Hidden away between Romsey and Salisbury, it’s not that long ago that the Kings Arms was another rural pub facing an uncertain future. An attractive 18th century building in a pretty location but with so much local competition and the temptation to take the easy option and get a drink closer to home, Lockerley’s local eventually closed and sat empty and unloved until early 2011.
At this point, I began to notice signs of life during my occasional passings-by and what was becoming the village ugly duckling started to transform into something with definite swan potential. A smartened up exterior, an interesting website and, throughout last winter, a temptingly warm glow radiating out of the front windows into the darkness that is Lockerley on a damp winter’s night make me wonder how I’ve not managed to find the time to stop off and see what was going on inside before now.
But anyway, with a wedding anniversary as an excuse for some midweek dining without children in tow, the time for wondering had passed and after a short but dark journey through the back roads of Tytherley and beyond, the glow from the Kings Arms drew us inside. And, yes, the inside lives up to expectations- roaring fire, warm welcome, friendly dog and smartly kitted out with a mix of vintage furniture, neutral shades, local art and the impression that someone’s gone to great effort to make it feel this effortless.
Wednesday nights are inevitably quiet and given the choice between eating in the dining room or at a table in the bar, the latter seems the better option and with a trickle of trick of treaters trying their luck at the bar throughout the evening, the Kings Arms suggests it’s a pub that’s still kept it’s place at the heart of the village despite the obvious “smartening-up” that’s gone on. With the barmaid doubling up as waitress this evening, the menu arrives along with our drinks and it clearly shows that the kitchen knows its strengths- local food, simply cooked and well presented. The menu doesn’t have any great surprises, but a choice of six starters and six mains offers enough variety to leave us considering our options before deciding on a shared starter of pan-fried pigeon breast, crushed peas and pancetta followed by the Hampshire rib-eye with roast tomato and chips and pork and honey sausages with mash and gravy.
The starter goes down well with the single strip of crisp, salty pancetta contrasting well with the pigeon breast and the bed of crushed peas providing a blast of colour on the plate. No complaints here and our empty plate is promptly collected by our friendly barmaid cum waitress.
Main courses soon follow and, as ever, much sharing of food takes place. Although we’re happy with our choices, we’re equally interested in what each other’s taste like and the second opinions confirm our initial feelings that everything is well at the Kings Head. My own choice is made even better by the fact that, on first bite, I recognise the sausages as coming from Greenfields Pork who keep their herd just up the road in the Wallops and sell their products through the Hampshire Farmers Markets. Feed me Greenfields sausages and I’m happy- it’s that simple! As an added bonus, I also receive a side of red cabbage (which wasn’t mentioned on the menu) but works well and has an interesting hint of what I first thought was fennel but I think was actually liquorice- yes, I know, I should’ve asked! And the rib-eye and chips? Well, if it’s done well there’s not much to say so I don’t have much to say other than the clearly chef knows what he’s doing.
The rule of six applies once again to the dessert menu with four choices plus ice cream or Lyburn cheeses with chutney. Being sweet-toothed we opt for lemon posset with home made shortbread and chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel popcorn and once again, after some mutual sharing, neither last long. The posset makes for a refreshingly sharp and light end to the meal and the fondant a satisfying opposite. I’m not entirely sure the popcorn adds anything but then it doesn’t detract either and with Heston making an excellent salted popcorn ice cream, it was certainly worth a try!
Plates cleared and with a bill for barely over £50 including a drink each (good behaviour on a school night!) we agree that this is decent value for good local ingredients, well cooked in the sort of village pub that we’d be happy to spend a lot more time in. It looks like it’d be the perfect place for a winter Sunday Lunch in front of that open fire and we resolve to come back soon to give it a try.