Last Saturday, I had the best steak sarnie I think I've ever eaten. That includes plenty of steak baguettes in the kingdom of delicious rare beef (or boeuf) that is France. Yes really.
And where was this little piece of carnivorous heaven? The Watership Down Inn in our old North Hampshire stomping ground.
Back visiting friends at half term, Saturday found us not exactly at a loose end, but having discussed with out hosts how we didn't expect them to entertain us, and how they were totally happy with that as they had jobs to get on with too, we decided that the weather was too good to do anything other than enjoy the Autumn colour and go for a long walk, taking in a pub en route.
We walked mostly along the road from Overton to Freefolk, pausing to take in the site (and sight) of the newly opened Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery that has taken up residence in the beautifully restored paper mill at Laverstoke (sadly we didn't visit on this occasion, but hopefully soon).
The Watership Down Inn is a little way on, along the main road - and to be honest it's not a great part of this particular circular walk, but now that I know a steak sandwich of such lusciousness awaits at the other end, well, I expect it's walk I'll be doing on future visits.
In truth, the Watership Down Inn has had its ups and downs over the past few years. When we first moved to the area, it was a bustling, lively pub doing great value family food. With the extensive gardens and climbing frame it was a fab place to go with kids. A change of owners (may be 2) meant that standards definitely slipped but it's been with the current owners for the last 18 months and it's definitely worth a visit. The decor is fresh, the chairs are endowed with lovely soft sheepskin, and everything about it sings "good place to be".
We were 4 adults and 3 kids. 3 of us grown ups had ciabattas, the Husband had gammon egg and chips ("but no tomato" even though it was part of the meal) and pronounced it very good indeed. Blue indulged in the burger - fashionably encased as so many are these days in a brioche bun, but definitely a heavyweight, tasty burger - 2 patties, cheese, proper decent garnish (Samuel L Jackson would have been proud), and the 2 younger girls in our party had the 'mini' pizza which was much better than anticipated, being actually a chunky piece of ciabatta topped with tomato sauce and cheese - no insipid frozen piece of pap that often gets served up as part of a 'kids menu'.
And my steak ciabatta. I asked for it to be rare expecting medium rare at best, but rare it was. There was plenty of the advertised watercress, and generous smearings of the mustard mayo. The ciabatta was soft enough to allow a delicious soaking in of meat juices, but still substantial enough to hold the sandwich together. And the chips? Nothing short of divine. Hot, salty (but not too salty). Good and chunky. Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside... The kind of chip I expect every potato would like to become.
According to the men of the party, the beer was also good, and Fred the dog heartily approved of the bowl of dog biscuits available... It was so great that despite the lovely Autumn weather, we found it hard to drag ourselves back outside, and head up to the Harrow Way for the walk home along this ancient by way. But we did and it was great.
Lovely friends, good times, great food. Perfect!