Review: The Horse Guards Inn
“Good quality decaf coffee (a rarity) arrived with homemade chocolate fudge. Having declined dessert, I greedily gobbled it. Delicious.”
A couple of months back I reviewed the lovely Leconfield in Petworth. Such a pretty part of our county. I decided I wanted to return and explore the area during the day.
Us Brighton folk can get pretty insular, spoilt as we are with such great bars, restaurants and pubs. But regular readers know how I do like a bit of country pub action. City life needs a bit of balance after all.
My lunch date, the lovely retired CEO of the coast to capital LEP, Ron Crank, is himself a man of good taste when it comes to food and wine. Ron suggested The Horse Guards Inn at Tillington near Petworth. Trusting his judgment, I happily accepted, especially given the opportunity of a bit of post-lunch exploration.
Nestled within the South Downs National Park near the Petworth Estate, the Horse Guards Inn certainly provides a splendid countryside fix. The pub got its name in the 1840s when it became the ‘regular’ of the household cavalry. Unlike the Leconfield, this is a real pub full of character with oak beams, open log fires and plenty of original features.
We were warmly greeted and shown to our table. On a Wednesday at 1pm it was very busy. Clearly this is a popular place.
The menu is divided into ‘light lunch’ items and also the full three-course options, plus a steak section. The menu informs us that the beef is supplied by nearby Rother Valley Organics from cattle that have been allowed to graze ‘on herb rich pastures and then hung for 35 days’. Such detail is clearly a sign of our provenance-obsessed times (rightly so).
The menu is interesting and varied. Hearty pub grub features strongly – BBQ Belly Pork Bap, Slaw and Fries (£8.50), Confit Belly Pork, Cassoulet Beans and Curly Kale (£16.50) mmmm pig.
There are plenty of modern twists like the South Coast Fishcake livened up with Kachumber Salad and Curry Mayonnaise, or the Lamb Merguez Burger. A clear European and global influence appears throughout the menu; gnocchi, crab, chilli, parsley and garlic butter and the enticing sounding Italian-Style Sweet and Sour Duck Leg with Raisins, Almonds, Chocolate, Polenta and Greens. This all suggests a confident and adventurous chef. Not always a good thing.
The proof will be in the eating.
To start Ron and I both ordered Smoked South Downs Pigeon Breast, Beetroot, Celeriac and Spelt Salad, Parsnip Crisp with Walnut Dressing (£7). I absolutely loved this. The celeriac had been shredded and combined with nutty spelt grains, but wasn’t overdone – more of a garnish than being too central. The walnut dressing working well with the nutty spelt and earthy celeriac. The beetroot – thinly shaved discs at the base – added a pleasing sweet yet earthy note. The parsnip crisp provided texture and sweetness.
This was so good it would have worked well on its own, but was made immeasurably more hearty by the addition of the smoked pigeon breast, rich and dark and thankfully not over-smoked (as is so often the case).
For the main course, I went for John Dory fillet, Ratte Potatoes, Romesco Sauce, Seaweed and Smoked Sussex Gold (a rapeseed oil). Ron chose the aforementioned Italian-Style Duck Leg.
My fish was almost perfectly cooked (though it lacked a crisp skin). The Romesco (a Catalan sauce made predominantly from nuts – usually almonds and red pepper) added a welcome richness to what was a light but satisfying dish. My only complaint, other than the skin, was that the portion of fish was tiny. Like half a fillet. Strange. Maybe they were running out. Ron’s Italian-Style Duck was a beautiful plate of food. Generous, hearty, rich but well-balanced, with the duck falling off the bone.
I was tempted by dessert. I’m a sucker for rice pudding and it’s rare to see it on a restaurant menu. Here they have a Chilled Afghan Rice Pudding with Rosewater and Pistachio. Of course I spotted the Dark Chocolate Mousse, Amaretti, Cream and Hazelnut Praline.
Because I hadn’t consumed any alcohol (please don’t write in – I’m fine – it’s just that I had the car…) I was able to resist dessert. But should you choose do dine here please do have dessert and let me know what you think.
Good quality decaf coffee (a rarity) arrived with homemade chocolate fudge. Having declined dessert, I greedily gobbled it. Delicious.
We drank sparkling water and off I went exploring the pastoral delights of nearby Petworth, feeling grateful. What a lovely way to spend a day.
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