pm. She said, however, that we could have soup, sandwiches, cottage pie or a pasta dish. We were a little disappointed, but we knew that we might go and find another pub only to be told that they weren't serving food at all. We decided to stay, and the barmaid asked us to come and find a table in the public bar. We went through a cosy area with sofas and a television and seated ourselves at a huge table in the bar. The dining area is delightful, but the public bar is not lacking in atmosphere. The Five Bells is a real old country pub with oak beams, old prints and photos, and shelves filled with owl ornaments and fir cones. Behind the bar were rows and rows of foreign banknotes hanging from the ceiling. Two or three people were enjoying a drink at the bar and had two beautiful black labradors with them. My son could remember coming to the Five Bells as a child and being terrified of the dogs that barked ferociously outside, but these two were very well behaved.
I decided I would try the cottage pie with vegetables (£6.95), simply because it was something I hadn't had for a long time. My son and his partner were more interested in the pasta dishes; the choice was chicken diavolo with penne, tagliatelle carbonara, homemade lasagne and the vegetarian penne. They both chose lasagne, one with chips and one with salad so that they could share accompaniments.
There was quite a lengthy wait for food, but we sat enjoying our drinks and watching the antics of the labradors. Soon after 5pm quite a number of people began to arrive, and the dogs showed varying degrees of excitement. They leapt up uncontrollably at one rather attractive lady, and the owner of one of them explained to us that she took them for walks. That explained everything!
Eventually our food was served, with an apology for the long wait from the barmaid. My cottage pie came in a small oven dish with carrots and broccoli, my two favourite vegetables, served in a separate dish. The pie and the lasagnes looked mouth-watering with their crisp cheese-covered tops. It soon became evident that the food was extremely hot. I found myself eating most of the vegetables first while I left the cottage pie to cool down a bit. That is my only complaint, however. We all felt that it was very good food with a definite homemade feel to it, and our empty plates were testament to this.
The Five Bells does have a dessert menu, but it may not have been possible to order a dessert at the time we were there. We had in any case each had a large piece of flapjack earlier in the afternoon at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, so dessert would not really have been justified. I would be happy to go back to the Five Bells one day for either lunch or dinner to try a main course and dessert from the full menu.
We only sampled the fruit juices, but the pub serves Hall and Woodhouse Badger ales as well as wines, spirits, fresh coffee and hot chocolate. On Sundays, food is served from noon until 4pm. Sunday roasts at the Five Bells are apparently very popular, so it is advisable to book a table. On Friday nights there are extra fish dishes on the menu. There is outdoor seating in front of the pub as well as a beer garden. Two-hour art sessions are held on Monday evenings at a cost of £4 per session. There is self-catering accommodation on the premises, but I cannot comment on it.
I was intrigued to see a notice in the ladies' toilet saying that the toilet was twinned with one in Ghana, where they are trying to improve sanitation. This will mean that the locals will have a proper toilet for the first time ever, and there were contact details for anyone who wished to make a donation. I must say I have never heard of toilet twinning before.
We did pass a bus on our way to the Five Bells, but I'm not sure how often they run. The nearest railway station is Petersfield, and I presume that is where the bus starts from. Buriton itself has a pond and is a delightful village to visit. Nearby are Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Harting Down and Butser Hill. It's about a twenty-minute drive to Portsmouth.
If you are in the area and are looking for good, homemade food in a village country pub, I would heartily recommend the Five Bells. I'm glad that we decided to stay, even though we had to choose from a limited menu.
The Five Bells