THE PODS looked very inviting, I had to admit.

Comfy cushions scattered across ample benches and chairs, all tucked beneath attractive awnings and quirky decor.

It was a novel twist on the usual pub garden and I could see why the grounds of The Kings Arms at Lockerley, just a ten minute drive north of Romsey, was proving so popular.

Alas, the spring chill drove us indoors, but we didn’t worry too much at that turn of events. After all, the dining room at the Kings Arms is an absolute delight.

A wonderful mixture of old-world charm and chic decor, the room is cosy without being too intimate, casual without being too laid back.

Certainly, with its local art work adorning the walls (many items for sale), the dining room has much to draw the attention, even before the menu is considered.

Chris Heather is head chef at the Kings Arms. Formerly of the famous Ivy restaurant in London’s “est End, Chris joined the venue last year and has made a name for himself already using locally produced fare wherever possible including such suppliers as Coopers Seafood, and Greenfields pork products, both based in Andover, and Newhouse Game from the New Forest.

And certainly the menu was tempting.

We had dropped by on a Sunday so there was inevitably a choice of roasts, in this case lamb and beef.

But our choice was made all the more difficult by some tempting suggestions.

For starters we were presented with roasted beetroot and goats cheese walnut salad, seared scallops with carrot and cumin puree, or wild mushrooms on toast, caramelised onion and fried duck egg. It was the latter that Mrs M chose while I went for the Cornish crab scotch egg, cucumber salsa and roasted garlic mayonnaise.

As with all these occasions, Mrs M is kind enough to, if not share, then at least allow me to sample from her plate so I can vouch for her comment that the mushrooms were a delight. My crab meat scotch egg was a revelation – I didn’t share.

The mains included pan fried fillet of cod, crab and chorizo hash, or slow roasted belly pork, braised pig cheek with butternut squash puree and crackling.

In fact Mrs M went for the chicken, mushroom and pancetta pie topped with garlic mash, and I the roast saddle of lamb with all the trimmings. Both meals were well represented and well proportioned – and I enjoy a hearty meal. Our roasted vegetables were superb.

The Kings Arms, we noted maintain a selection of staples that can also be chosen from: smoked haddock fishcake, sausage and mash, Hampshire ribeye steak and aubergine and ratatouille stack.

Next time.

For puds from a selection that included dark chocolate fondant, lemon tart and a selection of Lyburn’s Estate cheeses, Mrs M chose a Baileys Creme Brulee and I dipped into the pear and cinnamon tarte tatin. Brilliant.

At around £25-a-head each for the food we thought the meal marvellous value for such standards and such glorious surroundings.

As we left a few brave wellwrapped folks had decided to settle into the garden pods, some no doubt making use of the built-in heaters and even MP3 points to enjoy their own music.

We must, we agreed, make the return journey to the Kings Arms when the sun finally does shine.

Light bites are available at the Kings Arms including chicken liver parfait, soup of the moment and grilled Welsh rarebit and wild mushrooms, all priced around £5-6.

 The Kings Arms stages quiz nights and also provides the bar for the regular Lockerley Movies held at the village memorial hall.