Model Jodie Kidd talks about her new pub in Kirdford, Sussex, and how Celebrity MasterChef inspired her
You never know where life is going to take you and this certainly has been the case for fashion model, racing car driver and television personality Jodie Kidd.
“I had absolutely no dreams to own a pub when I was a little girl,” she admits. “I wanted to become a showjumper not a landlady.
“But everything slotted into place and it has been the best decision of my life. I love my team and what we have created here.”
The decision she is talking about is buying The Half Moon in Kirdford, just outside Wisborough Green, and transforming it into a charming country pub.
Having lived in the area all her life, Jodie says she felt passionately about ensuring the Grade II listed pub remained at the heart of the community.
But it was not just her love for a good country pub that inspired this new venture, but her success on Celebrity MasterChef back in 2014 which saw her reach the finals.
She admits: “It really ignited my love of food.”
With this comment in mind I should not have been so surprised when she came out of the kitchen with her hair tied back, an apron wrapped around her waist and her announcement she was busy making onion bhajis for a curry night that she was running at the pub that night. (To note, this curry club takes place every third Tuesday and is usually a sell out).
If I thought Jodie would be a landlady just in name then this proved me wrong. In fact, the manager Ed Nelson revealed that if she is not cooking in the kitchen – or on fashion shoots or away doing charity work – Jodie can usually be found behind the bar pulling pints.
“It is not a vanity project, it is from the heart,” she says. “I am trying to give something back and trying to support the locals and our beautiful countryside.”
The transformation of The Half Moon has certainly been a family affair, with Jodie’s mum Wendy helping plant up the picturesque gardens at the front and back as well as the vegetable patch – where 20 per cent of all the vegetables used come from – and the herb garden – 32 herbs used in both the drinks and food.
Jodie’s dad Johnny has also been a great support, chatting to locals, supporting Jodie in key events, and popping in from day to day.
The beautiful pub itself has plenty of character and history attached to it, with part of the building dating back 600 years.
Inside, the pub has undergone a transformation, helped by Gloucestershire-based interior design company Space. In particular I love the polo-inspired long bench in the restaurant, a nod to one of Jodie’s other passions.
But with its history, as well as its position in the community, comes great responsibility – something Jodie is well aware.
“It is about getting a balance between wanting to produce amazing food, but making it affordable so never alienating our locals and people who come in here everyday,” the 39-year-old explains.
The team has worked hard to achieve the balance between pub and restaurant. In fact, this is very much a pub for locals with an area for dining, rather than a restaurant with a pub attached.
However, the food, which is served Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and Tuesday to Saturday for dinner, is of a very high standard.
Starters range from £7 to £9.50, with main dishes ranging from £9 to £21.
While there I tried the beef consommé, with wild mushrooms and a chestnut ravioli which was a light and enjoyable starter full of flavour.
The intermediate course was made up of big flaky chunks of cod with celeriac, a delicious celeriac puree and roast chicken juices, while for the main I thoroughly enjoyed venison reared at nearby Goodwood Estate, which was served with red berries and vegetables.
However, my favourite course was the dessert (priced between £7-£8) – the apple trifle was superb and I could have eaten this again and again.
Each dish was delicate and beautifully presented and was a testament to the creativity and passion of the chefs working in the kitchen.
Yet it is not just the restaurant food – and the superb range of wines and local ales and bitters – that has had love and attention poured into it, the bar menu is just as exciting.
Bar snacks range from a pork and black pudding scotch egg with brown sauce (£4.50) or pork scratchings with a beer emulsion and burnt apple puree (£4), to simple skin on fries with parmesan and rosemary (£4) or smoked almonds (£2.50).
Sustainability is key as well, with the ingredients used coming from within a 25 mile radius.
While chatting, Jodie reveals she has plenty of plans for the future, including the possibility of converting a barn into rooms for guests to stay in and buying a teepee for the garden to host wedding parties.
But for now she is busy making sure the basic concept is a success. “It is hardwork,” she admits, “and a very difficult industry.”
The pub is still trying to find its niche among its competitors, after all it only opened in July, with the official launch in November. But if the fact special nights, like Jodie’s curry night, are already proving a sell-out, it looks like The Half Moon has an exciting future ahead of it.
The Half Moon is located in Glasshouse Lane, Kirdford, Billingshurst, RH14 0LT. Call 01403 820223 or visit www.halfmoonkirdford.co.uk