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The Rose & Thistle, Rockbourne

Reviewed January 2009  Rose-&-Thistle-exterior
I was desperate! I had been trying to come up with a witty link between Kerry’s previous career as a Training and H.R. executive for Apple Computers in the East End of London and her new role as the new manager of the Rose and Thistle at Rockbourne when it suddenly dawned on me that the answer was right in front of my nose!  

      Core blimey, I thought! It was obviously the golden glass of Weston’s organic cider which my husband was enjoying as we studied the menu on a recent freezing January evening. (Was Apple the subliminal link I wondered which drew Kerry to become the new manager last June?) My suspicions were also aroused by the Old Rosie Scrumpy which was also on offer as was a range of real ales such as Palmers Copper Ale and Tim Taylor’s Landlord.    

     The pub was originally two 16th century thatched houses which have been combined to create a classic chocolate box pub setting with roses around the door, a beautiful garden and in 2008 The Rose and Thistle was voted one of the Daily Telegraph’s Top 50 Great pubs in England and Wales.         

      The huge chimney breast in the centre of the building forms a natural separation for the two bars. The open fire was perfect for this year’s freezing January, creating a warm and cosy restaurant Rose-&-Thistle-interiorarea which can seat 34 in intimate groups with room for a further 30 in the bar. Fortunately Kerry has taken on the pub with many of the original chefs and has newly promoted Nigel to head chef. Kerry and her team wisely aim to maintain the same high standards using the finest quality ingredients imaginatively cooked and perhaps to improve them where possible along the way.           

     All dishes are cooked to order using local fresh produce specialising in local estate game and south coast fish. These blackboard specials are changed every few days depending on what is currently available and in season. The pheasant my husband chose was so local you could almost literally see the farm across the road through the window!         

       The lunch menu includes a variety of favourite dishes such as locally made sausages with whole grain mustard mash, free range scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and watercress and also a delicious selection of sandwiches.         

       Starters on the specials board included Tomato Red Onion and Balsamic Soup, Baked Fig with Blue Vinney in a Honey Dressing, and Crevettes in Hot Garlic Butter all of which made it very difficult to choose with so many delicious sounding alternatives to the already tempting main menu, but we managed eventually!           

       I chose the Warm Goats Cheese and Bacon Salad whilst my husband went for the intriguing Baked Fig which was a resounding success – a delicious and unusual combination. There was an excellent range of food for all palates and pockets on the main menu including Gressingham Duck, Rack of Lamb, Tagliatelle, Mixed Mushroom Stroganoff, Steaks and Pesto Cous Cous with Roasted Vegetables.Rose-&-Thistle-entrance         

       In addition to these favourites, the seasonal specials board offered a marvellous range of local game and seafood dishes including Manor Farm Pheasant wrapped in Pancetta on Parsnip Mash, Wild Duck with Cassoulet, Baked Cod on a bed of Creamy Leeks with Parmesan Crust, Scallops with mussels and a Citrus Sauce on a Bed of Spinach and finally the Grilled Whole Falmouth Sole. All freshly cooked.         

       Since I can’t resist scallops the choice was fairly straightforward for me, but my husband needed another glass of cider to help! Finally he chose the Manor Farm pheasant which does literally come from the farm across the road! Should be fresh then! It was beautifully cooked and very succulent and was complemented perfectly with the slight sweetness  of the parsnip mash. Both meals also came with a tasty selection of winter vegetables including a celeriac mash, warm beetroot and carrots.         

       Next came a problem! Which pudding to choose – all served with fresh dairy cream or custard-the famed homemade Sticky Toffee and Date Pudding, Chocolate Nemesis with White Chocolate Sauce & Berries, Orange and Cointreau Mousse with Walnut ShortChocolate-Nemesisbread or one of the homemade ice creams or sorbets.             

       Unfortunately Kerry also has a more than tempting cheese board on offer with a selection of Loosehanger cheeses made on a small dairy farm on the edge of the New Forest at Redlynch. The cheeses including Hampshire Rose and the gold medal award winning Stromboli.         

       I decided to sample the Chocolate Nemesis which was really chocolatey but not overly rich whereas my husband had to go the whole hog and sampled firstly the delicate taste of the kiwi sorbet from the specials board and then couldn’t resist the cheese board, since he is such an avid local cheese fan! So much for his post Christmas diet!  I’m still none the wiser as to why Kerry chose the Rose & Thistle but pay her a visit and you’ll be jolly glad she did. So I’m afraid it’s Apple computers who have lost out most and they may well now have the proverbial pip!         

The Rose & Thistle, Rockbourne, Fordingbridge, Hampshire. SP6 3NL. 01725 518236. www.roseandthistle.co.uk