(Noel Harrison) The Old Windmill – South Hanningfield
Locally, in ‘The Hanningfields’ there used to be two Windmill pubs, one in East Hanningfield and one in South Hanningfield.
A couple of years ago the one in East Hanningfield became ‘The Folly Bistro’ which I’ve reviewed before, while that in South Hanningfield has undergone a number of changes over the years.
As one might expect, as ‘the old windmill’ itself converted from a windmill (first constructed in 1702) into a pub in 1799, which must make it one of the oldest pubs in the area. I’m struggling to think of an older one in the area.
Popular belief would have it that the pub was reconstructed in 1954 when the nearby reservoir was formed, but Ordnance Survey maps of the 19th century show it at its current location.
In more recent years it was taken over, ‘sympathetically’ refurbished and became a ‘Blubeckers’ chain pub/restaurant. My wife and I tried it a couple of times and were unimpressed, so when it was suggested that I meet a colleague for a lunchtime ‘meeting’, I was relieved to see that it is no longer a ‘Blubecker’. It’s now being run under the ‘Brunning and Price’ brand, who are rebranding the ‘Blubecker’ pubs.
The décor is pretty much as I remembered it, best described as ‘clean rustic’. There’s a picnic table out front with a parasol, large bar area with tables, a sizeable restaurant area, and garden with tables out back. There’s also parking for, I’d guess, fifty cars. Let’s face it unless you lived within a hundred yard radius, you’d be driving – with a designated driver.
What’s nice is that despite the emphasis on dining, there is still a bar area, stocked with a pleasing selection of ales from local breweries such as Wibblers, Mighty Oak and the Brentwood Brewing Company. I enjoyed a couple of pints of Brentwood Brewing’s rather good ‘Summer Gold’.
We adjourned to one of the many tables for lunch, my colleague ordered ‘Ham Egg & Chips’ while I ordered the 8oz steak burger with grilled bacon and cheddar.
The Ham and Egg looked as tasty as my burger and the chips, while chunky and well cooked, were just too much.
We both failed to finish, but that didn’t stop the waitress from asking if we wanted to see the dessert menu!
All in all a great improvement on my previous visit, I can see me returning with Val before too long, a nice option for a Saturday lunch.
And for the record, the pub website, while restrained, is remarkably informative and not only includes some of the history I’ve related here, but also mentions the entire staff, from manager to cleaner. Nice touch.