Badgers Tea House, Alfriston, East Sussex - Restaurant Review

Find out about Badgers Tea House, the quaint and charming place to eat out this summer...

Cute and adorable with an impish sense of fun, these demanding creatures are also naughty, quarrelsome and have an insatiable appetite. But Lulu Larkin still treated her family to a day out at Drusillas followed by feeding time in paradise...

IS IT ME or are children's social calendars becoming increasingly hectic? Daniel and I had been granted just one interview with our nephews and nieces over the summer holidays, so were delighted when 17-year-old Jackson called to say he'd found a window of opportunity on his BlackBerry and he'd be driving down to Eastbourne with the gang - brothers James and Oliver and cousins Polly and Dominique. Great! When? This morning - we'll be with you in a couple of hours.

This counts for advance warning in our family. We didn't mind that so much but were determined to enjoy a day out in the fresh air that didn't involve iPods, mobile phones and bribes to unplug them.

Drusillas in Alfriston - 'the best small zoo in the country' - seemed to offer the perfect solution. And the gang were as enthusiastic as we were when they heard about Drusillas' latest additions: two fluffy Humboldt penguin chicks, a Geoffroy's marmoset called Copernicus with otter pups and baby flamingos due any day.

And who can resist getting up close and personal walking with the lemurs? Polly and Dominique had just seen The Meerkats movie, so a visit to their playground where you can pop your head up and watch them at ground level through a dome was a must. After a couple of hours watching animals consume huge plates of fruit and penguins gulping down bucketloads of fish, we were feeling peckish ourselves.

We headed for the Amazon Adventure caf�, just one of the five food outlets dotted around all serving delicious, healthy salads, pure chicken nuggets and organic fruit juices. Suitably fortified, we took up the zoo trail where we left off until cries of 'I'm still hungry. When's tea?' went up.

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The picturesque Sussex village of Alfriston is just a mile away and is home to the to the quintessentially quaint Badgers Tea House serving home-made soups with chunks of granary bread, fresh salads with local smoked salmon, goats' cheese or chicken, toasted paninis, cream teas and the most scrumptious cakes made every day by proprietor Michael Luttig and manager Lynn Attfield.

Michael didn't seem at all fazed when our ravenous horde arrived and welcomed us inside while Lynn settled us down immediately with drinks: fresh orange juice, elderflower cordial, Oakwood Farm organic apple juice and a jug of water with a silver bowl of ice of the side - a nice touch.

We felt as if we'd been invited inside someone's beautiful cottage: the tables were laid out with pristine cloths and fresh flowers and highly-polished locally-designed cutlery. It was utterly charming, as was the walled garden and patio beyond with fragrant rose bushes, aromatic herbs, fruit trees and timbered tables with parasols occupied by jolly diners clearly enjoying themselves.

We could have chosen from the 'Eats Soup and Leaves' menu but we all went for the 'Badgers Comforting Classics': Jackson ordered the Big BLT as he claimed that at six foot five he was still growing while Daniel had a grilled cheese and ham toastie, Oliver a Caesar salad and the rest of us a generous assortment of toasted ham, chicken and cheese sandwiches, all garnished with salad and scrummy crisps.

It was so delicious that everyone wanted what everyone else had ordered and plates were passed around the table like a parlour game.

Formerly the village bakery, the historic Badgers Tea House will be 500 years old next year. But the cakes that followed were even more 'historic', to borrow Michael Winner's superlative, and the light-as-a-feather scones with Devon clotted cream an absolute triumph.

We finished with 'the best coffee in Alfriston' and a selection of specialist teas all served in bone china cups and saucers from silver tea pots with silver bejewelled spoons.

All very refined and far-removed from the hurly burly of feeding time at the zoo. Everyone had clearly enjoyed themselves and couldn't wait to come again.

Before we left, the affable Michael handed out free Badgers postcards so we could let everyone know - anywhere in the world - how much we'd enjoyed ourselves. Which we had. And do you know? I didn't see a single mobile phone all day. Success!


AddressBadgers Tea House 13 North Street, Alfriston, East Sussex BN26 5UGtel: 01323 871336 Drusillas Park, BN26 5QS tel: 01323 874100


Three other animal attractions...

The Hen and the Chicken

Worthing Road, Southwater, West Sussex RH13 9BH tel: 01403 730349; Wise Old Owl, Dorking Road, Kingsfold, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 3SA tel: 01306 628499

Lured away from their gadgets and gizmos, children enjoy nothing more than spotting creepy crawlies. But there's plenty for boys to enjoy, too, at Southwater Country Park (01403 731218) or the Warnham Nature Reserve in Horsham (01403 256890).

A butterfly's flutter away are the Hen and Chicken, a traditional local pub with fine ales and a splendid menu and the Wise Old Owl - a Sussex Fortnum & Mason without the price tag. Eat in or buy in for all the little weasels to enjoy at home.

  The Swan Mountain Range Restaurant and Bar

Lewes Road, Forest Row, near East Grinstead, East Sussex RH18 5ER

tel: 01342 822318

Sister to the Black Horse in Findon (01903 872301), this family-friendly restaurant is ideally located for a visit to the nearby Llama and Alpaca Park at Wych Cross (01825 712040). Join in a Wednesday morning Wildlife Walk before rounding up your herd to chomp on good-value food, cheerful service and a lovely garden. Well-behaved children get a free ice cream, too - yee hah!

  Elephant Caf� and Bar

Trading Boundaries, Sheffield Green, near Fletching, East Sussex TN22 3RB

tel: 01825 790200

An exciting restaurant within this innovative trading emporium close to the Bluebell Railway, Sheffield Park, Chailey Windmill and Townings Farm, North Chailey (01444 471352). Visit their (free)'Wonderful Woollies' sheep-shearing fair (Sept 6) before browsing through the exotic treasures around you and sampling Nick Butcher's creative, Hispanically-inspired menu. Que aproveche!

How to find Badgers Tea House, East Sussex.

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