Sprawling in all directions, this pub is much bigger than it looks from the roadside. The staggered floors add character and allow for dining privacy, while the sense of dynamism about the place emanates a professional atmosphere. During the summer months, the rear garden is a tranquil place to watch a spot of cricket, while the rest of the year the two large log fires give the place a warm glow.
Regardless of the season, the White Horse depicts the very essence of quintessential England. In hospitality, personality is everything, and our hosts John and Gaye could teach a class on friendly banter and how to look after customers. With staff they have come to know as friends, the front of house team look genuinely delighted to be here. Much of the warmth and appeal of the atmosphere is down to the friendly staff, who always put customer satisfaction first.
Teeming with culinary enthusiasm, the kitchen at the White Horse comprises a brigade of young chefs schooled by the landlord himself, including joint head chefs Karl and Mark. The globally inspired menu also showcases the producers behind the foods, many of which are local to Hampshire. For convenience and flexibility, the menu is split into "Totally Pub" and "Slightly Restaurant" categories. This offers scope for almost any scenario, be it a quick snack or a celebration. For ultimate versatility the Fish board offers an everchanging selection of freshly landed fish, cooked exactly how you like and with a choice of sides. In addition, the specials board serves to reinforce the extent of the skills in the kitchen.
I beg an with Hot Bratwurst Sausage, Potato Salad and Sauerkraut. This heavyset starter was delightfully different – and served in a generous portion. Lisa had Chinese Style Crispy Duck, served with exceptional authenticity in everything from the texture to the hoisin sauce, spring onions and cucumber. The presentation here isn’t pompously intricate, but distinguished and rugged. Crunching through that flavourful Pork Belly and into its soft centre, Lisa hardly used her bramley apple and thyme sauce. The natural flavours alone were a feast for her tongue. "I’m full up, but its too good to stop" she said, though I could hardly hear her for the sensory overload induced by my Pan Seared Venison. Served with sauté potatoes and a juniper and redcurrant jus, this dish was a plate mopping pleasure!
While we enjoyed these gourmet delights we noticed the table next to us were savouring the simpler, yet just as appetising Hursley Butcher’s Champion Pork Sausages, with mash and rich onion gravy. This seamless fusion of ‘rustic’ and ‘restaurant’ is superb.
Both finishing with an unadulterated chocolate ‘box’ of pure Belgian delight, we admitted that we hadn’t anticipated food this good. In these times of recession it is tempting to dine at ‘cheapo’ pubs and settle for a simple ‘feed’. Dining at Ampfield’s White Horse however, your food is cooked with the same level of zeal that you ultimately experience upon eating it
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Worth a Visit
Snug low-beamed front bar with candles and soft lighting, inglenook log fire and comfortable country furnishings, far-spreading beamed dining area behind, well kept Greene King ales and guests, good food including all-day snacks, several nice wines by the glass, efficient service, locals' bar with another inglenook; background music; children and dogs welcome, high-hedged garden with plenty of picnic-sets, cricket green beyond, good walks in Ampfield Woods and handy for Hillier Gardens, open all day