The quality and variety of food available at pubs has increased significantly in recent years and landlords realised they can get a better response from customers if they serve something other than microwaved lasagne and cheap burgers.
The Windmill at East Hanningfield very succesfully combines a traditional, village pub atmosphere with the sort of food you would expect at a good British restaurant - and at prices that won't break the bank.
As well as a large selection of freshly caught and cooked fish - which when we visited included skate, eel and cod - the varied menu offers steaks (rump, sirloin, fillet and gammon), slow roasted pork belly, lamb and butternut squash casserole, as well as the ubiquitous burgers, hunter's chicken and chicken caesar salad.
When we visitied, on a Friday evening - the resaurant was packed - we had booked a table and were glad that we did, otherwise would probably have been faced with a long wait before we could sit down.
After a slight confusion over whether or not we could use a discount scheme card when booking, and taking into account how full it was, we prepared ourselves for a long wait before we were served, but, being very hungry, were relieved when this turned out not to be the case.
The lady who served us was extremely courteous and we had wine lists and menus in our hands very quickly, and
thankfully after we'd ordered it didn't take long for our food to arrive.
I started with whitebait - although the starters offered included several other options that tempted me including baked garlic and herb stuffed mushrooms with a blue cheese crumb, winter game with toasted brioche and chutney, and breaded brie wedges with a blueberry and raspberry compote.
My companion had the bread board, and we were both more that satisfied.
For main course, as I'd skipped lunch, I opted for the mixed grill - at £17, the priciest option the the menu.
All the meat is sourced locally and everything is freshly prepared on the premises, which isn't always the case with food pubs.
My meal, which arrived promptly after we'd finished our starters, consisted of a fillet steak, chicken breast, gammon steak and a pork sausage.
The fillet slightly less bloody than I would have wanted - having asked for medium rare, and been told by the waitress that it would be cooked more on the rare side than the medium. However it was lean and tasty, as were all the meats - the gammon in particular having a great flavour.
My companion opted for the slow roasted belly of pork, served with fine green beans, mash & cider mustard sauce - reasonably priced at £10.
The pork was succulet and delicious and the mustard sauce a perfect compliment, without overpowering the flavour of the meat.
The establishment has become particularly well known for its range of homemade desserts. Both having perhaps overdone ourselves slightly with our starters and main courses, we opted to share a lemon and meringue cheesecake.
Having been told that the deserts were a speciality I had high expectations and was not disappointed, and we found ourselves compelled to clear the plate despite our fullness.
Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our evening at the Windmill Tavern - the staff were lovely, the atmosphere very cozy and relaxed, and the food definitely at the top end of the scale for "pub grub".
We will definitely be returning, and will try and save more room to sample the desserts next time.
A sample of the menu ...
Breaded Brie Wedges with a blueberry & raspberry compote - £5.25
Homemade Soup of the Day with crusty bread - £3.95
Baked Garlic & Herb Stuffed Mushrooms topped with a blue cheese crumb - £4.25
Winter Game Terrine with toasted brioche & chutney - £5.95
Breaded Whitebait & homemade tartare sauce - £4.95
The Windmill Bread Board - £3.95
Rump (8-10 oz) - £10.95
Mixed Grill - £17.95
Sirloin (8-10 oz) - £14.95
Thick Cut Gammon Steak - £8.95
Fillet (12 oz) - £17.95
Beer Battered Line Caught Haddock served with chunky chips, peas & homemade tartare - £8.95
Homemade Pie of the Day served with mash and fresh seasonal vegetables - £9.95
Sizzling Chicken Fajitas served with tortilla wraps, guacamole, sour cream and salsa - £9.95
Grilled Salmon & Asparagus served with new potatoes & hollandaise sauce - £8.95
Windmill Burger topped with cheese, BBQ sauce & bacon with chunky chips & salad - £8.25
Fisherman’s Pie topped with mash and served with fresh seasonal vegetables - £7.95
Slow Roasted Belly of Pork served with fine green beans, mash & cider mustard sauce - £9.95
Homemade Meatballs with a roasted red pepper & garlic sauce on a bed of linguine - £8.95
Lamb & Butternut Squash Casserole with mash and fresh seasonal vegetables - £9.95
Goats Cheese & Roast Veg couscous Salad (V) - £7.95
Chicken Caesar Salad topped with homemade croutons and parmesan - £7.95
Homemade Puddings - all £3.95
Lemon & Meringue Cheesecake
Raspberry & White Chocolate Cheesecake
Belgian Toffee Waffle
Apple & Rhubarb Crumble
Dark Chocolate Mousse
Mixed Berry Cream Horn
Sticky Toffee Pudding
A selection of luxury Movenpick Ice-creams.