Step inside the recently refurbished Oat Sheaf in Fleet and you might think you were stepping inside one of those members only clubs you see on the telly, not a pub on the main crossroads in our home town.
The Oat Sheaf has been closed recently so that it could undergo an extensive refurbishment but Mr B and I were invited along to an exclusive sneak peek this week, ahead of the reopening on October 12th. The decor is now akin to a boutique hotel or a swanky London club: polished floors, dark walls and deep gold furnishings, it looks stunning. And not out of place in the small Hampshire market town we call home. I did wonder if it would feel a bit over the top, a bit too much for Fleet, but I need not have worried, it doesn’t at all. It is fabulous.
We were welcomed by Arron and his team and given a quick tour of the place before being invited to build our own gin cocktails (they had me at hello but this sealed the deal). There is now a large private dining area that you can book for a large event (they can seat up to 50), and plenty of small cozy areas for a smaller gathering, alongside a long open bar area for those who just want a quick drink at lunchtime.
Serving a top-quality, seasonal menu, guests can enjoy a broad range of premium grill dishes, including three premium steak cuts from selected British & Irish farms – hand-cut by skilled butchers and expertly aged for superb tenderness and flavour – four-bone lamb rack with chorizo, chimi churri and butternut squash or maple glazed pork belly with pig cheek. With fresh fish delivered daily, there’s seared wild Atlantic scallops with cauliflower two ways, king prawn gratin in a creamy garlic, white wine & leek sauce, and sea bass fillets in a Vermouth velouté.
Still offering fantastic value, the fixed price Monday-Friday lunch menu includes a broad range of dishes under 650 calories, freshly made pizzas and gourmet sandwiches.
The gin collection was not as extensive as other local pubs but there was a great choice and it was lovely to see Seedlip included for those who want to enjoy a gin and tonic but who don’t want to drink alcohol. There is also a great cocktail menu (including a pornstar punch to share that comes in the largest cocktail bowl I think I have ever seen. We are definitely coming back for that) and an extensive wine list ranging from an £18, very drinkable Chenin Blanc, up to £63 for a gorgeous sounding Chablis.
But what of the food I hear you ask. Well there are a range of menus, from that weekday lunch menu mentioned above to a great looking vegan menu that runs way beyond an insipid looking mushroom risotto, the usual pub vegan staple. There were several dishes on there I would have happily gone for including a spiced coconut curry and a Moroccan themed cauliflower tart.
Tell me there are scallops on the menu though and I am all over them. These were delicious, served with cauliflower in tempura batter and a roasted cauliflower mash and I thought reasonably priced at 11.50.
Mr B plumped for a caramalised goats cheese with hickory and walnuts for £7.50 which he declared “superb”
I ummed and ahhed for ages over my main course, it was almost lobster and fish crab cakes but in the end I went for the chicken Milanese because it came with chips and gravy and quite frankly who doesn’t love dipping chips in gravy on a week night?
Mr B went for the prawn and chorizo linguine which definitely had a generous amount of prawns in it (so many have the tiniest shrimps in it but this didn’t disappoint). Just under £14 for this, and £16 for mine which I think is more than reasonable for a main course in a restaurant, especially for such generous portions.
Now I have to admit to a photo fail for the dessert. I could say it is because I don’t want to spoil the experience of watching hot white chocolate sauce being poured over the Ambassador’s melting chocolate and hazelnut bomb but that would be a lie. I only videoed it and didn’t take a photo so can’t really embed it here. Which means you will just have to visit and order your own.
We will definitely be back and already have it earmarked for our next family get together with my parents. The tables are spaced sufficiently apart that you won’t be inadvertently overhearing the next table’s conversation and the service was superb. There is ample parking and a gorgeous garden and decked area for some al fresco dining when the weather improves, but until it does there are warming fireplaces that make you want to just pull up a chair and curl up with a book until the next cocktail arrives.
Disclosure: Our meals and drinks were complimentary in return for sharing our experience.
All thoughts and photos my own