review by Janine Pulford
To dine at this traditional thatched pub on the edge of the New Forest with its beamed interior and tempting menu was an invitation we couldn’t refuse.
Martin and Kate Pendlebury took over last December and both work front of house. After a few teething troubles, they’ve established a creative and passionate team including head chef Simon Franklin who has 18 years experience and trained with Gary Rhodes; and sous-chefs Josh Graham and Marta Rosa.
Some will remember The Old Beams Inn when it was part of a restaurant chain offering a vast menu.
It has now reverted to gastronomy on a smaller scale as the new owners focus on achieving a reputation for high quality food.
Martin, who used to be a planning consultant and wanted a career change, says, “We source as much food locally as we can and our sausages come for the local rare breed farm. Meals are freshly prepared and the menu changes seasonally. There is also a specials board.”
With a glass of crisp and sweet Zinfadel Rosé in hand, I ordered duo of beetroot and goat cheese salad for my starter. Ben, edged towards king prawn bruschetta with chilli cream and pea shoot salad, but at the last minute picked almond cous cous cake with pickled heritage carrots and raisin purée.
Our senses were bombarded with high notes, as the stunning dishes arrived at the same time as local star Jenny Oag sang ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen. Jenny was entertaining for the evening.
Golden beetroot, which I’d never tried before released sweet tones and paired well with the earthy red beet. Both were balanced finely with a dash of balsamic vinegar. The creamy goat’s cheese complemented the flavours as did the pea shoots – a superb dish.
As for Ben’s cous cous, it had everything. Flavour, crunch, sweetness, tang and those ribbons of pickled carrots gave it a delicious gourmet twist.
Between courses we took in our surroundings. The restaurant is big, seating over 50 and combined with the pub area, The Old Beams has 170 covers, and those wanting just a drink are equally welcomed. Outside is a south-facing decked terrace, herb garden, grassed garden and additional parking to the rear.
A plate of pan-fried gnocchi served in a rustic pesto sauce with Parmesan shavings and garlic bread arrived for me. It was a large portion that could have benefitted from some crunch, as the garlic bread was not crisp. However, the pesto was delicious and the gnocchi light and soft.
Ben’s pork belly from the specials board was perfectly cooked and combined with broccoli, mash and mustard seed sauce was relished.
Unfortunately he can’t eat apples, so acting like a heathen, I added his apple sauce to my gnocchi. I doubt many would do that and enjoy it, but I did.
Meanwhile, Ben savoured the new Pravha, a premium Czech brew with great personality, whilst cleaning his plate.
Desserts couldn’t be resisted and my baked blueberry and vanilla cheesecake pushed enjoyment to the edge. It was so light and creamy, many would argue it’s not baked, but Simon has perfected the dessert to climactic levels, and with pops of fresh blueberries and strawberries and a delicate balance of sour jus, it couldn’t be faulted. Combined with a thin base giving a hint of crunch, it was the ultimate pud.
And how appropriate that Jenny was singing I Will Survive while I was eating it, because I definitely survived a trip to heaven and back.
Ben would argue that his chocolate and salted peanut brownie with ice cream was the best dessert, but I know better.
Martin and Kate’s ethos that The Old Beams Inn should be a friendly, fun place to work transfers to a great customer experience, which Ben and I certainly experienced on our visit.
What more can I say? Other than if you haven’t dined at The Old Beams for a while, it’s time to revisit. Young diners are not forgotten and there is a lunch menu too, as well as a carvery on Sundays.
Due to the huge amount of space, including a dance floor, if required, large parties are welcome at The Old Beams Inn.
And if it’s music you like, visit on 13 May for some saxophone music, or 26 May for the Rat Pack Tribute Band. Pair your food to the music and let the party begin.