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The White Horse country pub in Chilgrove: restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 11:07 25 June 2013 | UPDATED: 12:38 12 July 2013

The bar area

The bar area

Archant

High-end pub grub and sumptuous surroundings for locals and incomers alike at Chilgrove’s White Horse

The White Horse in Chilgrove has been relaunched as a proper, honest-to-goodness country pub.

Owner Paul Gidley was determined that he wanted to serve the five surrounding villages and their inhabitants, and he has certainly got the locals on side. When we visited (a Saturday night) the restaurant was doing a roaring trade, and customers were stacked three deep around the bar.

Paul’s managed this after only a month of opening by being particularly savvy. The young, tight-knit team serve solid, salt-of-the-earth pub food, albeit of very refined execution, in an environment that does a pretty good job of being all things to all people.

The Lafite Room – for private dining – is perfect when you want to impress, with its pendant lights, gleaming crystal and snug chateau vibe. The main dining room is all leather seats, original beams and walls in strong, masculine block colours. “If you don’t like it, it’s my fault,” laughs Paul, who handled the design himself.

We’re in tweed country here, which is reflected by the on-trend taxidermy and the huge white horses, reminiscent of Muybridge’s zoetrope, on one wall.

This pub has a long history – for years it was known as The Swinging Pussy, because an early ham-fisted attempt by a signwriter to paint a white horse ended up looking more like a cat. There are little nods to this feline heritage everywhere, from the menus to the walls.

More recently, it was the Fish House, an acclaimed restaurant that nevertheless did not manage to stay the course. The idea now is to go back to the pub’s rural, community roots. So the wisteria for which the pub was famous has recently been replanted.

Comfortably ensconced in the dining room, we unashamedly ogled the menu and passing plates. I decided, double-quick, on the special – local Selsey lobster, just pulled out of the water hours before.

To begin, Carl had plump, pure English scallops in the shell with a sweet onion puree and roe powder. He pronounced them excellent.

Capitalising on the asparagus being – finally – in season, I had slim young spears, served with a soft, local egg and a richly decadent hollandaise. Under the tutelage of Paul and bartender Matt – smartly decked out in one of the pub’s exclusively-designed Barbour aprons – we drank Cristina Ascheri Gavi di Gavi, £33.

My lobster, when it came, was almost indecently robed in a thick, creamy thermidor sauce (I know, I know, it’s boot camp for me) and served with unsurpassable chips. Shamefully, I didn’t touch the salad, so sated was I by the naughty stuff. The dish was £37.50.

Carl had chosen a more virtuous seared sea bass fillet, which came with asparagus, beans and a lip-smacking saffron clam broth (£16). We segued onto a red, Herederos del Margues de Riscal, £42.50 or £9.50 a glass to accompany our desserts – a definitive dark chocolate fondant for me, and a honeycomb parfait for Carl. He pronounced it the best parfait he has eaten, and from someone who has a facial expression called ‘pudding face’, that’s high praise indeed.

After this parade of gluttony, during which we chatted to our next-door neighbours – a local chef and his companion, surely a good sign – we retired to the convivial bar. And from there it was just a few steps to bed in one of the self-contained en-suite cottages, with a sumptuous four-poster and copper free-standing bath. Sweet dreams are made of this.

***

Rooms are from £150, including a breakfast of your choice.

The White Horse, 1 High Street, Chilgrove, Chichester PO18 9HX

01243 519444, www.thewhitehorse.co.uk

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