Set in the Hampshire heartlands, in the ridiculously pretty village of Preston Candover, The Purefoy Arms is a pub with ambition. There’s a tasting menu, including a vegetarian edition, from young chef Gordon Stott, as well as traditional pub food with modern flourishes.
What’s the vibe?
Preston Candover is an endearing village of thatched and red-brick houses, where walkers, tourists and Winchester-dwellers (try the best places to eat in Winchester here) alike are popping in to try Gordon Stott’s first solo venture.
A log burning stove, exposed brick walls and a sea of green-moss panels with shelves of lavender, are joined by friendly staff. We order a riesling and a pint of Moretti to enjoy the view of the garden glinting in the sun, before deliberating over menus.
Gordon Stott has a rep around Hampshire parts. Previously head chef and landlord at The Sun Inn in nearby Dummer – pub trivia for you, this is where Fergie grew up – this 20-something chef has won award after award (Pub Chef of the Year, two AA rosettes, and on it goes).
What’s the food like at The Purefoy Arms?
There are slants on classics, like burger with Old Winchester cheese Welsh rarebit, and triple-cooked chips, and a six-course tasting menu (good value at £40).
We pick the latter and first lands fresh-from-the-oven hunks of sourdough with creamy, nutty beurre noisette smeared into the wedges. They’re demolished embarrassingly fast. Bijou starters then flit forth on humongous white plates. ‘Cheese and onion’ is a winner with more Old Winchester cheese, dense and intense, in breadcrumbs, and sweet-as-sweet onion. The pork pie, a seriously delicious (if teeny) sliver, with adeptly made piccalilli, leaves us desperate for more. Kedgeree is another small portion but big with flavour thanks to poached cod, rich quail’s egg, creamy rice, and salty capers.
Next, lamb loin is pink and perfect, while a quick palate cleanser of strawberry and sour lemon sorbet with crumble, slips down like a breath of fresh air. To finish, ‘The Chocolate Bar’ arrives with orange sorbet, little cubes of chocolate ganache and white chocolate fudge. A comfortingly familiar combo revitalised with this young chef’s stamp. It’s hard not to like this pub and its unpretentious, lovely staff. Stott has the right idea – he wants diners to enjoy themselves and return, and he’s succeeding.
What are the drinks like?
Though there are some nice wines, the drinks list is basic and the addition of some simple cocktails or even an expanded choice of gins wouldn’t go amiss.