Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Sussex Country Pub Rediscovered (and Other Culinary Adventures)

It's not unusual for my weekends to revolve entirely around food - i.e. the shopping, planning, cooking and eating of it - but this last one was a particularly gloriously gastronomic few days that warrants a special mention. It all started on Friday evening with a homemade Bill's-inspired salad supper - basically lots of little taster salads piled onto a plate like a chaotic leafy mezze. The different salads I conjured up included: carrot, ginger and sultana; baby spinach, pesto and feta; mini roast potatoes & mayo; blanched cauliflower in a mustard dressing and a handful of stuffed olives. This went down very well with Him Indoors in spite of its healthy nature (he has a Homer Simpson approach to food) and set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

On Saturday, after a visit to Hove Museum, we had lunch at our old favourite the Sanctuary, where I indulged in the marginally less virtuous but arguably still quite healthy nutburger and potato wedges, while Ant was very restrained and had the soup (Sweet Potato I think). Then in the evening, we met up with Steph and Russ, who'd booked us into Bodega for a Tapas dinner. This was somewhere new for us, and made a change from the excellent but always manically busy Casa Don Carlos. The size of a postage stamp and decorated with kitsch bunches of grapes and Spanish memorabilia, this very authentic feeling rustic joint offers equally bona fide homely fayre from which I chose pisto manchego, artichoke salad and olives. It was all very delicious and amazingly good value, especially the house red wine which went down a treat.

After Saturday's free-flowing Rioja and the ensuing cocktails at In Vino Veritas, we were both in need of some hangover-busting sustenance on Sunday. Pub roast called, and the sun was shining, so we ventured out into the country to make the most of both. Our first stop - the famously epicurean Ram at Firle - was absolutely heaving with not a parking space in sight, so we swung across the other side of the A27 to the Lamb at Ripe. The last time we'd been there was for a family birthday celebration five or more years ago, and at the time we were less than impressed. Though I can't remember exactly why it was bad, I seem to recall there being an incident involving Ant and a disappointing fish pie - never a good combination. Well clearly the place is either in new hands these days, or has cleaned up its act, as it turned out to be one of the best Sunday lunches I've had in ages.

The Lamb is a in a lovely spot - right in the middle of the tiny twee village of Ripe and far enough away from the A27 for it to be nice and tranquil in the spacious beer garden out back. Inside it's also pretty roomy, and was amazingly quiet compared to other nearby hostelries like The Ram or the Cricketers, which are invariably packed out at weekends. There was no veggie roast on the board, but the very accommodating and friendly staff were only too happy to knock one up for me - combining the stuffed mushroom starter with the veggies from the roast (carrots, potatoes, swede and red cabbage) - all beautifully presented, and cooked to perfection. Ant had the homemade burger which was apparently also top notch - I can certainly vouch for the accompanying chips. I don't know how long we've been missing out on this now excellent establishment, but I shall certainly be making a point of going back there again soon, and would encourage anyone in the market for a country pub lunch in Sussex to give it a whirl. There's even a nice easy circular walk out the back of the village, ideal for working off the generous portions.

Our weekend culinary spectacular concluded at home with one of my thrown-together pasta dishes (sun dried tomatoes, feta, spinach, broad beans), which I am told was the pièce de ré·sis·tance; I couldn't possibly comment of course.

Links
Google map of my favourite places to eat in Sussex
Country Pub Rant - another pub-related post by me
Sussex Pub Links

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