review by Carol Waterkeyn
Run by Caroline Wright and James Roylance, the couple have been in situ since September 2013 and have certainly made their mark on the place. At the time of writing, a huge patio is being constructed overlooking the river to replace the former decking while the interior is the perfect combination of cosy and shabby chic with a great deal of attention paid to detail. Glasses and cutlery sparkle, fires are glowing, while service is warm and friendly to make your visit special.
I called in with my husband, Paul, on a Wednesday evening in November in the lead up to Christmas for a dinner à deux. It turned out to be an absolute treat.
We chose to sit in the conservatory overlooking the fast-flowing river. However, there is a choice of sitting in the cosy bar or the restaurant as well. Most dishes at the George are cooked from scratch by the chefs so you have to be prepared to wait a little for the magic to happen in the kitchen.
For starters we had chosen homemade broccoli and Stilton soup (for me) and a goat’s cheese and spinach tart, which was really crumbly and delicious. The soup was subtle and not too strongly flavoured, while my husband’s cheese tart was, I quote, “probably the best I have ever tasted.” It was served with a fresh, tasty salad and red onion marmalade.
With a friendly smile from the waitress, our main courses then appeared. Paul had chosen pulled pork with red onion marmalade served in a brioche bun and with sweet potato fries. He was keen to try the pulled pork burger, as he’d not had this dish before. I chose one of my all-time favourites, moules frites or mussels served in a cream and white wine sauce, served with fries. Both dishes were very tasty and the portions generous. We couldn’t quite manage a dessert each so chose from the menu, chocolate roulade with homemade vanilla ice-cream, fruit compote and… two spoons. It was a most satisfying end to our meal.
To accompany our food, we had a white wine spritzer and glass of Pinot. There’s a good wine list to choose from, alternatively if you are a beer or cider drinker, there’s Old Speckled Hen, Seven Arches, Aspall and a range of bottled beers, ciders and spirits.
The menu at the George, courtesy of Head Chef Rob O’Neil and his team of five other chefs, changes with the seasons and there are always specials on the blackboard. There’s often game, and fish, and always a choice of vegetarian and vegan dishes. Some of the menu is suitable for those of us who follow a gluten-free diet. They even have gluten-free bread available.
At lunchtime, you can choose a delicious sandwich or maybe a sharing platter if you want a lighter option. The George also serves a wide range of speciality coffees from beans supplied by the Hampshire Coffee Company and cakes, or afternoon cream teas. There’s a children’s menu and their Sunday lunches are particularly popular. The pub is often busy at weekends, so you really need to book.
I was very impressed by the pub, and the staff, who were courteous and attentive. I liked, too, the ethos of the owners, who work hard to source local food – for example their milk comes from Maple Field Farm in Fordingbridge, their meat from the local Prices Butchers, their cheeses include New Forest Blue and Winchester Mature, they buy ice cream from New Forest Ice-Cream and there are many more local ingredients incorporated into dishes.
We think a return visit is on the cards soon, and are particularly looking forward to trying out the pub’s new patio. It’s a wonderful spot on a nice day to have a drink or a meal and watch the ducks and swans on the river.