9 January 2012

Review : The Three Tuns, Bransgore, New Forest

Picture taken from the website
I didn't set out to do a review of the Three Tuns, but when the family all met up there to celebrate my Mum's birthday and had such a superlative meal, it just had to be done.

To begin with, the place itself is picturesque in the extreme.  A squat, white painted, thatched property, it sits alongside the road and demands your attention as you go by.  There is a large car park which is easy to get into and out of and plenty of car parking spaces close by the front door (which is a very definite bonus if you're disabled, as I am).

There is also a large terraced area to the rear of the pub, which looks out over farmland currently occupied by some Shetland ponies and thence onwards over the New Forest.  We made a mental note to come back and enjoy one or more summer evenings on that terrace!

Immediately upon entering the pub, you feel at home.  I am sure you'll have had the nerve-jangling experience of walking into a pub only to have everything stop while all eyes swivel towards you and watch you as you nervously make your way to the bar.  Not here.  The first thing we noticed was the Dandie Dinmont terrier who was enjoying greeting everyone.  Now any pub that is dog-friendly, is okay by me.  Whilst we were there, a steady stream of canines entered and left - and in fact we had to negotiate a fat black Labrador who seemed intent on getting his tail trodden on, on the way out.

Being a party of ten (and a last-minute booking as the original pub we were going to had suffered a power cut that morning), we had been allocated three or four tables set alongside one another, down the back wall of the restaurant.  You might think that this made life difficult for the waitress, but the tables were perfectly proportioned to give plenty of room to eat at, whilst being easily accessible to the waiting staff.  Far nicer than having a waitress dangle her pinny in your soup whilst she hands a meal to someone on the far side of the table.

Menu blackboards everywhere!
The waitress quickly arrived to take our drinks order and to leave the menu.  The "Blackboard Specials" were just that - written up on the blackboard above the table.  Not only that, but they were repeated on smaller blackboards sprinkled around the restaurant walls, which made for easier cogitation.  For a disabled person, to have to stagger out of your chair and hover over some poor person's shoulder whilst you consider the "blackboard specials" is just not on, so this made a nice change.

Not everyone was having a starter and those who didn't indulge weren't made to feel uncomfortable.  Water glasses and lovely clean jugs of fresh water with ice and lemon were placed on the table, which was a lovely touch.

Soft shelled crab with garlic & saffron dip & pickle
Son & heir and I both went for the Soft Shelled Crab with garlic & saffron dip and pickle.  This was the first time I had ever tried a Soft Shelled Crab (which is a crab which has recently molted its old exoskeleton and is still soft) but I'd seen them being prepared on the t.v. and had made a mental note to try one.  The crab had been dipped in batter and deep fried and the batter was as crispy and light as a new five pound note, whilst being flavoursome yet not overpowering to the delicious light crab flavour.  The garlic & saffron dip was more of a mayonnaise than a dip, strictly speaking, and took the form of a very cheffy smudge across the plate.  However, we can forgive the chef that, as the flavour of the dip accentuated and enhanced the crab to perfection.  A little light relief was created by the pickle of vegetables which had been subtly pickled and provided a welcome acidic note, without wiping out your taste buds.   Both son & heir and myself thoroughly enjoyed this course and would happily go back for more.

Cheese on toast soup - no clue as to those big flavours!
Hubby had the intriguingly titled "Cheese on Toast Soup with crispy ham and tomato".  Beautifully presented, the soup bowl arrived empty except for a criss-cross of crispy ham topped off with some chopped sun dried tomato and rectangular croutons.  The soup was provided from a separate jug and poured at the table - which was a lovely touch of theatre.

The look of the dish was innocuous enough, but even the finely sliced chives and spring onions gave no clue as to how the milky soup would taste.  Remembering the title "Cheese on toast" hubby took his first taste - one of strong, slightly salty, cheese .. on toast.  Wow!  How did they do that?  Yes, the toast was physically provided by the croutons, but how did they get the flavour into the soup itself?  Mind-bending!  As he progressed through the soup, he had temporarily forgotten about the crispy ham - right up until he began experiencing crispy ham flavours and found the strips of (still crispy) ham at the bottom of his bowl, which had been leaching flavour through the soup.  Wonderful stuff.

See what I mean about the size of the chips? Enormous!
Moving on to main course, here we all went our separate ways.  Hubby went for his yardstick as to the quality of a restaurant - Fish & chips.  Son & heir finally achieved one of his life's ambitions, which was to have a steak, and ordered a Rib Eye Steak.  I went completely off piste for me and ordered the Rabbit Pie with Prunes & Mashed Potato, together with seasonal vegetables.

