Review: The Purefoy Arms
Suntrap garden, cosy interiors and the best pud in Hampshire? Add this gastro-gem in the hamlet of Preston Candover to your dining out bucket list, pronto.
Hampshire’s known for our country pubs in chocolate-box settings – and we’ve got plenty of ’em. But throw in a large, sunny garden and a Michelin rating, it becomes an altogether more exclusive club. And it’s one The Purefoy Arms, in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hamlet of Preston Candover, is part of.
Chef-patron Gordon Stott took the reigns in 2018 and a string of accolades followed, including a coveted Michelin plate in the latest awards. Never been? It’s time you did.
A pull-in-and-relax, quintessential country pub, the Purefoy Arms caters well for a mixed crowd. Step through the charming redbrick exterior and you’ll find cosy tables tucked beside exposed brick walls in every corner. On our Friday lunchtime visit, we spotted couples, another family with a nipper and a couple of regulars happily sat nursing their pints.
At the back of the pub, there’s a large, sheltered garden perfect for sunny afternoons. Choose a glass or two of something cold and its down to the serious task of choosing from a choice of menus and specials.
Visiting for lunch we reluctantly passed on the tasting menu (£52pp) as we had the mudlet in-tow. It’s pretty unusual these days for a gastropub to even have one. But then, chef-patron Gordon Stott isn’t your run-of-the-mill chef: he started his career in the kitchens of the two Michelin star Vineyard at Stockcross when he was still a teenager – and became the landlord at the Sun Inn Dummer at just 20 years-old. Wowsers.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Michelin describes the food here as “keenly priced pub classics and more ambitious restaurant-style dishes – the simpler ones are often the best”. As it turned out, that’s fairly on the money. We get off to a great start with an absolutely delicious special of Alresford river trout with capers and pickled fennel (£7.95) and some satisfyingly crispy mini crab cakes (£8.95) .
Following in the footsteps of the Michelin inspector who tipped the nod to the pub classics, the Mudlet tucked into a generous kid’s portion of fish and chips served with peas and salad (£7.95). In the interests of research I sneaked a taste of the fish. It was absolutely spot on – crisp, crunchy batter and soft flaky cod. Next time we’re here, I’ll definitely be ordering the grown-up version…
Main for Mr. Muddy was a black pudding stuffed chicken balloutine with mash (£16.95). The combo was a bit on the dry side but the accompanying bed of hispi cabbage was full of flavour. As he’d gamely agreed to drive afterwards, I saw my opportunity and ordered what turned out to be a very quaffable glass of New Zealand sauvignon (£6) to go with my well-considered posh fish finger (£19.50) with roasted cherry tomatoes, duchess mash and pea and bacon succotash.
There’s no way the Mudlet will be denied a pud but, thinking she might be persuaded to give away a spoon of her ice cream, (£3.25) I nearly didn’t order one. And what a mistake that would have been.
The honey and almond panna cotta (£7.50) I plump for is cool, creamy with just the right level of honey sweetness and oh – that crunchy, beautifully intricate topping. Ab-so-lute-ly divine. A definite contender for the Best Pudding in Hampshire. Is that a thing? It is now. Comment below and raise me your heaven-on-a-plate puds, people of Hampshire!
OUT & ABOUT
Preston Candover might be a small hamlet but it sits right in the middle of absolutely loads of cracking places. Board the Watercress Line at Alresford or just have a potter there, just 13 minutes’ drive south. The historic Winchester and its brilliant boutiques is 23 minutes’ south. Basingstoke (16 minutes’ north) is great for scenic strolls along the Basingstoke Canal (and a mooch in the fab Festival Place shopping palace). Then there’s the Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Whitchurch (22 minutes north-west) and Jane Austen’s House – just 17 minutes’ drive south east!
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: A lazy summer lunch, romantic dinner à deux, scenic stop off en-route elsewhere and friendly family catch-up. Foodies will love the tasting menu and preference for local producers like Owton Butchers and Moon Roast coffee. Look out too for Sunday lunches with epic Yorkshire puds.
Not for: If you all enjoy a tipple or two, the village location and lack of rooms here means you’ll either need to draw straws for the drive home or get a cab.
The damage: Pretty good for the quality and Michelin creds. Starters are from £7.95. Mains are from £13.50. Puds are £6.95 – £9.50 for a cheeseboard and sides are just under £4 each. The set menu is £52 per person.
The Purefoy Arms, Preston Candover, Basingstoke RG25 2EJ. Tel: 01256 389514