The Thomas Lord, West Meon
Now that the smoke has gone, pubs - whether in towns or villages or tucked into a beautiful landscape - are again the centre of life in England; warm and cosy in winter and wonderfully welcoming on a summer's evening. The food in many of them has improved immeasurably. They take their produce from the surrounding countryside and support local farmers, butchers and fisherman. Many have interesting - mostly New World - wine lists and serve ruggedly independent beers. They are usually old and full of charm, don't turn up their noses at muddy boots, welcome dogs and are full of interesting characters - including the locals who increasingly eschew the cities, finding that most 'townies' no longer know anything of country life. Being cheaper than restaurants and full of atmosphere, they are a far better choice for lunch or dinner - and if the mood takes you, you can log onto their free wi-fi and stay all day.