It’s not often that you visit a true country pub - and get a real sense of the sea while you are there.
But the magnificent White Horse at Chilgrove has managed to combine the two.
Sussex by the Sea really comes to life at the historic pub nestling in the downs just north of Chichester.
On the one hand, its ethos of Forest to Fork invites you to kick off your wellies, sink into one of their leather chairs and enjoy a taste of the great English countryside.
It rightly boasts a true country dining pub - with the freshest local produce sourced directly from the woodlands, farms and country estates that surround it.
From exquisite venison, straight from the hunt and prepared on site, to the Chilgrove wood pigeons, rabbits and trout, plucked from nearby rivers and fields that morning, the pub’s owners say visitors can be sure that every dish we prepare has its roots in the beautiful South Downs.
But so close to the sea, the White Horse has also found a hugely innovative way to capture the flavour from the local waters too.
In its Citroen Garden, they have unveiled their new Nyetimber Lobster Van, so that you can enjoy a touch of indulgence as you watch the sun sinking over the South Downs.
It’s there Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm-6pm and it doesn’t just serve any fish and chips.
The van offers Selsey lobster and crab with frites and prawn sandwiches.
And the relationship with Nyetimber and its award-winning English sparkling wines shows just how committed the White Horse is to supporting the very best local produce.
Not that the wine list is confined to local vineyards.
On the contrary, it has a cellar that top restaurants would view with envy - with a mix of some of the world’s most coveted labels to some surprising originals too.
Many are served by the glass as well as the bottle, like the simply amazingly rich and velvety Synchronicity from South Africa.
The pub has been lovingly restored and moves seamlessly through a number of areas which merge its historic architecture to quirky, contemporary design.
Cosy up in The Snug, unwind with a coffee and paper in The Sanctuary, eat in the amazing room of mirrors, or host a private dinner party in the Baron Lafite room.
The food is extraordinarily good.
To start we shared a grazing board, choosing three dishes for £12.50 - honey glazed chipolatas, home-cured gravadlax, and the gazpacho.
For mains it was roast duck breast and roast rump of lamb. We chose both to be served pink.
The vegetables avoided the normal combinations and felt light and healthy. Sweet potatoes, warm salad of pak choi, sugar snap peas, cashew nuts, Moroccan spiced cous cous, wilted spinach, and aubergine puree were perfectly presented.
The two mains were priced at £19.95 and £20.95.
There was a mix-up on the desserts. We had ordered the chef’s special deconstructed watermelon cheesecake and were served by mistake the white chocolate parfait. Well, it wouldn’t be a country pub if it was perfect, would it?
But service was excellent.
Emily, the assistant manager, looked after us and we were really impressed by both Faith - who told us she was somewhat nervously awaiting her A level results - and bar manager Ollie, who went out of his way to be politely helpful.
I have visited the White Horse over many reincarnations. But in its current form - for food, service, and a truly unique sense of country style - it has never been bettered.
The White Horse, 1 High Street, Chilgrove Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 9HX
01243 519 444
Daily 11am to midnight