When I originally wrote a post on where to eat in Sussex I only included three restaurants. They’re all here, plus two more that have been thoroughly tried and tested both for lunch and for dinner. If you’re planning a stay in Sussex, hiking on the downs, visiting Glyndebourne these are the five I can recommend.
No visit to Sussex is complete without a visit to magical Gravetye Manor, set in exquisite gardens, with lovely rooms and a wonderful new restaurant - you have to visit here. It doesn’t matter if you’re staying, walking on one of the public footpaths that skirt the grounds or eating in the restaurant this really is a beautiful place.
The new Michelin Star restaurant makes you feel as if you’re sitting right in the garden. I confess, having enjoyed the previous restaurant on many occasions I was worried that the new one wouldn’t be as good, or as atmospheric, but this is so much better.
As I said in my previous post this is quite a formal restaurant and not one for boisterous children. It can also be expensive, although they have retained their Daily Menu which is exceptionally good value at £50 for 3 courses at dinner and £35 for 2 courses at lunch. Almost everything-vegetable wise comes from the hotel’s kitchen garden, it’s very pretty food as you can see, but everything tastes exceptionally good.
To visit Gravetye (restaurant or hotel) make sure you book well in advance.
Gravetye Manor, Vowels Ln, West Hoathly RH19 4LJ Phone: 01342 810567
Parking – easy
Next on my list is Jeremy’s Restaurant in Borde Hill Gardens just outside Haywards Heath. This too is a marvellous restaurant set in beautiful gardens. The terrace is the place to be if it’s warm and they have outdoor heaters if it gets a little chilly.
The restaurant itself is beautifully designed and a pleasure to eat in when it’s not warm enough (or dry enough outside) and the tables aren’t too close together. Jeremy’s is always booked up so reserve a table well in advance and have a date or two to suggest – they also cater for weddings and parties.
The food here is superb. Alongside the a la Carte menu they have an extremely well priced set menu at £29 for three courses – this is a real steal and one of the reasons why the restaurant is so popular. The dishes are fresh, tasty and prettily prepared. Make sure this is one of your stops if you’re going to Sussex.
Jeremy’s Borde Hill Gardens - 01444 441102
Borde Hill, Borde Hill Gardens, Haywards Heath, West Sussex. RH16 1XP
Parking – easy
The Dorset Arms, Withyham is my next Sussex restaurant, although it’s really a gastropub. To me there are gastropubs and gastropubs, some which stand out via great food and excellent service and others which just don’t make the grade. Having had several excellent lunches at The Dorset Arms (before a long walk through the Buckhurst Estate) I visited it for dinner.
This is simple really well prepared food, very fresh, and the service is excellent and very friendly. Try the chicken and avocado salad for lunch, it’s delicious. Or the sea bass with salsa verde, the menu includes some pub classics but mainly modern European fare and there’s definitely something for everyone.
There are some pretty and reasonable rooms next door to The Dorset Arms and for any of this, as usual you need to book.
The Dorset Arms, Buckhurst Park, Withyham, Hartfield TN7 4BD. Phone: 01892 770278. Parking – mostly easy.
On to The Cat Inn, West Hoathly another pub/gastropub/restaurant that has become a real favourite both for lunch and for dinner and again a great place to start a hike on the Downs.
There’s a wide choice of delicious sounding dishes on the menu plus the daily specials. If they have it try the calamari and crayfish salad, totally delish and don’t miss the ice cream for dessert. Be prepared for The Cat to be very busy, book ahead and expect to be surrounded by a lot of noise. If you can put up with that then this may well be your place.
The Cat Inn also has some pretty country style rooms with bathrooms.
The Cat Inn - North Ln, West Hoathly RH19 4PP. Phone: 01342 810369
Parking – can be tricky if it’s a popular time so try and go early or late
Any trip to this area needs to include a visit to The Griffin Inn in Fletching. It has to be the most popular and well known of the gastropubs, with a large garden for pub food, a restaurant terrace, the restaurant itself and a large bar area.
Come on a sunny weekend lunchtime and you’ll be competing for a table in the garden – they have a superb barbeque right through the summer and you can choose from tuna, sea bass, sardines and various meat options to which are added salads and potatoes.
The food here is very good, I would say there is just one menu which appears to be more aimed at lunch (lots of salads) than dinner. But it is all excellent. The Griffin also has some lovely bedrooms so if you stay there you won’t have to go far after dinner….
The Griffin Inn, High St. Fletching, TN22 3SS. 01825 722890
Parking - can be tricky if it’s a popular time so try and go early or late particularly at lunchtime and at weekends.
Note: I have never had a meal at any of these restaurants that has been anything other than delicious, they were all excellent and I’ll be going back. I would say that at very busy times you may have to wait a little longer for service. I would also note that at the gastropubs if you order fish such as sole or plaice you’ll be filleting it yourself – just so you know.