Divine Dining At The Cat
by Hanna Prince
With its mouth-watering menu and homely atmosphere, the Cat Inn strikes that perfect balance between gourmet haven and cosy country pub, Hanna Prince relished every minute when she recently visited them
It’s a mid-week lunchtime at the Cat Inn in idyllic West Hoathly, and the pub’s stylish restaurant is bustling with contented diners. Delicious smells waft from plates piled high with golden puff pastry pies, buttered vegetables and perfectly cooked chips. In the snug 16th century bar area, walkers with their dogs in tow linger over pints of real ale and locals warm themselves around an inglenook fireplace. Even before we’ve sampled the food, it’s easy to see why this multi-award-winning inn has built up such a stellar reputation both locally and further afield.
“We serve good, flavoursome food of a very high standard, but this isn’t a restaurant – we’re still a traditional country pub,” explains owner Andrew Russell. Browsing the menu, I can see what he means. It’s the ideal mix of traditional comfort food (think Harveys beer-battered fish and chips, prime aged beef burger and scrumptious sounding pies) and more adventurous fare.
I order the Heritage Beetroot Salad to start, which blends goats’ curd, apple and hazelnut in a deliciously delicate, melt- in-the-mouth combination. Guy, my husband, opts for the Squid Salad with chorizo, apple and sweet chilli from the inventive and well-stocked special menu. He’s blown away by the zesty flavours and the perfectly cooked seafood.
For our mains, we decide to sample both a traditional Cat Inn speciality and a creative combo from the pub’s talented Head Chef Alex Jacquemin. Guy goes for the Steak, Mushroom and Ale pie, which comes with a decorative plait of mashed potato. I have Wild Skate Wing, bought in fresh that day. Its subtle flavour is wonderfully set off by a lemony caper sauce and crushed Ratte potatoes.
The quality and freshness of the ingredients shines through in every dish we have. My beetroot was picked freshly that morning at nearby Courtlands Nursery, the pastry in Guy’s pie was made in-house and the meat is delivered daily by a local butcher. Even the clotted cream ice cream that accompanies my Spiced Ginger Cake dessert is made in the pub kitchens – and it shows.
“This is the best pudding I’ve ever eaten,” I tell Andrew gratefully, as Guy tucks into an almost equally delicious Spiced Victoria Plum and Apple Nut Crumble.
It comes as no surprise to learn that the Cat’s spot-on combination of delectable food and olde-worlde country pub charm has wowed reviewers. It’s the only pub in West Sussex to have been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand for good quality, good value cooking. Together with the comfortable rooms and tranquil setting have also earned a glowing review in the Good Hotel Guide, making The Cat a destination well worth a visit.
The Cat Inn
Address: Queen’s Square, West Hoathly, West Sussex RH19 4PP
Telephone: 01342 810369