88 Main Road, LITTLETON, SO22 6QS
Belonging to the Upham Group, this judiciously restored and rejuvenated, mid-1850s country pub lies in a favoured village to the north-west of Winchester. Before its acquisition it had been run by a succession of landlords, many of whom, says Upham had opted "for a leisurely lifestyle in lovely Littleton after hectic years in busy Southampton pubs". A bit of a generalisation, perhaps, but fear not, things are different today as the pub's new lease of life came with a thoroughly professional team - and it shows. The light, spacious interior proves just what a good designer can achieve: contrasting wall colours, wooden flooring, bookcases crammed with old tomes, and a large hatch revealing the kitchen. Needless to say, the real ales are from the Upham brewery, although guest ales get a look-in too. Cider fans will find Orchard Pig, and wine drinkers a good selection by the glass. Two AA Rosettes prove the continuing high quality and careful preparation of the food - all from trusted local suppliers. Look out for starters of smoked salmon ballotine with salmon eggs and chive Chantilly; and black pudding Scotch egg with HP mayonnaise. To follow might be salt beef hash, January king cabbage and poached egg; cassoulet with Toulouse sausage, lamb neck, confit duck leg and duck-fat crumbs; and butternut risotto with pickled onion, gorgonzola and gremolata. For dessert, dark chocolate and salt caramel fondant and hazelnut ice cream; or plum fool, yuzu curd and ginger crumb. An open area at the front features a cosy thatched cabana, and at the rear are tables and benches, beyond which overnight accommodation is arranged around the garden.