The Exchequer, Crookham
This pretty village pub serves up a healthy helping of crowd-pleasing gastrofare, plus a side order of quirky styling. We likey.
There’s a time for a posh gastropub and there’s a time for something altogether homier. I’m a big fan of The Exchequer in the little village of Crookham – an unpretentious but attractive rural countryside pub, near to Fleet that ticks all the boxes for community (there’s a 70 strong walking football team!) quirky style and crowd-pleasing, locally produced food.
Think local pub given the once over by your flamboyantly stylish aunty. I love the chintzy wallpaper surrounding the fireplace, the homely shelves of board games, the flashes of colour on the banquette and the mixy matchy chairs.
It’s definitely a relaxed vibe of all welcome here, reflected by the mixed tables of families and couples on the Saturday I visited.
The pub itself is bright and airy, with sun pouring through the windows on all sides of the pub. And, despite the threat of rain on the day there were even a few hardy individuals enjoying both the front and rear pub gardens.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The main menu is simple and streamlined – think crowdpleasers like sharing charcuterie boards, duck leg, sirloin steak and fillets of sea bass or cod – along with a seasonal specials list (five on the day I visited). There are also vegan and gluten-free menus, plus a standard children’s menu with a half portion Sunday roast, which is always good to see.
We started with one of the fish sharing board, below (£17.95) – Devonshire crab cocktail, smoked salmon and chive tartlet with tomato salsa, crispy battered tiger prawns and sweet chilli dip, some smoked salmon as well as a mixed leaf salad and bloomer bread. Delicious – the prawns were crisp and deliciously meaty, and the smoked salmon was perfectly smoked.
It stayed with fish for mains too, with one of the daily specials, a smoked haddock and salmon fishcake with a poached egg, wholegrain mustard and white wine sauce, served with green beans (£13.95), below. Looks good doesn’t it? That’s because it was good! The fishcake had a rustic edge to it, with big chunks of potato creating a proper bite, and I loved the sauce – I always need plenty of it with fishcake to moisten up the carb content, and it was lovely and mustardy.
Puddings are pub classics like vanilla and raisin crème brûlée (£6.50) and baked vanilla cheesecake (£6.50) – nothing to raise John Torode’s eyebrows but I bet Greg Wallace would be in heaven.
Like just about every pub I visit The Exchequer is big on its provenance, and that extends, I’m glad to say, to its gin selection, which includes five delicious local botanicals including Bombay Sapphire, Twisted Nose and Mews.
OUT & ABOUT
Perfect walkies territory here – head over the road to the Basingstoke Canal walkway, where you can meander down the canal path – there are plenty of circular walks if you’re so inclined. If you head to nearby Odiham and can’t quite be bothered to put one leg in front of another ( hear you sister), you can take a boat ride along the canal with Galleon Marine.
For less rural pleasures, two miles away in Fleet, you’ll find a mix of high street shops and independent boutiques, plus the pretty Fleet Pond.
Or for something slightly bonkers that will please any children no end, the village of Crookham is home to Chimera VR, a family-fun Virtual Reality experience that uses Oculus Rift headsets so your small beings can battle zombies and explore ghostly manors to your heart’s content.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: A chilled family lunch out or low-key date night. It’s also a great spot if you have dietary requirements because everything is clearly set out and the staff are accommodating for allergies etc.
NOT FOR: People looking for something fine dining or experimental cooking. The food is decent gastropub fare, but there’s nothing super-quirky or avant-garde.
THE DAMAGE: Fairly average, I’d say. Sunday roasts are £19.95 for two courses or £24.50 for three, and most mains on the à la carte hovering around the £14-18 mark. There re some excellent deal like the £12 lunch between Monday and Friday with a free drink, Gin Wednesdays (a fiver a gin!), and the terrific-sounding Build-A-Burger nights – how high dare you go?!. Kids meals come in at £6.75 or £7.50 for Sunday roast.
The Exchequer, Crondall Road, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 5SU. Tel: 01252 615336.
Pssst! Like what you see? Win a £100 lunch for two at The Exchequer here!