“ Country pub located in Priors Dean, Hampshire, England. „
The Pub With No Name was in fact originally called the White Horse Inn, and it is the highest pub in Hampshire. It is situated in Priors Dean, about five miles north-west of Petersfield. The road bends and twists, and although you can find quite detailed directions of how to get there in the Internet, you really do need a sat nav. It is worth it, though, whether you are after beautiful countryside or good food.
I used to have an aunt who lived in Petersfield, and I can remember she once took a group of about twelve of us to the Pub With No Name for lunch, probably to celebrate a birthday. My son has a book of the most interesting places to visit in the UK, and this pub is ranked number six in Hampshire. What is number seven, you might ask. Well, it's Winchester Cathedral. So, now that my son's partner can drive, they suggested we have dinner at the pub one Sunday evening. I rang the day before to reserve a table and was told they were quite busy, but I think that must have been at lunchtime. I was able to book for 6pm and we decided to go a little earlier and have a drink. It was dark and it was raining; a mean test round those bends for someone who had only passed his driving test about a month before, but we arrived safely. There was plenty of space to park.
One or two marquees were in place outside the pub, presumably because they had a black-tie Christmas dinner coming up as well as a special event for the longest night of the year. We had to go through one of the marquees to get to the bar, and there was a finely decorated Christmas tree as well as a large figure of Santa. Entering the bar, it was clear to see that this is a building that dates from the seventeenth century, with its exposed beams and open log fire. It was chock-a-block with ornaments, including a nativity to one side of the fire. The flaking paint on the walls just seemed to add to the atmosphere. Several people were enjoying a drink by the bar, and one of them apologised to me in a friendly way about the fact that there were a couple of young boys running around the place. We settled ourselves at a table and knew that we had done the right thing in coming there.
When six o'clock came we made our way through to the dining room, where there was a notice asking customers to wait to be seated. It was a couple of minutes before a young Australian waitress came to see to us. She was quite new to the place and had just arrived on the premises. She showed us to a table beside another open fire which needed attention several times before it really got going, although it wasn't cold in the room. Menus were brought straight away and we each ordered a fruit juice. We decided to have some olives with chilli, garlic and crusty bread as a starter. I enjoyed the olives but wasn't tempted by the bread as I didn't want to spoil my appetite.
Mains at the Pub With No Name range from £6.50 for a small portion of Salmon and Prawn Fish Cakes with sauce and salad garnish up to £19.95 for the large Pan Fried Rib Eye Steak with chips, onion rings, tomatoes and mushrooms. Also on the menu are Beer Battered Haddock and Chips, Steak and Ale Pie, Smoked Fish Pie and Home Cooked Honey Roast Ham. My son and I were attracted by the idea of the Hampshire Smoked Platter with Applewood Cheddar, Alresford trout, local pheasant, sweet chutney and toast. He order the large portion at £11.50 but I felt the small one would be enough at £8.50. My son's partner is a sausage fiend, and as such he couldn't resist the prospect of O'Hagan's Sausages with Colcannon Potatoes, Caramelised Onions and Rich Gravy at £11.95. Out of the seven flavours available, he chose Wild Boar and Apple. I did like the fact that small portions of some dishes were offered; on Sundays, for example, there is a roast for £5.50. For those who do have large appetites, side orders such as chips, vegetables, salad and garlic bread can be ordered. Most of the dishes are made with local produce.
The pub also serves eight varieties of ciabattas and white or brown sandwiches with a salad garnish. They are priced between £5.95 and £8.50, and you can have a bowl of soup for an extra £2. It has to be said that vegetarians do not fare very well here; their only options are a Cheddar or Brie Ploughman's Lunch (£8), or a sandwich/ciabatta with either Cheddar and Chutney or Somerset Brie and Avocado (£5.95). The Christmas menu had three choices of main course, one of which was Stuffed Portobello Mushroom and Butternut Squash.
We didn't have to wait too long for our main courses. The smoked platters came on square plates, the large portion on a black one and the small one on a white one. The toast, with a slice of butter, was in the middle of the plate on top of some rocket leaves with everything else around it. My son and I both felt that there was an excellent variety of tastes in the trout, pheasant, cheese and chutney and did not regret our choice. My small portion was a very light meal that would suit anyone on a diet that wanted something healthy with plenty of variety. My son's partner obviously loved the sausages and also remarked on the fact that there was a layer of soft onions near the bottom as well as the ones we could see on the top. Presentation was perfect.
Did we want to see the dessert menu? Yes, we did. The desserts are priced £5.75 and include Fruit Crumble, No Name Eton Mess, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Chocolate Torte and Meadow Cottage Ice Cream and Sorbets in a variety of flavours including Diabetic Vanilla. There is also an English Cheese Board at £7.50 served with biscuits, crusty bread, apple and chutney. My son and his partner both ordered Apple Crumble with Cream. Having had a small main course, I decided I wouldn't feel too guilty about ordering the small-size Assiette de Desserts, a taster of four desserts with ice cream, at £6.50. When the waitress brought them, she asked, "Now, who was it who couldn't make their mind up?" I told her it was me, and she put in front of me the most enticing plate of puddings I have ever seen, all in miniature of course. I encouraged my son and his partner to try a corner of one or two of them. In the centre was a tiny glass with what I thought was chocolate sundae because the lighting was so low, but it turned out to be Eton mess with blackcurrants. The sticky toffee pudding was scrumptious, as was the crumble, and I put a little ice cream on top of them. The chocolate torte was the one I didn't enjoy quite as much, as it was slightly dry and didn't have a very strong flavour. But I am not complaining, and if I went back I think I would find it hard to resist making the same choice again. My son and his partner both loved their crumble, although after sausage and mash it was almost too much to handle.
The Pub With No Name does serve coffees, including liqueur coffees, as well as hot chocolate, tea and herbal tea, but we declined the offer of a hot drink. We asked for our bill, which came to just under £60. We added a tip of course; the service from the waitresses had been very friendly and welcoming as well as professional. The dining room was full of old prints and ornaments, including a collection of old cameras, and the young waitress told us that they in fact belonged to local people. They give the place a huge amount of character that fits an old building.
The ladies' toilets were very clean and well supplied, and there are no steps to negotiate. No log fire, though, so a little chilly! A contraption dispenses paper towels when you pass your finger in front of a sensor - excellent idea.
I would love to go back one day for lunch to remind myself of the surrounding countryside and perhaps take a walk there. It is a lovely place and perhaps my only criticism is the lack of vegetarian options on the menu. I can't comment on the beer, but all the ales are casked marked and many of them are local.
On-site parking is available at the White Horse. There is a function room as well as conference facilities, and weddings can be arranged. There are plenty of picnic tables outside, and I'm sure it is a popular place in fine weather. It is possible to camp in the field next to the pub.
Opening hours: On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays the pub is open from noon until midnight. The rest of the week it is open from noon until 3pm and then from 6pm until midnight. Lunch is served until 2.30pm and dinner from 6pm until 9.30pm every day.
The White Horse
Tel. 01420 588387