Chaaaaarge! Muddy eats at The Wellington Arms
Local food, cosy interiors and a grand ol' duke next door, The Wellington Arms at Stratfield Turgis is a classic British pub through and through. Are you ready for a big portion?
The Wellington Arms in Stratfield Turgis is a grand old duke of a pub, dating back to the 18th Century, and it just so happens to have a rather grand duke living next door. It’s an elegant inn that nuzzles the Berkshire-Hampshire border, just 10 miles from Reading and seven miles from Basingstoke along the rather whizzy A33.
Situated on the 7,000-acre Wellington Estate (home to the Duke of Wellington), this stylish inn has been given a modern makeover, with witty artwork and eclectic touches. There’s ample parking and electric car charging ports for Teslas and, er, non Teslas – unexpected.
The Wellington Arms totally nails the eclectic mix of old and new – setting off the stunning period fireplaces, wooden floorboards and nooks with muted dark walls, great artwork, and tweedy soft furnishings. The level of “quirk” in this place is absolutely spot on.
The place is a tardis. If you’re after a relaxed spot to hang out, especially if you have your pooch in tow, the bar area is cosy. Lots of leather, moody midnight walls, dark wood furniture, with pimped up pictures of the Duke of Wellington. In fact, you’ll find lots of nods of the Duke and his famous victory at the Battle of Waterloo – hours of fun spotting the military history references that give each of the 25 rooms their name.
Elsewhere there are rooms both large and small spaces for dining. The biggest has lots of oxblood leather banquettes, a floral mural and grand chandelier. But if there’s a gang of you and you want more of private dining set up, there are nooks and crannies that allow you to enjoy the buzz of the pub, but enjoy a more intimate experience.
There’s also plenty of outside space here, with the restaurant having its own garden, with parasols and industrial heaters for the colder months and nippy evenings. Work is almost complete on the beautiful wedding garden too. Last but not least, there’s also a function room, The Wellington Suite, with its own bar and outside seating area with a covered roof. I told you it was a tardis.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Sunday roast is a big deal in the Muddy house. I love it. Sadly I’m the only one. So the opportunity to eat out creates a ripple of excitement. While many country pubs focus on offering a roast only (and why wouldn’t they? it’s lush), finding somewhere that’ll satisfy my hangry household can be a challenge.
Fortunately, this wasn’t The Wellington Arms’ first rodeo. Three roasts are available, a crowd-pleasing kids’ menu and the specials board has been designed to tickle the fancy of the most indecisive diner. They know their crowd offering good pub grub where provenance rules using Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire ingredients where possible.
Put your big girl pants on, we’re going in. Be warned, portions sizes are enormous. For starters, we ordered the very shareable battered tiger prawns (£8.95) and a portion of whitebait (£4.95). The prawns were huge, sweet and cooked to perfection. Personally, I hate whitebait, but Mr M’s empty plate speaks volumes.
Neeeeext! For it had to be the roast chicken (£14.95), as I never get to have it at home. There was enough food on my plate to feed two. You get half a chuck! But throw in the stuffing, heritage root veg, crispy roast potatoes, a Yorkshire pudding the size of a newborn’s head – there was no holding back. The kids were dutifully predictable with a burger (£14.95) for the teenager and children’s menu fish and chips (£6.95). Both plates inhaled in seconds. Mr M went for the rack of ribs special, served on a wooden board and chef wasn’t shy with the salad and coleslaw. So a big tick.
Did we make it dessert? Of course, we did. The cheeseboard offers a selection of English varieties – Rosary Ash goats cheese, Waterloo, Norbury Blue and Sussex Charmer a mature cheddar. Now when it comes to cheese, there is one cardinal sin, being shy with the crackers. There is never enough. Not guilty at The Wellington Arms who piled on the crackers, grapes, chutney and, ummm, a large side salad. Apparently a honeycomb cheesecake arrived for the boys. But all evidence of it having been there… GONE.
Sadly I wasn’t staying the night. But I did get to sneak a peek at some of the 25 rooms available. The contemporary décor continues to the rooms, and I’m down the Espa toiletries, duck-down bedding, fluffy bathrobes, artisan biscuits, and a Nespresso coffee machine. There are tan leather sleigh beds, metro tile bathrooms with rain showers, the Copenhagen Suite (named after the Duke’s war horse) has a freestanding bath at the foot of the super-king bed and if you’re bringing your little darlings interconnecting rooms are available and they offer all the kiddie paraphernalia you might need from a cot to toys and activities.
If, like me, you always forget something when you’re escaping for the night, simply call down to reception. They’ve got your back – phone chargers, razors, toiletries, knickers (ok maybe not knickers), but it’s always worth giving them a call.
Kids are well-catered for. Child’s Farm smellies (again, from just around the corner near Basingstoke), cute sponges and little rubber ducks in the bathroom. There was also a huge box of toys and books (see below) for the kids to amuse themselves with as the adults relaxed.
There isn’t a play area, but the restaurant garden is fenced so they can’t dash off into the wilderness and the staff went absolutely above and beyond to make them feel welcome. The kids’ menu is simple but full of good choices and local produce.
OUT & ABOUT
Fancy a walk in the countryside? Ask behind the bar, and they’ll give you a leaflet with the best nearby stomps. Wellington Country Park is an absolute must for little kids. It has an amazing adventure playground and you’ll find farm animals, a miniature railway, dinosaurs and more. A few minutes down the road, you’ll find Wellington Riding equestrian centre for lessons and hacks, and if you want to nose around the Duke of Wellington’s ancestral pile, head to Stratfield Saye House. For more historical hotness, Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) and Jane Austen’s House are 30 minutes by car.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: It’s a ‘something for everyone’ inn, perfect for post-walk pitstop for a pint and packet of crisps, special occasion meals and ‘can’t be figged to cook’ family lunches with its simple British menu. If you’re staying the night? Lucky you. The rooms are lovely.
NOT FOR: Those looking for a busy metropolitan vibe. The Wellington Arms wears its rural heart on its sleeve. The busy road, won’t please everyone, but once you’re inside, you neither see or notice passing vehicles.
££: Reasonable for these parts. Starters are from £5.95; Mains from £12.50 and puds are £6ish. Wanna catch some zzzz? Rooms start at £100 per night with continental breakfast included (cooked breakfast is an extra charge but definitely worth it).
The Wellington Arms, Stratfield Turgis, Basingstoke RG27 0AS. Tel: 01256 882214