I have grown to like Middle Eastern food more and more in recent years, dabbling in tagine cookery for want of any such eateries in my neck of the West Sussex woods. So when the Trooper Inn of Froxfield near Petersfield, just over the border from my West Sussex home, tweeted via @TheTrooperInn that they were doing a Persian dish special, Khorest-e Zereshk, I sat up and took notice, especially as I had thoroughly enjoyed eating at Simurgh, a Persian restaurant I discovered in Covent Garden. I had been following the Trooper Inn on Twitter for a short while but had not picked up on them offering anything other than standard pub/restaurant fare.
I tweeted to ask if the special was available at lunch as well as in the evening and was very pleased to receive a swift reply – I am a social media marketer specialising in the food sector and it can be so frustrating to see businesses not using social media correctly! And I was even more pleased to find that they were prepared to offer the Khorest-e Zereshk at lunch even though it was originally to be only available in the evening. So I booked (via Twitter of course!) and off we drove the following Sunday on a beautifully sunny day.
Once through Petersfield the Trooper Inn was easily found via brown signposts, beautifully situated on a hillside with great views. However the chill swiftly drove us inside, where we were very impressed with the warm welcome and the light, airy bar with huge windows letting in all the sunshine. We were shown into the restaurant by Hassan Matini, the landlord (now the Persian menu made sense …) who quickly established that the Khorest-e Zereshk had been saved for us, as it had otherwise sold out the previous night. Hassan’s wife Sarah Matini is the chef and also the tweeter of the Inn!
Our starters were a rich, thick, well-flavoured roasted root vegetable soup for MrM, which he loved, and a delicious Duck, Venison & Caramelized Kumquat Paté with the Hampshire Chutney Company’s Nicely Spicy Orange & Apricot Chutney for me. I don’t normally order paté as it can be too filling, but I was keen to try a Hampshire Chutney Company product after reading so many compliments about them (@HantsChutney) on Twitter. I’m a mean amateur chutney maker myself (with many compliments for my Ohio Chutney) and this certainly didn’t disappoint. The overall portion size was generous enough without being overwhelming.
Of course we both had the Khorest-e Zereshk, which came with a generous bowl of rice. Perhaps we should have ordered something green to brighten up the colour, but the dish was delightful, a lamb, barberry & almond stew, slow cooked to perfection with the barberries, which I’ve never had before, adding a pleasant touch of sourness. We enjoyed a glass of Merlot (him) and a glass of Shiraz (me).
Dessert was a chocolate cheesecake for MrM and a Bakewell tart for me (and yes I tried them both!). The cheesecake was good even though I’m a chocolate lover but not always a chocolate cheesecake lover, and the Bakewell tart very enjoyable and served as requested with just a little custard. Lunch was rounded off with good coffee. Since we went the Inn has received specialist Latte Art training with Mozzo Coffee (@mozzocoffee)!
The Trooper makes a point of specifying on the menu the local provenance of much of the food, something that certainly pushes my buttons on a personal and professional level.
The pub now features in the Good Pub Guide 2012 and Hassan has the distinction of being named one the top 10 landlords across the country. It’s well-deserved on the basis of this visit!