Review: The Halfway Inn, nr Newbury
The Halfway Inn nr Newbury, West Berkshire, has had a stylish revamp. The result? A buzzy pub with a growing reputation for tasty seasonal food! Muddy dons her lucky napkin and tries it out
You’ll find The Halfway Inn – a newly refurbished, vibrant pub – in the tiny hamlet of Halfway (yes, it is a real place). Nestled just outside Newbury, on the A4 Bath Road to Hungerford, you may be forgiven for thinking Halfway is so called because it is the midway point between Newbury and Hungerford.
Not so *wags finger* It is in fact 62 miles from Bristol and 62 miles from London. Built in the 18th century, on the site of a former toll-house which collected payment from passing travellers, this cosy country pub oozes history. It was an important stopover for the horses and humans to rest up, and while the knackered coachmen and their faithful steeds have long vacated, we’re trotting along to stick our nose in the trough (too much?).
Before owners Nick and Jo Moreton took on The Halfway Inn last year (let’s not mention the C word), it was a boarded up pub, left to rot. So the transformation here is staggering. The overwhelming feeling when you walk through the door is warm, welcoming and buzzy.
If you want to play cosy pub bingo, you could be onto a winner here – exposed brick, open fires, reading nook, stone flag and wooden floors, exposed beams and sleeping dogs at the feet of their owners. It’s a big pub but somehow retains the cosy vibes. It’s a place you want to hangout, whether it’s for a cheeky drink or a laid-back lunch.
The decor is elegant but not in your face. Like most country pubs, the colour palette is a slave to the Farrow and Ball paint chart. I love the witty art, the dinosaur prints on the loo doors and the saddles decorating The Saddle Room wall – a nod to the past but they give the place personality.
A lot of work has been done in the garden (more is planned) but I think it will be glorious in the summer months with its outdoor kitchen and bar raring to go. I was pleasantly busy during my lunchtime visit, and despite its proximity to the busy A4, once inside, you’re cocooned from the road noise.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The Halfway Inn’s chef has previously worked at Newbury gastropub The Newbury, so expectation is high. The menu is a celebration of seasonal produce so you’ll find more game during the cosy months and more fish (freshly delivered from the West Country) during the warmer months. On the lunch menu, there’s a good selection of light bites, starters, mains and puds, so tuck in your napkin, let’s dive in.
First up, salt and pepper squid showered in a confetti if carrot and chilli served with a sweet and sticky thai dipping sauce. The squid was lightly coated in batter (and all the better for it) and there was plenty of heat to warm you cockles on a chilly autumn day.
For main, I chose the recommended confit duck leg perched on a sizzling tartiflette, with a watercress salad. The dish is like a big ol’ bear hug – comforting, rich and the sort of plate that would be welcome after a day on the slopes. It could have easily fed two people. But I cannot fault the cookery. The crispiest of skin and the tartiflette full of shallots and potato, cheese was super tasty. Just make sure you fast for a day and wear your roomiest pants.
I took my mum along for the gastronomic ride, her chicken schnitzel, topped with a fried egg, fries and garnished with anchovies and capers, went down a storm. A dry bird is always the danger here, but the chicken was buttery soft and pack a punch with flavour.
It will come as no surprise that I failed to make it to dessert. I had my eye on the Tarte Tatin served with vanilla ice cream. It is one of my all-time favourites The Halfway Inn serves for sharing. No amount of laps around the garden was going to squeeze this bad boy in. The apple, pear and prune crumble also looked good. Next time, gang. So a coffee and chocolate truffle hit the sweet spot.
The wine menu is decent, with a very good selection of wines by the bottle including the locally produced All Angels Cuvée and Sparkling Rosé, with a small selection available by the glass. The aromatic Chenin Blanc Viognier was a lovely tipple.
OUT AND ABOUT
You may want to work up an appetite, so get those steps in beforehand. Welford Park is just three miles down the road, and their carpet of snowdrops is considered one of the best in the country. Alternatively, head to Hungerford for a mooch around the antique emporiums or Newbury for indie and high street shopping and a day at the races.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Post walk weekend lunches. It’s superb for family get togethers, nights out with your mates, a bite to eat with your bestie and the crowd-pleaser kids’ menu make it child-friendly too.
Not for: Anyone sensitive to a roadside location, it’s not something we noticed once inside but you can’t change the geography.
The damage: Incredibly reasonable. Starters start at £6.50, with mains ranging from around £13.95 for a ploughmans through to £18.50 for confit duck and tartiflette and puds are all £6.95. The kids menu is £9.95 for a main and dessert. And check out the Christmas menu it’s a staggering £28 for two courses and £35 for three.
The Halfway Inn, Bath Road, Halfway, Newbury RG20 8NR