A hearty walk in the Sussex countryside should always be followed by a good pub lunch.
Last week we were invited to stay at the lovely Woodstock Suites in Charlton, and to eat that evening at the Earl of March in nearby Lavant, a picturesque little village about five miles from the cottages.
The pub overlooks the rolling hills of the South Downs, with a large patio perfect for basking in the summer sunshine, with a cold beer or a glass of bubbly (I prefer the latter). We hadn’t been so lucky with the weather so booked a table inside the pub. The décor was instantly appealing – modern yet cosy, with spacious brooms lit by plenty of natural light.
Run by Giles Thompson, formerly the Executive Head Chef at the Ritz Hotel in London, I was expecting big things, and boy, did it deliver. It’s sometimes difficult for us to have this kind of dining experience in a family-friendly setting, so this was a promising treat.
We had booked the table for 6pm, so the restaurant wasn’t yet too busy. The very friendly waiting staff seated us quickly, and quickly brought us the kids menu, sweetly dubbed ‘for Mini Gastronauts’.
I love the creative dishes’ names – it’s the little things that matter, and someone had clearly given them some thought. Soon after, we were given some huge crayons for Charlie to play with, even before he even asked for some. We had brought some activity books along, so he was delighted with them.
For once eschewing his beloved fish ‘n’ chips, he plumped for bangers and mash, or ‘Pork Snorkers with Yummy Mash & Gravy‘, which we all agreed looked absolutely delicious, and disappeared within moments!
As a family, we really appreciate the staff being so nice and friendly with our son – it made our experience exponentially better.
Our own menu was positively droolworthy. Rob started with the Henfield Oak-smoked salmon, with potato blinis and creme fraiche, while I had ‘Textures of Seasonal Asparagus, Slow Cooked Crispy Hen Egg, Forager’s Hollandaise’.
My plate was a real foodie experience – the plate itself was beautiful and creative, full of textures from an asparagus mousse to the tempura, plus the perfectly runny crispy hen egg oozing out of its crispy coating, all of which were real winners for me – I’m still salivating thinking of it.
Our starters were followed swiftly by a pot-roasted lemon sole for Rob, accompanied by crushed peas, Jersey potatoes and a sauce of brown shrimp and caper butter, whilst I had chosen the fillet steak, which can sometimes be a boring, safe choice, but it was much recommended to us, so I had to say to oblige and say yes. The meat was flavour-full, a tender medium-rare piece cooked to perfection, drizzled with a mouth-watering rich sauce – a true melt-in-your-mouth experience that I can still remember.
We didn’t really need dessert, but couldn’t not ask for the menu. I never seem to be able to resist it when I read the words Sticky Toffee (which was served with Salted Caramel Sauce, Toffee & Honeycomb Ice Cream), and Rob opted for a mouthwatering strawberry crumble dessert (sorry I didn’t write it down and forgot exactly what it was – but just look at the picture to your left and imagine how good that tasted).
The entire meal was beautifully cooked, well-presented, and delivered by friendly and helpful staff. One of the things I’ve always loved about the UK is its country pubs, and the Earl of March in Lavant is without doubt one of the best I’ve ever had the good fortune to dine. If you ever find yourself in West Sussex, especially if you’re visiting nearby Goodwood, make sure you book a table at the Earl of March – I promise, you won’t regret it.
You can also enjoy a proper Sunday lunch at the Earl of March, which I can’t wait to try out. I mean, every Sunday lunch deserves Oysters as a starter, wouldn’t you agree?
nb: I was kindly invited for a meal at the Earl of March, but as always all opinions and a happy tummy are mine alone.