The Yew Tree
The Yew Tree Inn Hampshire is reassuringly far from London.
Under brilliantly fierce recommendations, I put on my most cosy travelling shoes and set off to The Yew Tree Hampshire. Northern Line to Waterloo, morning train to Winchester and back by tea time.
The Yew Tree restaurant is a former pub done up in the “nice country restaurant” style: blue walls up to dado rail height, then white on artfully textured plaster; exposed beams with some half-rude mottos on faded brass plaques left from the old days; nice clean napery and glassware (the blue one for water is very “early Conran”) with laminated cork place mats featuring colourful abstract designs, because why the hell not? There are some exposed bricks, napkin-rings, the odd pelmet, a silver cloche (with a gold nipple) over the butter and nice big creamy old-French style crockery.
I had a perfectly made foie gras terrine. It was four livers deep, and had been packed down with remorseless force to give a wickedly firm texture without a hint of mousseyness (a pox on mousses – if I want air bubbles I’ll buy a Wispa). The apple and onion salsa-cum-chutneys were sweet and fresh but I don’t tend to bother with relishes, and there wasn’t enough brioche, but then there never is anywhere, ever, so that’s OK.
The Philosopher had a butternut squash soup which, he was delighted to find, had not been truffled. Upon it was a julienne of vegetables, and on top of that a langoustine. I don’t know why. Why not, I suppose. The soup was both nutty and buttery, which is not easy to say three times.
I had a lamb fillet that had been rolled in blackcurrant tea, deliberately. The result was brilliant, giving a lovely fruitiness to the meat, and would have gone beautifully with the £450 Margaux recommended as an accompaniment on the menu, if I had only managed to persuade Heloise to swap the car for a bottle of it. Or at least half a bottle. There was a rose water sauce as well, which wasn’t all that rosy, and the meat was, sadly, overdone. Not disastrously, just Englishly. The fruity elements would have worked their magic a little better on pink rather than brown meat. Heloise’s bass on a caviar beurre blanc with a little lattice of asparagus was very wonderful indeed. I had never before noticed how much like mild caviar bass flesh tastes, and the eggs did a great job of lifting the fish, which was well seasoned and crispy-skinned enough to make its presence felt too.
The Philosopher’s asparagus, wild garlic and pecorino salad was tangy and bold (had it also been “gentle and brave” it would have been just like that knight in the stories of old). My crispy lamb and couscous salad was served cold, and was chewy rather than crispy. A bit less cold and a bit less chewy would have been nicer, and I was levering the pomegranate seeds from my molars for days afterwards. Jessica asked for a rib-eye steak “extremely rare” and got it close enough to alive to elicit further thoughts of Ted Hughes’s grim carrion bird. Full marks for that.
I had the veggie option which was a good potato and thyme gratin, and there was also duck confit, chargrilled chicken breast with rocket and almond pesto, and some swordfish. Good straight-up-and-down gastropub food, like I said.
The Yule Tree is located at Lower Wield, near Alresford, Hampshire
Yew Tree opening hours: open daily from 12pm-10.30pm