Rockbourne is exactly what you would expect of a New Forest village: tiny and rural, a splattering of thatched cottages with a stream that meanders through the village. At the centre of the village is the Rose and Thistle, a white thatched building with a large cottage garden which has been there since 1590. Like many country pubs it started life as three cottages, the huge fireplaces inside testifying to its beginnings. Then it became a baker, after that it started to sell liquor. The first registered landlord was Richard Pope in the early 1890s and the pub still bears a photograph of him on the men’s toilet door. Throughout the years the pub has passed through a number of colourful hands, with one of the previous landlords reputedly still haunting the premises.
The Pub became famous in the 1970s under the ownership of Pete and Pam Reid who grew the pub’s reputation for producing excellent seafood – people would flock from miles around to try the pub’s lobster. It was then run for 20 years by Tim Norfolk, the chef-proprietor, who grew its reputation for excellent food. Tim retired in 2008 and it is run today by the new & capable landlady.
The food at the Rose and Thistle is, where possible, bought from local producers. The New Forest is abundant with food producers: the Rose and Thistle’s beef and pork come from the New Forest and the game comes from right in the village. Fish is brought daily from the nearby south coast and the vegetables from local suppliers. Although the menu changes regularly it always includes slow cooked pork belly and steak & kidney pie.