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Noah's Ark Inn in Lurgashall: Restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 11:03 05 December 2017 | UPDATED: 11:29 05 December 2017

Starters of salted cod croquettes and smoked trout pate

Starters of salted cod croquettes and smoked trout pate

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The Noah's Ark Inn has been delighting Lurgashall's residents and visitors since the 16th century. Jenny Mark-Bell finds it merits its good reputation

The Noah’s Ark Inn at Lurgashall, right on the West Sussex/Surrey border, enjoys a postcard-pretty location. Set on the village green, where cricket is played during the warmer months, it was built in 1557 and was originally a brewery – called the Noah’s Ark because there was a moat-like ditch around the pub which gave the impression that visitors were boarding a boat.

Proprietors Amy Whitmore and Henry Coghlan, who both hail from Blackdown just a couple of minutes down the road, will mark 11 years here in December. They’ve recently also taken over The Hollist Arms in Lodsworth, which they plan to keep as a traditional, simple pub with the same ethos of using good seasonal produce.

Chef Candice Chivers has been at the pub of eight years and her small team caters for 100 covers in one sitting. “We are definitely a destination pub,” says Amy. “The majority of customers are from Midhurst, Petworth, Haslemere and Chiddingfold, with a combination of regulars and occasional diners – but a lot of people come for Sunday lunch from London.”

For a Tuesday lunchtime in autumn it is exceptionally well attended, to the extent that we felt pleased to have got a table. Décor is high-end and restrained: dove grey walls are hung with black and white pictures of the inn, while the windows are garlanded with pine cones. The vast inglenook fireplace must make the restaurant cosy to the point of somnolence in winter.

The relatively small bar area, where dogs are welcome, is winged by dining rooms and there’s a function room at the back. The menu changes often and there’s a good choice of meat and fish dishes, with a vegetarian main course option.

The food has a fine reputation and it proved to be deserved when our starters arrived: crispy salted cod croquettes (£7.50) for my husband, who really loved the tomato and red pepper sauce that came with them; and a home-smoked trout pâté for me (£7). This packed a smoky punch that initially seemed in danger of overpowering the delicate fish but settled into a sumptuous background note. It came with a piquant watercress and radish dressing and generous wedges of crusty bread: no tiny haute cuisine portions here.

My serving of haddock and chips (£14.50) left me feeling like Alice in Wonderland: either I was getting smaller or it kept getting bigger. The delicious chips were the size of doorstops and the golden-battered haddock barely contained by the plate. I couldn’t finish it, but everything, including the peas and the piquant homemade tartare sauce, was not only supersized but superb.

My husband’s mussels (£15, also hearty-looking specimens) came with a creamy garlic and leek sauce – he asked for it without bacon – with frites to soak it up. The smell was wonderful, with one lady exclaiming on entering that it reminded her of her favourite restaurant in France. She went on to continue her Proustian journey by ordering the same dish.

It being lunchtime on a working day, we didn’t have the time or inclination for dessert, which will have to keep for another day. Judging by the number of testimonials from the likes of Harden’s and the Michelin and AA guides, as well as the size of the mid-week lunchtime crowd, we might be fighting our way in on a weekend, but I’d say it’s worth it.

A visit on a sunny summer weekend might be in order too. Anything else just isn’t cricket.

www.noahsarkinn.co.uk

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