“ Address: High Street / Southwick / Fareham PO17 6EB / Hampshire „
A few months ago, we ventured into the Golden Lion in the Hampshire village of Southwick in the hope of having Sunday lunch there. Alas, the dining room was full, so it wasn't to be. My son's partner grew up in Southwick and knew that the pub would serve us a good meal, and there had been an excellent review of the place in Portsmouth's local paper. We decided that we would try again soon and would book a table. When my younger son announced he was coming for the weekend, it seemed like the perfect opportunity, so I rang a couple of days beforehand and reserved a table for 1pm on the Saturday.
The Golden Lion's claim to fame is that it was used as the officers' mess in the run up to D-Day when the leaders of the Allied Forces were stationed at Southwick House. The plaques on the front and rear walls informs visitors of this, adding that Montgomery confined himself to grapefruit juice and left Eisenhower to the beer.
We went inside and informed the bar staff that we had booked a table. To get to the dining room, you have to walk through the public bar and also through the lounge. I was impressed by the lounge area with its comfortable chairs and alcove at one end decorated with horsebrasses and copper pots. It did look inviting. We continued into the dining room. This seats around twenty-four people altogether, at tables for two, four or six people. It was about half full that lunchtime, so even if we hadn't booked we would have found a table. It is a traditional building with oak beams in the ceiling, but it has been renovated quite recently. There was plenty of space between tables. We took our seats and each ordered a fruit juice.
We weren't given a starter menu, although we were told that soup of the day was asparagus. I presume the rest of the starters are served at dinner. There are chargrilled asparagus spears, home cured sea trout, Hampshire ham hock hash cake and smoked haddock and spring onion fishcakes, all at £6.25. None of us wanted soup, so we looked at the main courses on the lunch menu.
My younger son decided on the 9 oz minted lamb burger, served with smoked bacon, mature cheddar, beef tomato, gherkins, baby leaves, a sesame bun and chunky chips. A steak burger with the same accompaniments is also on the menu. The other three of us all went for Thatcher's cider battered cod fillet with homemade tartare sauce, mushy peas, chunky chips and lemon. The burgers and fish and chips are all £11.25. Other lunchtime dishes include rump or sirloin steak, chicken breast and salmon steak, priced between £14.95 and £16.55. For vegetarians, there is a Provence roasted vegetable and mozzarella pithivier with creamed spinach, roasted red pepper and tomato coulis (£12.95). If you don't think your main course is going to satisfy your appetite, you can order a side of chunky chips, buttered new potatoes or herb garden salad at £2.45 each.
There are a few additional mains on the dinner menu, namely pan-fried breast of guinea fowl, black king prawn tagliatelle, roasted Hampshire pork belly, grilled Brixham sea bream fillet and roasted British rump of lamb, all £14.95 except for the sea bream, which is £15.95.
It was a while before our food was served, not too long though, and we weren't in a hurry so we didn't mind. The lamb burger came out first and did look impressive; it was served open with the bacon atop the burger on one half of the bun and the tomato and gherkins on the other. The chips were extremely chunky and were arranged in rectangular layers. Our fish and chips came straight after that, served on heavy oval plate. Again the chips were in layers with the fish on top, and a tiny jug either side, one of tartare sauce and the other of mushy peas. We were asked if we would like any sauces, but none of us wanted any. A few minutes later we were all in agreement that the food was extremely good, in particular the fish, but also the burger. The tartare sauce was certainly superior to any I've ever had before, and the chips, although chunky, were beautifully crisp on the outside. They were perhaps a little salty, and I found I had to drink a lot of water later that afternoon, but that would be my only complaint. I left a few as I had a feeling we might want to sample something from the dessert menu.
All desserts are £6.25 and include warm Seville orange sponge, dark chocolate tart, and strawberry and marshmallow mousse. None of us felt we had room for any of them, but three of us liked the sound of the Forest of Bere ice cream at £1.45 per scoop. There are six flavours to choose from; my elder son decided on two scoops of butterscotch, his partner wanted one of butterscotch and one of chocolate, and I asked for one of lemon curd and one of strawberry. The other flavours were vanilla and lemon sorbet. Those who don't have a sweet tooth can choose five cheeses, which are served with crackers, grapes, celery and farmhouse butter. The cheeses include leek and onion, Hampshire rose and Old Sarum, and most come from Salisbury.
The ice cream is served in little bowls, one for each scoop, on a wooden board that has spaces for three bowls. I should be honest here and explain that our waitress was in fact my son's partner's younger sister. He decided to ask her what would happen if he wanted to order four scoops of ice cream, to which her response was "I would tell you you're fat!" She then left us to enjoy what we had ordered. Murmurings from the other side of the table declared that the butterscotch flavour was wonderful. I had been looking forward to the lemon curd in particular as it was unusual, but I think I would have to say that the strawberry ice cream was even better. One to look out for.
The only problem I would have with the Golden Lion as a place is that you have to go outside, if only for a few yards, to get to the toilets. I wouldn't appreciate that in cold, wet weather. There is a notice on the door to say that they are not for general public use. The ladies', I have to say, was extremely clean and well appointed, and it appeared to have baby changing facilities.
Our bill came to just under £60; we paid by card and left a tip in cash. Having admitted that our waitress was a family member, I still have to say that she gave us excellent service, and I watched her at other tables too. She is an asset to the Golden Lion.
We were all impressed by our lunch and I hope that there will be opportunities to go back in the future. You do need a car to get to Southwick; it is very close to Fareham and just a few miles from Portsmouth, over Portsdown Hill. Just behind the Golden Lion is Southwick Brewhouse which sells beer and also houses a Victorian brewery museum. On a fine day, I can recommend crossing the nearby golf course and taking a walk alongside Southwick Lake. There were some children at a table for six next to us, so the Golden Lion is a place that welcomes families. For excellent food in a quiet setting, it would take a bit of beating.