REVIEW: White Horse at Chilgrove gallops to first place
From the row of neatly upturned Wellington boots to the array of hand made walking sticks, you know from the moment you cross the threshold of The White Horse that this is a true country pub.
The beautifully stacked wood logs by the rear entrance and the idle scattering of dogs' drinking bowls merely emphasize the point that the rural wonder of the South Downs is encapsulated here.
As you settle into the historic pub and its glorious seasoned dining rooms more clues abound.
From the hallmark wall hangings and trophies of country pursuits to the chalk board announcing the menu specials of the day - South Downs venison haunch and local pheasant breast - the Chilgrove hostelry is clearly at one with its heritage.
No surprise then that it has scooped Inn of the Year at the John Smith Great British Pub Awards.
The latest accolade for the inn a few miles north of Chichester comes hot on the heels of being awarded ‘Best Pub’ by GQ Food and Drink awards 2015 and ‘West Sussex’s Best Pub’ by the National Pub and Bar Awards 2017.
Easy to assume from all these awards and the overall appearance of The White Horse that it might in some way be the ultimate stereotype of a country pub.
But this is the genuine article with the same capacity to surprise as it does reassure.
Beyond the snug and the bar and the stunning room of mirrors lies the Baron Lafite Private Dining Room. It is an exceptional, breathtaking venue and its very existence helps explain another White Horse secret.
The wine list is a triumph.
It boasts some of the finest red Bordeaux and Burgundy you could ever hope to find in rural Sussex. The prices of some might make you gulp every bit as much as the revered liquid in the bottles - they range up to £2,100.
But the joy of a pub with a list as dazzling as this, is the house wines are superb and utterly affordable ranging from £4.90 a glass to £9.95 for a classy Fleurie.
With such a great selection of wine, an overnight stay is the best way to enjoy it - and the locally sourced food.
The White Horse offers 15 rooms featuring iconic mid-century furnishings exclusive to each room and an eclectic mix of rain showers and hot tubs.
Built out of oak, they resemble a hamlet of rustic workers' cottages and their names take inspiration from the wildlife around - like 'Rabbit'.
It's all about authenticity, quality and rustic chic.
That theme is reflected in the menu.
All of the game and fish is brought to The White Horse by local suppliers and friends - from venison straight from nearby estates such as Goodwood, to Chilgrove wood pigeons and trout from nearby rivers.
The prices aren't out of the way either. Starters range from £5.50 to £8.95; mains are largely priced in the teens starting at £13.95 and peaking at £26.95 for the sirloin steak. Puddings are £6.95 to £8.95.
And the quality is spot on.
Thanks to a team under the fabulous direction of landlady Niki Burr, The White Horse will keep on winning awards.
More importantly, it will continue attracting new friends and admirers as it gallops from one success to another.
We were invited to review The White Horse but the feature was not linked to any advertisement and is independent.