The Howard Arms, Illmington

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It’s been a number of years since I last visited The Howard Arms, when it was under the ownership of the Greenstock family. It was a pleasure to return to a familiar haunt. It has recently undergone a restoration by the new owners. I think, as far as the restaurant and bar are concerned, they have done a great job in so much as they have retained the character and style without the modish effect that some pub operators feel is necessary nowadays.

Robert Jeal is the General Manager. He has a wealth of experience in the industry and a great personality to boot. Personalities are somewhat sadly lacking in hospitality nowadays and its great to see Robert and his enthusiasm. He gave us a terrific welcome.

Rob was good at explaining the menu and making recommendations.

The atmosphere is relaxed, cosy and comfortable. There was only one member of staff working in the dining area and she did give the impression of being a little stressed. Rob did mention there had been a couple of technical glitches in the kitchen that day.

The girl was doing her best. I have to say, however, we had no service without having to ask for it. We had to ask for a drinks order to be taken and for our food order. We arrived at about 7.10pm. I know because we missed the final few minutes of The Archers on the car radio!

Starters arrived at 8.15pm.

I had a very good King and Greenland prawn cocktail with red pepper. The mix of prawns was very fresh and the red pepper was an excellent complement to the dish.

Mrs Bazza chose smoked haddock, salmon and leek tart with ratte (small potatoes) with dill mayo. She enjoyed it very much but thought the tart had been a little over heated.

After clearing starters, main courses arrived almost immediately.

Main course for me was Barbary duck breast, fondant potatoes, golden beetroot, parsnips, cabbage and bacon. The duck was cooked to perfection and the vegetables worked well. Perhaps the presentation was a little over the top.

The wife chose pan-fried calves (as on the menu, but being pedantic I imagine it would be liver of only one calf and so should be calf’s!). She thought it was really delicious.

The menu has a great selection of classics with a twist such as maple cured gammon with a fried duck egg, piccalilli and chips, a Howard Arms burger and a ploughmans to more creative dishes such as a Moroccan spiced tagine and a spiced lamb kofta kebab.

The best was yet to come! I chose the chocolate peanut butter brownie, praline mascarpone cream. I thought it was one of the best brownies ever! I think I might have chosen something a little sharper than the mascarpone. It did, however, work well with some seasonal fruits.

The menu and wine list are both very reasonably priced and we chose a Picpoul to go with dinner.

In all, this was a good experience and it’s so nice to see a pub like this restored so lovingly.

It’s getting in the news having just received a positive review in last Saturday’s Times newspaper, together with some great TripAdvisor reviews.

Please go there. It’s well worth the trip!

Bazza

 

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