You would be forgiven for doubting your sat-nav on the approach to the Jack Russell Inn in Faccombe. Driving through the trees, the green canopy pierced here and there by shafts of sunlight, it feels as though you’re driving into the depths of a forest, and should be leaving breadcrumbs in order to find your way home again. Luckily, it appears that I’m not the first to think that, and you’ll find helpful signs pointing you to the inn as soon as you might find yourself dubious of your direction.
Pulling up into the generous car-park we were met by a round duck pond with a resident family of ducklings pootling around in the reeds. This pond, as I heard later, is actually filtered and safe for swimming, if you should be so inclined; I wasn’t, because whilst the weather was sunny it wasn’t warm but I could certainly see the appeal on a hot day.
As we parked, we noticed a proliferation of expensive Range Rovers in the car park, and I wondered how much the meal we would enjoy that evening would cost; as it happened, I needn’t have worried – more on that later.
We were greeted warmly; our room wasn’t ready (we were early, they weren’t late) so we ordered a couple of sandwiches and found a table in the beautifully kept grounds. I opted for smoked salmon, and then remembered – as I always do – that whilst I like the idea of smoked salmon, when it arrives I am much less enamoured with it. “I’ll share my roast beef sandwich with you,” my partner kindly offers. When it arrives, the smoked salmon is subtly flavoured and each mouthful melts. My partner’s kind offer of half a roast beef sandwich is politely but firmly refused.
The inn itself is on Faccombe estate which is run by the Landon family and Arthur Landon is the driving force behind the Jack Russell Inn. He is passionate about it, from the decoration to the focus on local produce and people. All the food on the menu comes from the estate – duck and pheasant, rabbits and deer – it all comes in and gets broken down in the kitchen.
Just over the road, behind the duckpond, is a field full of deer grazing peacefully. I ask if those are the deer destined for the plate, and get reassured that these deer are pets, kept there for the guests of the Jack Russell Inn to enjoy watching; it is not the grassy equivalent of a lobster tank. But everything else is literally fair game – even for veggies.
There’s a garden in the manor and the estate gardeners bring all the vegetables across; a lot is foraged too, like nettles and wild garlic. It seems as much as can be is sourced locally – and in the most eco-friendly way possible. The energy the inn uses is from a biomass boiler that burns pellets made from wood from the estates; there’s a bore hole supplying water that’s then filtered before it comes out of the taps. Electricity is provided by a wind turbine up on the hill; everything is in keeping and designed to have the least impact on the natural surroundings as possible. They’re quietly proud of it and happy to tell people who want to listen, but they won’t force the information if you’d rather not hear it.
Arthur Landon’s vision was for it to be a local pub; he didn’t want to price things too high and force anyone out – and there’s even a 10% discount if you’re local. We didn’t count as locals, being that we’d driven a hundred miles or so to try it out but looking at the menu prices, nothing was too much of a stretch. All that locally sourced food was thoughtfully prepared and presented by friendly staff members who obviously enjoyed their jobs and believed in the ethos of the inn.
We were given a room in the recently built wing as opposed to above the pub, with a door that opened out on to a terrace and views over fields and the church.
We watched the sun set as we enjoyed a glass of wine, then retired to a room that whilst not overpoweringly masculine, had definitely been decorated with a male clientele in mind – all browns and greys, wooden floors and walls, quirky fox paintings on the wall. The estate hosts around 65 shoots a year from September to February, and the inn is the accommodation – in fact, the whole wing can be hired out, in which case you’d also get the use of the luxuriously appointed lounge, and the fire pit surrounded by carved wooden seats.
It’s very proud of its dog-friendly position. The well behaved pub dogs, Barney and Betty, greet all visitors with an amicable sniff, and visiting dogs are encouraged to leave them a message in the hotel’s guestbook, along with a polaroid picture. It’s the little touches like this that make the Jack Russell Inn that bit more welcoming; like the little bottle of milk we were given at check in to go with our coffee, and the Tunnocks teacakes waiting for us by the room’s kettle, the water at the table garnished with mint and strawberries, or the fragrant soaps and bath products chosen because they’re handmade locally.
In the interests of a balanced review, I feel like I have to find something that was less than perfect, so I’ll mention the fact that at breakfast, we asked for poached eggs and were given fried. Had we mentioned it, I am 100% certain it would have been remedied immediately, but given the attentive service and delicious food we’d already enjoyed, it seemed churlish to point out – and when the worst thing you can find wrong with a place is that you were given the wrong sort of eggs at breakfast, that’s really more of a compliment than a criticism anyway.
The Jack Russell Inn,
Andover, SP11 0DS
Tel: +44 (0) 1264 737 315