The Coach and Horses - Country Restaurant Review

Armed with her trusty Michelin guide, Lulu Larkin discovers the delicious reality behind the names in the gourmets' hall of fame, first stop The Coach and Horses in Danehill...

A delicious reality . . .

Hands up anyone who has a railway timetable, a Next catalogue or a holiday brochure next to their bed. Yes, just as I thought. Well, it won't surprise you that I keep restaurant guides next to mine and the most exciting time of the year is when the postman delivers the latest edition of the Michelin Guide.  Sad, isn't it? But I can't wait to see who's in, who's out and who's made it into the gastronomic hall of fame for the first time.


This year St Clements in St Leonards (tel. 01424 200355) rated a new entry and a little smiley Michelin Man indicating its Bib Gourmand status - good quality cooking for under �28. So, toques off to them!


 There are over 100 Sussex establishments mentioned in both the Michelin Great Britain & Ireland and Eating Out in Pubs guides this year and all looked well worth a visit but the Coach and Horses in Danehill sounded particularly inviting and was within an hour's drive of Eastbourne on the edge of the Ashdown Forest.

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 The Coach and Horses was built in 1847 as an ale house with stables and embraces all the warmth, charm and bustle of a Dickensian inn. Passing through the atmospheric locals bar, complete with friendly locals and their dogs, we were given a warm welcome by Carmen and ushered through - "Mind the steps!" - to the light and airy converted stable, where garlands of hops dangled from the beams, bright Miro prints hung on the walls and Nina Simone quietly serenaded two young babies, who cooed and gurgled along to her music.


Carmen brought the menus to our spacious candle-lit oak table and pointed out the specials on the blackboard all of which, we were reassured, were made from fresh, local ingredients. They seemed to get crossed off pretty quickly so we needed to order soon if Daniel was to get the steak, veal and kidney pie he had his eye on. So we did and he got the last one. Phew.

For starters, he chose the pickled mackerel, beautifully presented on a square Japanese-style plate, as was my carpaccio of venison. Both were accompanied by a generous portion of salad and tiny vegetables and were absolutely scrumptious.

Daniel's pie arrived with an enormous golden pastry hat with mashed and fried sweet potatoes on the side and I could see from the look on his face that he couldn't wait to tuck in. I'd ordered a Rye Bay whole plaice with mild chillies - an interesting combination - which was unusually arranged with its top, dark skin split open and folded over like a tuxedo. Although a little fiddly to negotiate, the chillies worked well with the delicate fish, which was meltingly succulent and quite delicious.

Meanwhile Daniel had gone unusually quiet but only because he was enjoying his pie so much. "This is sensational! The meat's so tender and there's bacon and little onions in it, too. Do you think Emma would let me have a spoon to finish off the gravy?" The ever-smiling, ever-friendly Emma duly obliged and I was even allowed a taste. And yes, it was very good indeed.

We were offered a wide choice of desserts - Bakewell tart with mixed berry sorbet or chocolate fondant with ice cream being the day's specials - but we were feeling pretty replete so settled the bill - a very reasonable �43 including drinks.

They are also running a special two-course and three-course (�12 and �17 respectively) throughout March and on warm sunny days you can sit out in their beautiful gardens.

So many congratulations to the Coach and Horses and here's to you keeping your smiley little BG Michelin man in 2009.

The Coach and Horses,

School Lane,


RH17 7JH

Tel: 01825 740369

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3 More...

The Fox Goes Free

Charlton Nr Goodwood, West Sussex, PO18 OHU

tel: 01243 811461,

Charming 17th century flint and brick pub close to Goodwood race and motor courses, Weald and Downland Open Air Museum and West Dean Gardens. Friendly staff, wonderful atmosphere and sensational food. Choose from a wide selection of locally-sourced, freshly-cooked traditional pub food - sausage and mash, steak and kidney pie, lasagne and chips (�9.95), settle in the Stable Snug Bar with a smoked salmon baguette, chips and salad (�7.95) or dine more formally in the main restaurant on partridge, duck, or pan-fried chicken with creamed leeks (�11.95). There's free live music every Wednesday at 9pm and on March 5 the Curst Sons will be twangin' their banjos, strummin' their mandolins and hollerin' along to some good old-fashioned hillbilly and hellfire gospel music.

Stone House Hotel

Rushlake Green, Heathfield, East Sussex, TN21 9QJ

tel: 01435 830553,

This classic Georgian and Tudor manor house set in a 1,000-acre estate has belonged to the Dunn family for 500 years. An elected Master Chef, Jane Dunn not only produces outstanding food from her own walled gardens, greenhouses, orchards, local farms and boats, but runs cookery workshops throughout the year. A three-course dinner (�24.95) may include game terrine with pistachios, sloe gin and cep mushroom marmalade, Rye scallops with chilli and grapefruit, noisettes of monkfish in Parma ham and home-made gooseberry and elderflower fool to finish. A vast wine cellar with excellent bottles way below the average mark up. A pity that the restaurant is only open to residents - and the rooms are beautiful - but guests are welcome.

The Foresters Arms

The Street, Graffham, Nr Midhurst, West Sussex

tel: 01798 867202,

This quintessential English pub in a quintessential English village has unrivalled views of the rolling chalk hills of the South Downs and offers a warm welcome to weary walkers, strangers and regulars alike. Robert Pearce, a Dorset-trained chef, took over the pub with his wife Clare less than a year ago, but already his no-nonsense, fresh, seasonal menu - and insistence on sourcing only the best local produce - has earned him a growing reputation among those who want good food at a good price in beautiful surroundings.

Line-caught sea bass or pollock from Wittering may feature served with purple sprouting broccoli or asparagus from a customer's garden, but there is always a good selection of locally farmed organic meat, too.

Sunday roasts �12-17) are a speciality here - why not treat your Mum to lunch on March 2? - and there's a dedicated area for families with younger children.

Unfortunately the Foresters Arms isn't mentioned in this year's Michelin guide but it deserves to be. Why not go there and tell them? And tell us, too.

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