Muddy Eats: The Phoenix Inn, Hartley Wintney
With a historic building, amazing outside space plus food that is as legendary as its name - may we present The Phoenix Inn, Hartley Wintney.
Located on the London Road between Winchfield and Hartley Wintney, The Phoenix is a picture-postcard slice of English country life.
The 17th-century inn is particularly popular with motoring enthusiasts (boasting a very large carpark and petrol station next door), and if you drive past you’ll often spot lots of gorgeous retro cars parked up in a practice that’s been going on since the 1940s.
The husband and wife owners Andrew and Sisi Ryder, along with the Head Chef Gavin Rees , have won numerous awards over the years, including accolades for Sunday Lunches, Best Pub in Hampshire (not to mention finalists in the Destination Pub category for the 2019 Muddy Awards!) The Phoenix is also home to Carnivores, the meat-based supper club that’s been running for in excess of twenty years.
Mr Muddy and I popped in on a super sunny Saturday over the Bank Holiday weekend. Initially, we thought the pub was rather quiet considering the holiday, but as we meandered through the rustic building we soon realised that everybody was out in the pub’s gorgeous garden.
With patio, decking plus a large well-kept lawn, kids and dogs were gadding about, adults were soaking up the sun along with their meals and drinks. The key thing that struck me was that it didn’t “feel” like a pub garden but more like having a barbeque at a friend’s house. There was even a table decked out with straw sun hats, suncream and chilled water in what was just one of many personal touches throughout the place.
We sat inside and despite the high temperature, the old building was cool, light and airy, with plenty to look at on the walls. The furniture while mismatched was totally in keeping with the vibe, with wooden floors and super comfy leather seats.
For the colder months, there are log fires dotted around the various nooks and crannys of the inn and that homely cosy vibe that you associate with the perfect winter bolthole.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The menu here is constantly rotating (sometimes twice in a day) and is packed with local flavours. One thing that really struck me about the food on offer is that it feels very “traditional”, full of crowd-pleasers that would placate even the fussiest of eaters, but each is given a “twist” that lends itself to the gastropub vibe.
Between us we opted for the Hampshire honey roasted ham, duck egg and chips (£11.50) along with the pub’s signature 1/2lb burger, topped with cheddar cheese and a slice of Stornoway black pudding (£13.50).
The ham was sliced thick, packed with flavour from the honey , and worked beautifully with the egg which came without a smidge of grease.
My husband’s burger was mahoosive – topped with a sourdough bun, spicy tomato chutney, gherkin – all the trimmings you’d expect with a decent burger. He declared it one of the best burgers he’s ever had. High praise indeed.
Portion-wise that would have probably been enough for but we decided to split a pudding (for journalistic reasons, of course!) and decided on the summer fruit cheesecake with frozen yoghurt from local ice-cream maker Jude’s. The cheesecake came with a wonderfully buttery biscuit base, and the fruit to cheesecake ratio absolutely on point.
There’s a good range of wine, beer and drinks on offer, and some surprisingly modern beverages including non-alcoholic gin, organic and bio-dynamic wines and plenty of pink fizz.
OUT & ABOUT
If you jump in the car and drive a few minutes down the road you get to the main stretch of Hartley Wintney village. This gorgeous little locale is packed with excellent shops for browsing in (in fact I counted no less than four Muddy Award winners and finalists in a 200-metre stretch) such as MiMi‘s and Cashmere Goose.
If you have the kids in tow then ten minutes along the B3011 is Wellington Country Park, just a smidge over the border into Berkshire. With trails, toddler-friendly climbing frames and its own petting farm its a fantastic day out for all members of the family.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: An idyllic pub meal with the family. With typical British pub fare done well, a fantastic outside space for summer, cosy with roaring fire for winter and lots of quirk and personality to set it apart from the rest.
NOT FOR: Those looking for super-modern surroundings and minimalist decor. The charm of this place is it’s relaxed and traditional vibe. If you have more than a few small people in tow it’s worth pointing out there isn’t a dedicated kids menu (they do smaller portions of the main menu) and they only have two highchairs available.
THE DAMAGE: £ – The menu here has budget-friendly options (without compromising on flavour or quality) right up to pricier Chateaubriand sharers (£60). Extremely competitively priced considering how well-heeled the area is.
The Phoenix Inn, Phoenix Green, London Rd, Hartley Wintney, Hook RG27 8RT. Tel: 01252 842484