We decided to go out for lunch and had been recommended The Poplar Farm Inn for food by two separate people over the last month, so we decided to give it a go, it is quite a drive from the other side of Andover so I rang ahead to make sure they served food all day but also if it was okay to do a restaurant review, I spoke to the Duty Manageress who confirmed food would be served until 10pm that evening (Saturday) and that we were very welcome to do a review and she said she would get a table ready for us.
We arrived around a half hour later and were greeted by the Duty Manageress who told us our table was waiting and that our Waitress was Sue, we ordered drinks from the knowledgeable and competent bar manager and took our seat, we were very impressed with the surroundings, the menu and the politeness of the staff (not just to us but to other customers as we stood waiting). Sue came and took our order and she was so polite and friendly, with everything else we discussed The Poplar was gearing itself up for a Lady Does Lunch Gold Ribbon.
We waited a fair amount of time for the starter to arrive, we had ordered the Tasting Platter to Share, which was billed as having Brie and Onion Marmalade Brulee, Chicken in a Paprika Crumb, Pork Belly Fritters, Beer Battered Mushrooms, Lamb Meatballs and Crusty Bread with Mango and Pineapple Salsa and Caramelised Garlic and Parsley mayonnaise.
When it arrived I was dismayed to see the Garlic & Parsley Mayonnaise was in a complete state in the pot it was presented in, it was smeared all around the rim and looked slapdash and even a little like someone else had ‘enjoyed’ it before us. The Salsa was missing and so I asked Sue if we could have it, as I am not a mayonnaise lover, I would have liked something else to break the food up a little and it definitely needed something refreshing, however Sue returned with news that they had run out of Salsa. I was beginning to feel a little concerned about the state of affairs, if The Poplar knew we were there to conduct a review, what is the food like that is presented to the person off the street?
I tried some of the nice fresh bread with the Brie and Onion Marmalade Brulee. I am not a Brie lover, but I have to say this was delicious, the red onion marmalade made a great contrast and i had a good few mouthfuls, I tried the lamb meatball next and my mistake was underestimating this small very compacted morsel, I popped one into my mouth and instantly regretted it as I bit into it, it was so dry that I could barely eat it and had to take several mouthfuls of wine to get rid of it. I tried the belly pork pieces next which didn’t work, Belly Pork is by definition quite fatty, but this had been deep fried and it was too much, however, if you could get past the fat, the flavours of pork did come through. The beer battered mushrooms were good, after our incident at The Portway, I cut it open for a look before I bit into it and the mushroom was perfect and fresh, the Paprika Coated Chicken was delicious and in my opinion, along with the Brie Brulee, the stars of the dish. As I was waiting for my friend to finish off the plate, I spotted a rather strange looking meatball, which I picked up, it was rock hard and I could not get a fork or knife into it, I dropped it onto the plate where it clunked like a pebble. To view the video of the meatball – CLICK HERE
I really was thinking at this point that we should have gone elsewhere as it had been a long week and I wanted a treat, it was clear things were amiss today at The Poplar.
The plates were cleared away by an embarrassed Sue who was mortified by the now mounting issues with the food. I decided to go and get another glass of wine which was when I was told there was no Pinot Grigio left, I perused the bar and noticed there was a Sancere served from a barrel so I asked for a glass of that, I was told that that too had run out. I opted for a diet coke and it was then I lost all hope, I just wanted a nice afternoon out and that was rapidly slipping away.
I sat down with my soft drink and we waited, we waited so long I was able to write a shopping list for when I went to Tesco straight after the meal. The food eventually arrived with apologies for its lateness and it looked okay and smelled lovely, I had ordered the Aromatic Braised Pork Belly on a Bubble & Squeak Potato Cake with Black pudding, an Apple Fritter and a Ginger Beer Glaze, I also ordered the Mediterranean Vegetables to go with it and asked for the Black Pudding to be removed. My friend ordered Half BBQ Chicken which is served in quarters with Peas, Crispy Sweetcure Bacon and Cheese topped Chips, he ‘upgraded’ his chips to the House gourmet ones.
We also ordered a portion of the ‘ordinary’ chips to compare the two and I quickly became grateful that we had.
I tapped the top of my Belly Pork and groaned, it was not hard and cracking as it should be but soft and giving which showed me it had not been cooked properly, the top inch was pure un-rendered fat, the bottom part was stringy, fatty and unpleasant. The Bubble, Squeak and Potato Cake looked like it had been deep fried and had a crispy shell which disintegrated when it was touched, I tried the filling which was less than a centimetre in depth, it tasted nice but the outer was disgusting, fatty, overcooked and ruined it. The Apple Fritter along with the rest of the fat on the dish was just too much and even the apple could not claw anything back to the flavour. The Mediterranean Vegetables were delicious and cooked perfectly.
My friend’s Half BBQ Chicken looked and smelled yummy, however we were promised quartered and it was not, the BBQ sauce tasted like it was from a bottle, the bacon topping was nice and the upgraded chips were sprinkled with cheese and were delicious, big fat and fluffy, the peas were cooked well and weren’t soggy. The chicken was quite dry inside.
Sue came along and asked if our meals were okay and I told her the truth, she took away my plate and removed it from the bill, I ate half of the normal chips and watched my friend eat half of his meal.
We were initially going to stay for desserts, but decided not to as the rest of the food had been so disastrous we just wanted to leave, Sue was very apologetic and to be fair, the service had been of Gold standard, but the food was shockingly awful.
We did delve a little deeper and The Poplar Farm Inn told us that the resident Manager had left that week along with a lot of the kitchen staff, which does explain a lot in terms of quality of food. The bill was £41.75 which was so much considering one meal had already been deducted, I wouldn’t have minded the cost had it been to a good standard but I am afraid to say that on this occasion, I am not awarding The Poplar Farm Inn an award at all but would like to visit after Christmas to see if there has been an improvement.