Hubby declared the Fish (Cod) and chips as a generous sized chunk of cod, coated in a light but crispy beer batter, served with incredibly chunky chips, a beautifully fresh tasting mushy peas plus tartare sauce.  There was also a small salad of leaves in a balsamic dressing, which added the vinegary note without the need for vinegar.  The entire dish was delicious - the kind of delicious that you just know is bad for you, which of course, makes it even better.  All of the flavours were lifted by the delightful mushy peas and the balsamic dressing on the leaves, which was a touch of brilliance.

There was no need to ask how son & heir found his steak, as he was away in little steaky heaven.  Occasionally he would lift his eyes from the plate, wave a slice of steak in the air and moan appreciatively - which I took to mean "this steak is totally awesome, man!".  He had opted for the Brandy & Peppercorn Sauce and was torn between enjoying the steak au naturel, or dipping it into the gorgeously rich sauce.  Again, the chips which came with the steak were incredibly chunky but crisp outside and fluffy inside - just as a chip should be.

My individually baked Rabbit Pie consisted of a suet crust - which appeared to have had cheese included in it, which was a touch of brilliance that I'll have to reproduce in my next suet crust - and was just thick enough to qualify as pillowy, without taking up two thirds of the pie dish.  The rabbit below was soft, juicy and totally delicious.  Mixed with New Forest Penny Bun mushrooms and carrot that had been so finely chopped as to almost be invisible, the flavours were richly rounded and a complete joy.

Rabbit pie with prunes & mashed potato
The mash was as it should be - creamy and capable of standing to attention, as opposed to creamy and slushy.  The prunes were sweet and jammy and went so very well with the rabbit and indeed, with the potato.  The seasonal vegetables were a lovely mix of brussels sprouts, green beans, Chantenay carrots, broccoli and sugar snap peas.  The one negative regarding this dish was that I felt it required a small jug of cooking juices from the rabbit that you could have poured over your vegetables.  Without that, it was all a little dry - but so long as you eked out the cooking juices from the pie, it was perfectly acceptable and so totally delicious.

Chocolate soup with carrots & beer
For me, the excitement was building as we came to the dessert course.  I was completely intrigued to see what they had on offer that was described in such a way that it seemed completely unfeasible as a dish.  I wasn't disappointed, as there were two such dishes on the sweet menu - the first being "Tropical egg'n'soldiers - coconut, mango and passion fruit surprise", the second being "Chocolate soup with carrots & beer".

As my brother was having the Egg'n'soldiers, that left me with the happy task of having the Chocolate soup.  Oh boy, did I win there, or what?

The dish that arrived was by far and away the most intriguing, surprising and delightful of the entire meal.

Firstly, a soup bowl was set before you, in which were three baignettes shaped like short stubby cigars, which turned out to be a sweet shredded carrot & (I think!) cardamom mix that had been dipped in a beer batter, deep fried and coated in icing sugar.  These three were surrounded by a foam of rich, deeply hoppy flavoured beer.  Now this foam didn't disappear as time went on - it maintained its foaminess to the end, which is something quite amazing that none of us can quite work out how it was achieved.   The chocolate soup was presented in a separate jug that - like the soup earlier - was poured at table.  Marvellous!  To think that this superbly complex and totally delicious dish comprised four main flavours of carrot, cardamom, beer and chocolate, is just incredibleHubby even admitted to having a slight case of course envy, which wasn't assuaged by having tasters of the component parts.

Pistachio Ice Cream
Hubby had decided to opt for the Pistachio ice cream - which was again presented beautifully with a couple of wafer biscuits and a physalis berry.

Son and heir had been seduced by the idea of copious amounts of whipped cream, white chocolate meringue and kirsch soaked cherries so went for the pavlovaI noticed that none was left, so I'm assuming it was delicious.  Unfortunately, he was still waxing lyrical about his steak, so I don't have a lot of feedback to report on the pavlova!

The meal progressed exactly as it should, in that the waitressing was attentive and accurate, waiting staff were easy to apprehend for extra drinks and the clearing of each course was achieved with the minimum of fuss.  The staff all appeared friendly with a ready smile and were happy to exchange a comment or two, as necessary.

We all had a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours at The Three Tuns and can't wait for the next opportunity to go.

I am afraid I cannot truly comment on the price of the meal, as we were all treated by my DadHowever, the prices are available on their website at http://www.threetunsinn.org.uk/menus.htm so I leave it to you to judge, when you go there - as you certainly must, if you're ever in the area.



  1. Jenny,

    Thanks for a very nice and comprehensive review - I've actually saved this as a place to go to next time I head down in that direction.

    Quite glad to see that they have stuff like rabbit on the meny, always good to see that people dare cook and serve the slightly more different cuts of meat.

    Once more - many thanks for the tip about this place.

    // Mike

  2. You're absolutely welcome, Mike! It truly was our pleasure to be able to eat there.


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