Rather than a nearby forest walk, we thought we would look further afield. We stumbled across a walk that took in the Cartwheel Inn and the Rose and Thistle. We thought we would have a late lunch and a walk, the Cartwheel Inn having gained quite a reputation.
On arrival the pub was deserted. Tables were laid out, the atmosphere was homely, more 'pub' than 'gastro pub.' Some cheap plastic 'specials' boards on the tables showed main meals at a 'tenner' or just over. We're very suspicious of 'family can eat for £2.99' pubs and mildly suspicious of 'mains around a tenner' pubs.
The barman could not have been more helpful. Unfortunately the kitchen was closed until 5pm, so we decided to walk and then come back for 5pm. Getting a table at 5pm was a little struggle, the bookings sheet was amazing.
We walked across rolling fields and woods to Rockbourne, to a beautiful thatched pub The Rose and Thistle. After a quick drink we realised we had slightly miscalculated our timings. A quick call to The Cartwheel and we rearranged for 5.50pm.
The homemade burger was excellent. Fish and chips superb and the steak and kidney pudding something special. The beer was clean and well kept however what the pub does very well is service. We encountered the proprietor and two other members of staff, who were so immediately helpful on every occasion, it was tempting to ask to borrow £50. I'm sure they would have headed straight to their wallets and returned with the cash.
We truly thought we had found a gem and quickly enquired about lunch for our annual 30 to 40 strong family walk and lunch. The proprietors are leaving and the pub is being sold by the brewery, after a string of Pub of the Year Awards.
A must visit before it closes.
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