Tuesday, November 25

My Mum’s Favourite Pub

Earlier this year my 82-year-old mother, Peggy, took us for lunch at her favourite country pub. The place is called The Bush Inn and I suspect it’s the most perfect pub in Hampshire, and possibly the whole of Southern England. Dating from the 17th Century The Bush is a charming, lived-in sort of place with a compact bar, quirky little nooks and crannies and a shady beer garden. Dogs and children are welcome. More importantly it serves Henry’s IPA, one of my favourite English beers. We walked along the tow path next to the River Itchen before lunch. The water meadows looked ethereal, with impossibly white swans floating serenely across the glass-like water. By the time we got back, the dining room was bustling with locals and tourists alike – we bumped into a group of Aussies who’d motored up from Southampton to have lunch here. It was a wise choice. The kitchen serves pub classics like honey-roasted gammon ham, rump of Hampshire beef and free-range pork and leek sausages. Prices are reasonable, the service cheerful and, dear lord, I want to be back there now. So next time you’re travelling in England, take my advice and make a small detour to the village of Ovington – just a 20-minute drive from the cathedral city of Winchester. The pub serves lunch and dinner seven days a week. The bar rarely closes. We visited on a glorious sunny day in late June, but The Bush Inn is delightful at any time of the year. Any chance of squeezing me in for Christmas lunch? www.thebushinn.co.uk/home

Monday, November 17

English Lager – Simply The Best

After 100 years of being defiled by Australia’s commercial brewers lager looked to most observers (until now) like a beer category on its last legs. Why would today’s generation of inked-up hipsters bother with something as insipid when they could get their hands on wonderful IPAs, APAs, Hefeweizens, Pilsners, Porters, Saisons, Sours and Stouts?

Lager, the backbone of the Australian beer trade, has become a byword for mediocrity. Lovers of craft beer (any many brewers) look in abhorrence at lager – the way wine buffs pooh-pooh sauvignon blanc or spumante. Australian lager is not a serious beer, just something wet in a glass.

But not any more. A small London outfit called Camden Town Brewery has created a lager which even committed lager-phobes will love. Called Camden Hells Lager (4.6%ABV), this blonde beauty is as pale as an English summer morning, but is packed with manly flavour, fuelled by Perle and Hallertauer Tradition hops.

Fresh, clean tasting and with a pleasingly bitter finish, Hells Lager has set the benchmark for lager brilliance around the world. Indeed, I can safely declare that Australia’s best lager is now being made in London NW1. And since it’s being shipped (in 330ml cans) to Australia every fortnight you’ll be able to enjoy this award-winning English lager (yep, get your head around that) at its most pristine.

And if you’re worried about being unpatriotic, don’t be. Camden Town Brewery is owned by an Australian expat called Jasper Cuppaidge who bought a pub in London and began brewing beer in the cellar. I’m glad he did. Thanks to Jasper, it’s going to be a great summer Down Under.

PS Camden Brewery has also released Gentleman’s Wit, brewed with lemon and bergamot, in Australia. Another winner from NW1. To learn more visit www.camdentownbrewery.com/