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The Heath Hotel, Dibden Purlieu
That’s strange, I thought, as I set foot on the restaurant carpet.
The last time I saw a pattern like that was on Mr Motivator’s Lycra body suit.
It kind of worked back then in the 80s – what with the discos and the flares and the fuzzy chest hairs.
But now, in this, the era of beige and brown, it just felt wrong.
The rest of the décor was subtle and warm – plenty of wood and brick and sumptuous fabric.
The lighting was harsh in places and soft in others. I would like to say it created a cosy atmosphere but, in reality, it just made the people on surrounding tables look sinister.
The tables were laid out spaciously and encouraged a gentle, chatty atmosphere.
The menu read like a career criminal’s rap sheet – there was simply too much to chose from.
Each time I rotated the menu a previously undiscovered sub-section was revealed: pub classics, classics with a twist, fish dishes, pasta plates, etc. And then the specials board was brought out – just to make things a little easier.
We started with the combo to share. Delving my fingers into the platter of scampi, breaded mushrooms, chicken goujons, nachos and potato wedges (served with mayonnaise, BBQ sauce and salsa as hot as the Devils radiator) I was pleased to see they didn’t return congealed with grease. It was crisp, fresh and good value at £7.50.
When the main course came I knew I’d made a mistake. My burger (£7.49), smothered in bacon, cheese and a BBQ sauce, was more a challenge than a meal.
The burger, a hulking beefcake of a thing, was a meaty monstrosity with strong flavour. Served with chips and coleslaw, I succumbed halfway through.
The chicken and asparagus pie (£8.50) was the size of a cannon ball.
Clad in golden pastry the warm, hearty, homely smell of the filling erupted through the top of the crust.
It was absolutely mouth-watering. The problem, again, was the portion size.
Which was a shame because I liked the Heath. I like the atmosphere, the staff, who were welcoming and attentive, and the home-cooked style of the menu. It’s the sort of place to go to after a long day at work; good food, good company and good value.
That said, a meal at the Heath doesn’t have to leave you feeling full and bloated. Why not take inspiration from the carpet and dig out an old Mr Motivator exercise video.
• Beaulieu Rd, Dibden Purlieu, Southampton SO45 4PW. Tel: 023 8084 2275l