The Peat Spade, a traditional English inn with rooms, has a rather improbable address, on The Bunny, a meandering lane in the picturesque Hampshire village of Longstock. On the western slope of the Test Valley, this is prime fly fishing and shooting country.
In fact, if you have an aversion to hunting and fishing types sporting red trousers, this isn't the place for you, because the smart new bar, is packed out daily from 4pm by Hunter-welly wearing shooters who arrive in smart new Range Rovers. Don't let this put you off though; the Peat Spade's bar and restaurant are a delightful spot in a particularly rural part of backwater Hampshire.
The bar and restaurant have just had a major renovation after the pub came into new ownership, creating a cosy snug for locals to drink in, as well as an airy restaurant. There's no segregation though, and the welcome is warm.
The decor is perfectly in keeping with the genteel surroundings, while there are enough on-trend touches, such as exposed hanging filament bulbs, to make you feel like the place has been updated sympathetically, but with a touch of style.
Sadly, the upstairs of the Peat Spade hasn't had the same level of renovation or attention to detail as the public spaces. The two smaller rooms in the annex have the feel of a conference hotel, while the traditional-style larger rooms above the bar are in need of a lick of paint. Think shabby, rather than shabby chic.
It's not that the rooms – complete with Ren toiletries – are not comfortable, it's just that they feel a little dated, especially the plumbing. Fittings are basic, but the deep beds are super-king size and the staff, especially knowledgeable bar manager, Nikki Swulinska, are warm and friendly.
During my stay, Nikki had her work cut out for her when the hot water gave up the ghost, forcing us to decamp to an annex room. Management insisted it was a temporary fault (and has since been put right), but there were whispers from some staff that it was an ongoing problem. Hardly ideal, especially if you've spent a day in waders on the banks of a chalk stream.
Delicious breakfasts in the Peat Spade are served in the pub bar, and like the wine and whisky lists, they are extensive. Rich and hearty is the order of the day, with thick local ham served on the eggs benedict, vast free-range eggs, and kippers on offer. Quantities are generous, so you'll need to start early if you want to make the river-bank (or rural trails) by lunchtime.
The Peat Spade is owned by the Upham Group, which has a real ale brewery and a string of pretty pubs across the South-east. The group is run by John McMillian, former executive from the Slug and Lettuce city-centre bar chain, but again don't let that put you off. There's no sign of WKD Blue or cheap lager here.
The village of Longstock has one of the smallest libraries in the country, housed in an old red telephone box opposite the pub, but this isn't a place to sit still. The Test is known as the home of the best fly fishing in the country (the pub will happily arrange a taster session on a local beat with a village guide), while the nearby Spitfire Shoot (clay pigeons not birds) is an excellent place to try your hand with a shotgun in a friendly setting (01264 810312; spitfireshoot.co.uk).
More conventional activities include a short stroll to Stockbridge high-street (an old Drover's road) or a visit to Longstock Park, just north of the village, which is home to the world famous Water Gardens (01264 810904; longstockpark.co.uk).
The Peat Spade's main attraction is the evening meal, which is pretension free and locally sourced, with starters including baked Tunworth cheese to share (£17) and Portland scallops with onions, peas and wild garlic (£12). The main event is dominated by fresh fish and cuts of locally-reared meat, such as the divine Hampshire rump steak, served with purple sprouting broccoli, hand-cut chips, and thyme and garlic butter (£19). An afternoon walk (about two hours return trip) to the 2,500-year-old Danebury Hill Fort – a few miles down Church Lane from the pub – is advisable to work up an appetite.
Stockbridge, a short ramble south along the Test, is home to another gastro-inn, The Greyhound on the Test (01264 810833; thegreyhoundonthetest.co.uk).
The Peat Spade, The Bunny, Longstock, Hampshire SO20 6DR (01264 810612; peatspadeinn.co.uk). Most guests will arrive by car, but the pub is just 20 minutes (six miles) from Andover railway station by taxi. Rooms start at £145, with breakfast.Reuse content