IF I was to be put on death row, my final meal request would be a pub dinner.

Not the sort you get in a Wetherspoon, but a meal from a pub in ye olde England where the residents would rather eat their tweed hats than Tim Martin’s sausage butty.

Recently, I moved to ye olde Purbeck and have been searching for somewhere to eat when my girlfriend decides to spend my money.

The Horse and Groom in St John’s Hill, Wareham, has been on my radar for some time.

It’s great for a number of reasons. Firstly because of its location. Wareham is the sort of place where people dress up in green trousers at the weekend for their family walk. I like that. 

Bournemouth Echo: (L-R) Caroline, Bob and Joe(L-R) Caroline, Bob and Joe (Image: Joe Carter)

But also because it has won the CAMRA pub of the season for winter and, more impressively, is the Echo’s pub of the year 2023. 

Landlords Bob Smith and Caroline Pittard, along with manager Joe Carter, are very proud of what they’ve achieved with their pub and with good reason. One wall is teaming with awards it has won over the years.

But there is a fantastically warm atmosphere at The Horse and Groom. It would be difficult not to have a friendly chat or even make friends with its customers.

Everybody I spoke to couldn’t praise the pub, its staff, drink, food and atmosphere any more.

Bournemouth Echo: Horse and Groom, Wareham

Bournemouth Echo: Horse and Groom, Wareham

Bournemouth Echo: Horse and Groom, Wareham

Manager Joe tells me the most important rule for his staff is to greet everybody with a friendly smile and say goodbye with a equally friendly smile. And it works: the whole pub is electric but like spending time with an old mate.

However a great pub must also have great food and drink. This is where The Horse and Groom excels further. 

A quick scan of the menu and we see burgers, scampi, fish and chips, a seafood basket, gammon - meals that are as English as complaining about the weather. 

They even stock a great range of ales and ciders, including local pride from The Purbeck Cider Company.

For my starter, I asked for whitebait, main was a pie of the day and for pudding a chocolate fudge cake. 

Whitebait is one of those foods you don’t come across often. But at The Horse and Groom, you get so much you could get away with calling it a school. 

If that wasn’t impressive enough, Bob’s homemade chicken and ham pie of the day was exceptional.

So, The Horse and Groom. Bob tells me when he took over it a few years back, he wanted to turn it into a good, old fashioned pub. And that is exactly what it is.

A pub, like this one, should be the centre of a community; a public house. And thanks to the warm staff and regulars, The Horse and Groom is the heart and soul of Wareham.