The Thomas Lord, Meon
In the heart of the Meon Valley, this place has got the ultimate balance of foodie destination spot meets mellow countryside inn. So grab a chair by the fire, order something delicious and see if you can spy any local celebs.
It’s quite the badge of honour to live in the Meon Valley. The Times named it as one of the top places to live in the UK back in 2019 and we’re not particularly surprised. This little pocket of Hampshire is absolutely stuffed with chocolate-box villages, babbling brooks and, of course, plenty of celebrity residents.
The Thomas Lord is set in the little village of West Meon – a sleepy little spot with a grand total of around 750 residents. With a change in lifestyle, many pubs within the area have sadly shut up shop, but The Thomas Lord has stood firm and having served pints to the local community for well over a century… and then some.
Although it’s had a few different names in its history it’s current title is to honour former local resident, Sir Thomas Lord who famously built the Lord’s Cricket Ground up in London. Lord was a cricketing legend who retired to West Meon back in 1830 and you can even pop along to visit his final resting spot in the neighbouring churchyard.
The pub, now owned by the Upham Pub group who also have top spots such as The Peat Spade, Stockbridge and the nearby White Hart in South Harting in its portfolio, continues to serve those all-important drinks to West Meon residents but has also garnered quite the reputation for its foodie prowess (and even received a Michelin Plate for 2020) and is a great spot for a cosy countryside getaway with its garden cabin rooms.
First thoughts? This place is SO cosy. The weather isn’t too bad (Ok, it’s hammering it down… well it is Britain) but part of me starts wishing it would snow so I can immediately plonk myself in front of the open fireplace, crackling away and stay there for an entire weekend.
There are locals leaning against the bar, supping pints and trading tales from their working weeks. A number of friendly dogs are lounging around, being fed dog treats from the bar and more than agreeable for a tummy rub from myself.
This is a traditional pub at its finest. The quirky obscurities around the place (case in point, there are some stuffed ferrets and squirrels playing cricket above the bar…) are all true antiques. The furniture is mismatched, wooden and rustic but gives you proper country pub vibes rather than “we’ve purposely shabbied this up”. It reminds me of how pubs used to be and how one imagines a country pub, but with all the warmth and community spirit still intact.
I have to admit, one of the first things I did was hunt around one of the area’s most famous residents – Noel Gallagher. I’m deftly informed by a couple of the locals he HAS been seen here…. but not anytime recently. Boo! However, my disappointment very quickly vanishes as we settle down into one of the many nooks and crannies this place has, for a spot of people watching.
With a glass of Isle of Wight Distillery Pink Mermaid gin and tonic, plus some fantastic Hot & Spicy nuts – seasoned in-house – a quick pre-dinner drink soon turns into a couple of hours of relaxation. There’s a steady flow of locals throughout the evening, plenty of Barbour-wearing “dog walkers” who have brought Fido out in the elements for a sneaky pint, and out of area couples lounging by the fire armed with an epic cheese board and a good bottle of red.
The rooms here are a new addition, with the garden cabins being completed in 2017. There are five wooden structures, tucked round the back of the pub, that will perfectly fit two people. Each cabin comes with an en suite, super king-size bed and french doors leading to a mini patio. The decor is contemporary country, with embroidered cushions, tweedy embellishments and enough character dotted in to contrast the modernity of the rooms.
The rooms aren’t huge but they are big enough you’ll happily be able to spend time in them, and the location on the grounds means lots of seclusion from the main pub but without being too far from the bar. Our bathroom was glossy and shiny with its modern black tiles, and while it lacked a bath, the shower was powerful and a good size.
There was also a big box of chocolates alongside the huge range of teas and coffee, and I was very pleased to find there was fresh milk in the mini-fridge as well.
We woke well rested and to pleasant bird song and while I had been concerned about being chilly away from that roaring fire, the room incredibly snuggly and comfortable with a marshmallowy soft duvet.
SCOFF & QUAFF
One thing I loved about this place is that you can eat anywhere. There’s a good-sized dining area, plus a couple of additional snug type rooms, but if you want to eat in the bar by the fire, that’s totally ok.
I was sorely tempted by the Bar Snacks menu, featuring gems such as venison and black pudding Scotch Egg (£5) or Cajun pheasant goujons with cranberry sauce (£4.50), but I held back (let me just dust off my halo).
To start me and Mr ummed and ahhhed over Brixham King Scallops (£13) and roast stuffed quail (£11), before picking the Charcuterie board sharer (£17). As well as coming with giant hunks of gorgeous granary bread, the board was loaded with various cured meats, artichoke hearts in lemon and homemade slices of gherkin. There was probably more than enough for four people, but we bravely ploughed through. The cured meat was spectacular and melted in the mouth, the quality of the produce was evident in every bite.
For our mains, we went for two sides of the foodie spectrum. I went fancy pants and selected Creedy Carver breast of duck (£20) which came with a mountain of additional items such as quails eggs, broccoli puree, the curious sounding duck hash and even more curiously… pineapple. When it arrived it was a total extravaganza of canard. The breast was pink, thick and incredibly juicy and made me realise I’ve been eating duck wrong for a long time. The hash was an absolute triumph as well, little deep-fried balls of potato and duck that that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Michelin Star spot.
Hubby went for the famed Thomas Lord Beef Burger (£14) with added smoked cheddar (£1.50) and a side of BBQ beans and truffle and parmesan chips. As far as burgers go, this was one of the best we’ve tried and his plate went from full to empty in record time.
To drink there was plenty to choose from and I decided on the 2018 Berry Bros. & Rudd Merchant’s Red (£4.90), a fantastic Merlot that had plenty of body and paired perfectly with my meat-heavy meal. My husband, not a fan of the vino, chose a pint of Hogstar from nearby Surrey brewery, Hogsback.
Try as we might, and as delicious as it all sounded, we were defeated by dessert. There was a spot of discussion about sharing the treacle tart with brown butter ice cream (£7) and my husband’s eye was caught by the raspberry jam rice pudding with pistachio ice cream, but in the end we called it a night.
Breakfast the next day was a quiet and relaxed affair, with locals stopping by to read the weekend papers with their Full English. With firm favourites on the menu such as Eggs Royale and porridge with local honey, there was also a well-stocked a table complete with juices, mini pastries and cereal and plenty of good quality coffee on tap.
OUT & ABOUT
It’s a bit quiet around these parts and while you won’t find any major tourist destinations right on the doorstep, there’s still quite a bit to see and do. Over the road from the pub is the West Meon Village Shop, filled with local produce, gorgeous artisan products and all the charm you’d hope for in a little country shop.
The village is also quite close to a Roman Villa at Lippen Wood, National Trust property Hinton Ampner is a ten-minute drive away and there’s also West Meon Pottery, which specialises in architectural pottery but it’s recommended to phone ahead if you plan on visiting.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Couples sneaking off for a chilled getaway with plenty of good food, wine and ambience and those who love a truly traditional British country pub with all the trimmings. This place is off the beaten track, but not too far away from the rest of the world for a weekend lunch.
Not for: Want a loud brash cosmopolitan vibe? Nuh-uh. White table cloths and silver service? You’ll need to head elsewhere for that.
The Damage: A double room in one of the cabins starts at around £54 midweek and up to £84 at the weekends for B&B – incredibly good value for the service and surroundings. The food is a little more expensive than other country pubs nearby, but I would say with most mains between £14-£20 and plenty on the plate it’s not going to break the bank whatsoever.
The Thomas Lord, The, High St, West Meon, Petersfield GU32 1LN. Tel: 01730 829244