Verwood has bucked the national trend of pub closures with the opening of the Hideaway.
The clue to its location is in its name and though only a stone’s throw from the town centre, this new pub/restaurant is hidden away behind the recreation ground – a little further to drive than it is to walk.
Many readers will instantly recognise the venue, which was previously Club 31 and prior to that the Legion.
The function room is still entered through the front doors with the pub and restaurant accessed by a side entrance. Some people will experience deja vu as they walk inside, because the layout is similar, but the big difference is that there is no membership fee and the pub is open every day with food served from 11am-9pm. Breakfast, bar lunches and evening meals cover a spectrum of prices and tastes. There are several menus plus a specials board offering many choices from a sandwich to a three course gourmet meal.
The restaurant can seat up to 55, is family friendly, has its own bar and is great for large parties as well as couples and even single diners who are made very welcome.
On the cold night we visited, it was a pleasure to walk into the warmth of the Hideaway.
Manager, Blaize Rhodes greeted us and Jayne Young showed us to our table. We settled back to look at the menus with a glass of freshly mulled wine, warming and spicy to the palate. Melt in the mouth hors d’oeuvres followed: queen olives stuffed with pimentos plus a dish of bite-sized home-made cheese and herb biscuits – beautiful.
Our waitress, Rachel was happy to take an order from whichever menu we chose. Nick and I went a la carte as the variety of starters and mains had something for each of us.
My smoked salmon starter with traditional garnish looked delightful and was a fusion of flavours. The garnish was fresh and crunchy with a beautiful zingy dressing. Even more texture came in the shape of capers and pickled cucumber, which complemented the smoked salmon perfectly.
I loved every morsel.
Nick’s seared wood pigeon with beetroot tapenade was deemed a pleasant combination and the pigeon was expertly cooked with a nice rosy pink centre.
Ingredients are fresh, seasonal and sourced locally. Each dish is cooked to order, so we didn’t expect swift service and enjoyed a respectable break between courses. When Nick’s sea bass with stir fried noodles and sweet chilli dressing arrived, it looked spectacular. Two generous fillets atop a bed of noodles finished with salad garnish and fresh lemon. Needless to say, it soon disappeared. To preserve his waistline, Nick hadn’t ordered mashed potato or triple cooked chips as extras, and readily admitted, he didn’t need them.
My gnocchi with blue cheese sauce was a knockout dish. I’d only tried gnocchi once before in an Italian restaurant and found it stodgy. The experience at the Hideaway was on a different level. The dumplings were small and light in texture. The salty tang to the sauce was divine and the combination of the two together, with fresh, crisp salad garnish put me temporarily in heaven. Although I didn’t want the flavours to stop, there was dessert waiting in the wings.
A white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake with winterberry compote rounded off Nick’s meal and I lavished my taste buds with a crème brulée served with a warm, home-made fruit and nut, crunchy biscotti with a cinnamon kick.
Hats off to the award winning head chef Paul Ardner, who came in at short notice because the executive chef, Matt (who has worked under Marco Pierre-White) had been called away on a family emergency. Paul with Jack, senior chef de partie, did a wonderful job.
I have revealed the Hideaway as a pub with a restaurant, but it offers a great deal more.
There is a huge function room, which is already home to the jazz club. Seating 150, it has a bar, stage and dance floor and a mini kitchen, so is ideal for parties, wakes, wedding receptions and buffets.
From a sporting angle, the Hideaway has Sky Sports, five dartboards, two pool tables and a purpose made two table snooker room.
This is truly a local pub with a difference. It really does offer a good mix of community facilities and though it may take a bit more time to shake off the ‘club’ feel it is a welcoming family pub and dog friendly too.
A midweek Moules Night has proved popular an upcoming themed evening is a Valentine’s dinner dance, so book now to avoid disappointment.
The owner of the Hideaway, George Rhodes, has made a brave move to open this new pub in Verwood and the restaurant will delight you with its gastronomic dishes. Do make a point of visiting.
By Janine Pulford © 2013
PHOTO: Knockout gnocchi dish