IT'S always a good sign when you turn up for a meal and it's difficult to find a parking space. Admittedly parking is at a bit of a premium at the Three Horseshoes in Poolbrook Road, Malvern, but at 7.30pm it looked as though the restaurant area was probably booked out.

In fact, when my guest and I walked in, the bar areas were very busy and just one other table was occupied in the dedicated dining area. Although the pub sign outside claimed the pub offers "fine food" - it's more like good pub grub. This is, in fact, a very friendly and welcoming locals' pub with an eating area of just eight tables.

I started with Thai battered king prawns (£3.95) with a salad garnish and chilli dip. It was an ample and tasty portion. My guest opted for prawn cocktail (£3.95) which was again a good-sized starter - although they were out of brown bread and white was offered. This dish also proved to be a little tricky to eat with just a knife and fork.

When ordering my main course, I asked whether the beef was British and, to my delight, I was told by the extremely helpful and friendly staff that it came from Herefordshire. With that news, the homemade steak, ale and mushroom pie (£7.25) was too good a prospect to resist. In fact, it was an excellent choice as the meat was so tender it fell apart and had a wonderfully intensely rich flavour. I think it could have done with an extra few minutes in the oven because the pastry was a little anaemic-looking.

My guest selected lamb shank with minted gravy (£9.50) from the specials board. This too was tender - falling off the bone easily - and while the gravy was certainly minty I was told that it was a bit glutinous. Both main courses were served with potatoes, petits pois - and a salad - which seemed odd choice with all that gravy. Another hot vegetable would have been better.

We finished with lemon curd cheesecake (£3.45) and ice cream and rhubarb crumble and custard (£3.75). The cheesecake, I am told was very cold and a bit hard, as my guest chased it around the plate. My crumble was lovely, although a bit light on rhubarb.

My overall impression was that the Three Horseshoes is a very welcoming local pub and this is both down to the staff and the other customers, who were extremely friendly. It has a lovely atmosphere and, with a slight bit of tweaking, the food could be very good too.

HOW IT RATEDThe Three Horseshoes, 105 Poolbrook Road, Malvern.

Telephone: 01684 573983

Food *** Value for money *** Ambience **** Service ****