Jake Watkins moved his Hampshire restaurant to the current site, a 17th century coaching inn, in 2006. The dining room has a low ceiling with exposed beams, cream walls and wicker chairs. The menu concentrates on British produce, and cost £47 for a three course dinner, £37 at lunch with a cheaper set lunch at £29.50
The wine list is extensive, with very good growers, plenty of choice (e.g. a full page of dessert wines, and decent coverage of German wines) and seemingly inconsistent mark-ups. Examples include Saintsbury Pinot Noir 2005 for a fair £52 compared to a retail price of around £26, Felton Road Chardonnay 2007 at a chunky £90 for a wine you can buy for around £17, and Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve 2000 at £52 for a wine you can pick up for around £17. At the higher end of the list, the divine Guigal La Turque 1985 was £1,200 for a wine that you will pay about £940 for if you can find it.
Bread was home made, and came in four varieties of roll: bacon, walnut, onion and white. I applaud anywhere that makes its own bread, but although the texture was pleasant the flavours were muted to the point of invisibility – if you have to think “now is this the bacon bread?” then there is not enough flavour (14/20).
A starter of open ravioli of smoked haddock and leek cress was the best dish for me, the pasta having good texture, the haddock flavour enjoyable (16/20). My pork terrine was served on a bed of puy lentils and was topped with a hen’s egg with a soft centre but deep-fried, served with a selection of vegetables: asparagus, peas, broad beans and pea shoots. The vegetables were excellent, and the egg worked well, while the terrine itself was pleasant though for me needed more seasoning (15/20).
Dover sole with a wild garlic risotto (and a herb garnish of Pennywort and Alexander) had good quality fish, though the rice in the risotto was a fraction overcooked, but again the main issue was a lack of seasoning, leaving the dish with a rather bland effect (14/20). My honey-roast duck was served with the breast nicely cooked, served with a chicory tart and cooking juices (15/20).
A salted caramel chocolate mousse had good texture, served with a garnish of honeycomb and peanuts (15/20). My citrus dessert had four elements: I most enjoyed a rather runny lime posset with blood orange segments. There was also a good blood orange jelly and sorbet, and a refreshing lime cheesecake topped with blood orange, but a millefeuille of lime was served at a numbingly low temperature (15/20 overall).
Coffee was of good quality, served with chocolates that appear to be hand-made: salted caramel, walnut and Jaffa cake flavours all worked well (16/20 for the coffee and petit fours).
Service was pleasant if not quite as slick as one might expect in a Michelin-starred restaurant e.g. elements of the citrus plate was described differently (lime or lemon posset - actually lime) by the waiter who took the order and the one who delivered it. However wine and water topping up was very good, as well it might be on this quiet Saturday lunch. The bill came to £78 each with a half bottle of wine and a single glass of dessert wine between two.
Overall, there seemed to be consistently good ingredients and kitchen technique other than a surprising lack of seasoning. I admit to a love of big flavours, but this was more than just a personal taste issue – subtlety of flavour was being taken too far at this meal.