The exterior of The Star in Witley is exactly as you’d hope a country pub would look. A welcoming lantern hangs over the porch that invites you into a cosy pub bar area, that’s the ideal way to start an evening with a drink before taking to your table.
The staff members are instantly friendly and make you feel like you’re walking into an old friend’s house for dinner. The interior design is considered not cluttered, and whilst this may feel like an unassuming local pub, the food is anything but.
We were seen to a table with a snug area for our dog, who was met with a fresh bowl of water and a plate of dog treats. Everyone from the diners to the dogs are taken care of at The Star.
With steak tartare and oysters on the menu, these little ingredients set the scene for the elevated dishes to come. The margaritas are well worth a try, and the coconut margarita was beautifully balanced; a lovely tipple for that apéritif moment and wind down from the day.
The Hampshire asparagus with poached hen’s egg can be enjoyed hot or cold (I opted for warm at the team’s suggestion), and it was deliciously runny with just the right amount of al dente crunch from the asparagus spears.
If gnocchi is on the menu, it’s usually too hard for me to resist, and at The Star, this was a delicate dish of gnocchi parcels with earthy artichoke and a hazelnut pesto. As with all gnocchi dishes, I could have had more on the plate, but it was expertly portioned. The Marmite hollandaise that accompanied my dining partner’s flat iron steak was something of a revelation, and the beef was cooked to absolute perfection.
Not forgetting the vegetarians and vegans amongst us, the team at The Star has a special dessert in the coconut and lemon panna cotta. It retained a lovely texture and was served with slightly soft shortbread, for a pleasing end to the meal. The dark chocolate fondant tart with salted caramel ice cream was infallible. The pasty had a crisp crunch, the fondant was gooey, and the cold of the ice cream with the warmth of the tart was everything I hoped it would be.
A note on the wine list; this was a confident assembly of interesting and premium wines. No sifting through 50 pages to find a reasonable bottle, but two well thought out pages, with enough to please the aspiring sommelier and not intimidating for the rest of us. At the recommendation of our wonderful waiter, I opted for the Tokaji to finish. The presence of this Hungarian dessert wine on the menu should show that this really is more than a place to go to for sausages and mash (though they do have their own upmarket twist on this, with a goat sausage).
For those in close vicinity and walking distance, this is a real treat for the Witley locals, but it’s easy to see why diners will soon be flocking from near and far to this spot. I’ve never seen my dog so relaxed in a pub, and upon leaving, we were too. It’s one of those special places you can go to and step inside and leave the worries of the week behind you.
The Star, Witley
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Chatting Food contributor: Lucie Rhoades is a freelance food & drink copywriter, with a passion for cocktails. Find her @ScenicSipping.