The French know a thing or two about terroir; that all-important combination of soil, climate and environment that gives a wine its distinctive character.
And if that concept can ever apply to a place, then the Kings Arms at Lockerley is a perfect example.
Up until last year, the Kings Arms was a fish out of water in this beautiful Test Valley village. Burdened with a poor reputation, the pub was given a wide berth by Lockerley locals.
But after just a few months of closure and a lot of hard work, the new owners have succeeded in thrusting the pub firmly back into the heart of the community.
Now perfectly in accord with its surroundings and environment, the Kings Arms has transformed itself into somewhere to eat, drink, dress up for elegant dinners, or prop up the bar in your wellies after a Sunday afternoon walk.
Inside, flickering candlelight glows against chalky Farrow & Ball walls.
There is dark wood and gleaming glassware, local artwork on the walls, and a crackling log fire on cold nights.
But it would be a mistake to neglect the pub’s fantastic garden with its selection of unique dining pods – each heated, lit, and with an iPod dock so you can enjoy your own music.
The menu features produce at its seasonal best, locally sourced wherever possible, and there is an extensive wine list from independent wine merchant Caviste.
On any normal evening, you can enjoy dishes such as Hampshire rump steak, caramelised beetroot tatin with rocket and blue cheese, pan-fried bream, or pork belly with fondant potatoes.
And very good I’m sure they are. But for something extra special, the Kings Arms hosts various food and wine events each month.
A recent Burgundian Dinner, a three-course feast accompanied by a selection of wines from this hallowed region, was one such indulgence.
At £55 a person, it might seem an indulgence indeed, but with canapés, bubbles, dinner, and six more glasses of wine to accompany the food, it’s pretty good value – and a truly entertaining and informative evening to boot.
It’s a little disconcerting to walk in and find a long table laid out – albeit very elegantly – in the dining area; not everyone would choose to share their dining table with strangers. But actually, it’s a gem of an idea.
Anyone attending such an evening is almost bound to share a love of good food and fine wines, and the resulting conversation is interesting and varied.
Mark Bedford, from Caviste, was on hand to talk us through the wine choices, and he took us on a tasteful tour of the villages and vineyards of Burgundy as we sipped, slurped and generally appreciated the stylish wines from up and coming growers. The chablis had real zip underpinned by a rich texture; there was a luscious Macon Solutré Pouilly, and a Puligny Montrachet, which had the structure of chablis with a buttery core.
All the wines were perfectly complemented by the set menu, which featured a delicate sole and River Test trout terrine with lemon and shallots, and melt-in-the-mouth Dauber braised beef with the smoothest parsley mash and crunchy fine beans.
But it was the pudding that had everyone talking. Like the largest, richest, gooiest After Eight you’ve ever had, the chocolate marquis with cassis caramel and blackberries was a revelation. Incredibly filling, the dark chocolate slab with its hint of mint was so filling it didn’t even seem a crime to push the blackberries to one side in order to fit more in.
The Kings Arms,