This part of Hampshire seems blessed with superb pubs, with the Hampshire Bowman just a couple of miles away as well. The Black Dog, near Waltham Chase, is an absolute gem with a short, but rich, menu and excellent service.
The pub is absolutely awash with colourful hanging baskets and flowers al sumer long, and has a fair-sized garden alongside the road. They usually have an unsupervised bouncy castle, if keeping your kids under control in a pub for an hour is a problem.
They usually have two real ales, admittedly a little disappointing compared with the Bowman, but the food is the real draw here. Most gastropubs have a naff little bar area with 99% if floor space taken over by posh tables, but the Black Dog has retained a fair-sized cozy lounge bar and it retains a true pub feel. It does this without seeming twee or stereotypical - and that's not common these days, either.
The menu is short but there is enough variety to keep pretty much anyone happy: good vegetarian options, really fresh fish and a nice range of specials. They do a potted cheese with port starter that is one of the best starters I've had in years. The portions were generous, verging on the too generous and two of us couldn't manage a dessert.
The service was friendly and helpful and extended to almost every member of staff. Normally, you only get one person looking after you, but at the Black Dog, three or four people attended to us at different times and were absolutely faultless: this really is what good customer service is about.
The bill came to £70 for three for two rounds of drinks each, three starters, three mains and one dessert. So it's just a title more than average for pubs in this area, but 'd have still been smiling had the bill been £20 more.
If there was a bit of a wider range of real ales on sale I'd honestly say this is the best pub I've visited in a decade. And I'm a picky, grumpy, miserable geezer.
One, sole gripe: the pub is popular (surprise, surprise) and the car park is quite small. People tend to use all the spaces and then the verges. It can be extremely difficult to pull out onto the busy main road safely because of these parked cars. Take care!
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