FAMED for its Sunday roasts and fish and chips served wrapped in the A&T, the picturesque Woolpack Inn is the most prominent landmark in the small village of Sopley which neighbours Bransgore.
The chocolate box 17th century pub, which features a thatched roof and traditional low beamed ceilings, is also a focal point of the community and a hub for many village events and charity fundraisers.
For owners Teela and Dee Liberty-Spark, food is high on the agenda with an emphasis on serving high quality homemade meals created using fresh and often locally sourced produce.
Children are well looked after with a menu featuring smaller dishes such as chipolatas, scampi and homemade chicken nuggets served with fresh vegetables and a choice of potatoes (£5.95 including a drink).
There is an extensive vegan and gluten free menu and even four-legged friends are catered for with a special dog menu with eat in or take away options such as duck and plum and venison and blueberry.
Having enjoyed many summertime drinks in the bustling pub garden over the years, we discovered the Woolpack Inn was just as appealing for a winter visit with a cosy bar area and traditional village pub atmosphere.
On our arrival we were greeted warmly and shown to our table in the spacious and well-lit conservatory which overlooks the picturesque pub garden and stream.
We chose a bottle of Spanish Finca Nova Tempranillo (£15.95) which was medium bodied and easy drinking, to accompany our meal.
Starter options included falafels, mac and cheese (£6 small or £12 large); prawn and smoked salmon cocktail (£7) and homemade chicken pate (£7).
However, we decided to share three dishes from the ‘nibbles section’ of the menu (£5 each or three for £14) featuring small plates of whitebait, olives and sundried tomatoes, king prawns, croquettes, and homemade hummus and crostinis.
Our surprisingly substantial ‘nibbles’ arrived quickly and we agreed the homemade red pepper hummus was delicious served with a generous side crostinis. The plump juicy king prawns were perfectly cooked in a warming chilli and garlic sauce, and the ham hock croquettes with a smoked cheese dip were also incredibly tasty.
When it came to selecting a main course, we were spoilt for choice with a well-balanced range from the main menu and specials, many of which featured locally sourced meat and fish.
Pub classics included gammon steak, gourmet burgers, a choice of homemade pies, slow cooked BBQ ribs and beer battered cod and chips – served in the A&T!
After some deliberations, I chose chargrilled tuna steak (£16) with greens from the specials menu and my husband opted for cod cheek scampi (£13).
As we were waiting for our main courses to arrive, I spotted an incredible looking Woolpack gourmet burger (£13) being delivered to a nearby table and I wondered if I made the right choice – serious food envy!
However, I need not have worried as my chargrilled tuna was exquisite – a generous portion perfectly cooked and served on a bed of hot green salad featuring fine beans, spring greens, mangetout, baby spinach, wild garlic and asparagus topped with roasted baby tomatoes and chia seeds. The combination of flavours and textures worked perfectly together.
My husband wasn’t sure what to expect from his cod cheek scampi – but thoroughly enjoyed the tender cuts of cod in delicious crispy batter served with an incredible salad of paprika beans, sun dried tomatoes, Aioli, baby leaves and charred lemon, which he rated as one the best salads he had ever eaten.
The dish was also accompanied by a generous helping of French fries served in a basket.
After two delicious courses, expectations were high for our puddings with a choice of homemade dishes including cheesecake of the day, Dorset apple cake, and crème brulee (all £6).
I opted for sticky toffee pudding served warm with salted caramel sauce, honeycomb and vanilla ice cream (£6) and despite feeling pretty full already, I had no trouble in finishing it off – it was a wonderful end to a delicious meal!
My husband chose the Black Forest fool featuring chocolate brownie, black cherry jam, with a chocolate mousse and Chantilly cream (£6) which he also polished off without any difficulty.
He loved the combination of the bitter sweet cherry jam, rich cream and dark chocolate, and commented that he would definitely choose it again.
With a wonderfully warm and cosy atmosphere, friendly and attentive staff, tasty and imaginative food featuring lots of local ingredients, it is certainly worth a trip to Sopley to experience the charming and hospitable Woolpack Inn.
Find out more at www.woolpackinnsopley.co.uk.