The outlook for country pubs has been pretty glum the past few years, with many landlords struggling to make a living. But some are not only surviving, they are thriving.
Judging by how busy The Hare at Loddington was the night we visited, it falls into the latter category. Under new management it seems to have struck the right balance between being a village local and a restaurant. If you are looking for high-end dining, The Hare is not the pub for you, however, if you are looking for good honest food served in a friendly atmosphere, then it is definitely worth a try.
Ade and I went with our friends Dave and Alyson and the lads were delighted to find the pub sells a selection of beers by local (ish, the beer they tried came from a small brewery in Hertfordshire) breweries.
The pub was very busy but at no time did we feel rushed and we savoured our beer and wine before going through to our table.
Dave and I prefer savoury to sweet, Alyson prefers dessert to a starter and Ade, who has hollow legs, always goes the whole hog. I chose a hot peppered mackerel starter and Dave and Ade both decided to try the Thai fishcakes. I’m a huge fan of mackerel and this generous portion didn’t disappoint, meaty and moist it came with a tart sauce that was served in a separate dish.
Opinion was divided about the fishcakes. Ade was expecting several little fishcakes with a chilli dipping sauce as you get in a Thai restaurant. What he and Dave got was a large fishcake that came with a garlic mayonnaise dip. Both he and Dave agreed that the fishcake was delicious, however, packed with fish and not padded out with potato; it just wasn’t quite what Ade had expected.
Continuing the theme of brotherly solidarity, both lads chose the fish, chips and mushy peas. I always think this is a risky choice as it’s hard to beat chip shop fish and chips, but they said their meals couldn’t be faulted. The beer batter round the large portion of haddock was light and not greasy and the chips, proper chunky chips and piping hot.
I had the Thai griddled chicken with a spicy dipping sauce, and generous side dishes of mixed vegetables and rice; I could have had salad and potatoes instead. The chicken was still moist and had a nicely tangy taste, and the sauce added a bit of extra spice. Alyson chose the homemade chicken and leek pie which came with a shortcrust lid and was, yet again, another generous portion that she enjoyed.
Despite the size of the meals, Ade still found room for the homemade plum and apricot tart. Too good to share, apparently, and Alyson was tempted by the white chocolate cheesecake, which she said tasted as good as it looked. While they tucked in, Dave and I distracted ourselves by talking about football.
The whole evening was very enjoyable. The pub and restaurant area had a good buzz of conversation, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. It would be hard not to with service as friendly and smiling as we encountered.
If there is a magic formula to running a successful pub, the new owners at The Hare have found it. I suspect that it involves giving people good food at reasonable prices, the bill for the food came to just over £60, serving it to them with a smile and creating a relaxed atmosphere. It sounds easy, but as in so many things in life, the simplest things are often the hardest to get right.
by Janet Bew