The Three Tuns of Romsey is one of those pubs you would not mind incurring stamp duty to move house for. Sister pub to The Chesil Rectory restaurant in Winchester, it is run by the same team and the Menus and kitchens overseen by the same Executive Chef, Damian Brown.
Romsey is a beautiful market town on the River Test, with a Norman abbey church, founded as a Benedictine nunnery in 907 AD, and a long and interesting high street. If you book a lunch table at The Three Tuns do make sure to arrive early and take a wander through the lanes. On the edge of the New Forest and very close to Winchester there is so much that is great and good about this area you will not want to leave in a hurry. Take your Pevsner guide with you: architectural historians will have much to consider.
Iain and Samantha Longhorn are at the helm of the ship that is this 300 year old listed eaterie, named after the old English word for a unit of wine cask volume. You will be reminded of age, history and heritage in its charcoal grey timbered rooms and hunting, shooting and fishing references in the detail and design of its interiors, but the feeling of modernity, humour and funkiness are also all around you. Bold colours, bright flowers, young staff and friendly banter bring you swiftly into a 21stCentury hospitality enclave.
This pub is a taxidermist’s haven, there are enough stuffed birds in glass cases to fill a Collins Observer ornithology book. Its dining areas are split into two sections: one more informal next to the bar, with turquoise and gold wallpaper and casual seating and the other is a slightly more formal dining area with bright yellow walls and a window overlooking houses. On the tables you will see 1930-1940’s handblown glass bottles of Strongs of Romsey brewery, now used as flour vases, and there are very pretty vintage plates, bought from a local antique shop, to rest the salt and pepper grinders.
The loos pass muster with distinction: how often this part of a business is neglected or ignored at the owner’s peril.
The simple Menu includes Welsh rarebit, potted ham hocks, game terrines and grilled mackerel on toast as starters and beef pies, pasta with mushrooms, beer battered haddock and chips and pork belly with lentils as main courses. There is also a baguette sandwich list including home baked ham and mustard, roast beef, tomato & horseradish, chicken, bacon and sweetcorn and cumberland sausage for lunch times only, and a good selection of sauces on the sideboard. You are spoiled for choice with local ales and a very comprehensive wine list.
This is the territory of well cooked, well seasoned, home cooking done with care, attention and pride. The celeriac soup with truffle oil is steaming hot, creamy and rich with an unmistakable raw earthiness rising from its bowl. The heritage beetroots in a salad dotted with Rosary goats cheese and toasted walnuts are fuchsia pink and firm in texture, their sweetness foiled by the sea salt in the dressing. The Three Tuns Ploughmans boasts no less than an egg and ham pie, cheddar cheese, honey glazed ham, piccalilli, gherkins, salad and chutney. The Megrim sole with capers and brown shrimp butter is cooked to perfection. Take a look at the “On the side” dishes: carrot and swede mash, buttered new potatoes, garlic greens and braised red cabbage. They are a full meal all by themselves.
Puddings are from the traditional English repertoire, like rice pudding, syrup sponge with custard, crumble and custard and there is a selection of cheeses with chutney.
The Three Tuns has won a Michelin Bib Gourmand for its hard work and focus, and there is no doubt that this sort of food at these sorts of prices is extremely popular. In the midst of the worst recession two generations have seen, British diners want value for money and a clean, welcoming and well run establishment that serves familiar, delicious, comforting food.
There is also another great advantage: tucked away in Middlebridge Street, a short walk from the main thoroughfare, you feel as if you are getting away from the hurly burly of commercial life. You could bring your children, your parents or your grandparents: it’s a country pub loyal to craft, tradition and provenance, right on the edge of a very pretty English town.
The Three Tuns Romsey website: www.the3tunsromsey.co.uk
Follow the team on Twitter: @ThreeTunsRomsey