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Coleman's Hatch, HARTFIELD, TN7 4EJ
If AA Milne could populate Ashdown Forest with a bear called Winnie the Pooh, a tiger called Tigger and a kangaroo called Kanga, why shouldn't llamas and reindeer live here? Well, they do, on a farm in nearby Wych Cross, not far from this eye-catching old inn at the site of one of the medieval gates into what was then dense woodland with valuable iron and timber reserves. Built around 1430, the part-weatherboarded building may have been cottages for iron workers, although it has been a pub for nearly 300 years, it was no doubt much appreciated by the dry-throated charcoal burners who used to work in these parts, and even passing smugglers. Classic beams and open fires draw an appreciative crowd to sample beers from Fuller's, Larkins and Harvey's, and the food, a fusion of classic and modern, for which during the past 17 years proprietor Nicholas Drillsma and partner Sandy Barton have built an enviable reputation. Their dailychanging menus are complemented by an extensive wine list, including ten by the glass. With plenty of local suppliers to draw on, fresh seasonal produce features in just about everything. Lunchtime mains include beef and chilli meatballs, fettucine and roasted vine tomato sauce; pan-fried skate wing with lime and caper butter; and slow roasted pork belly with apple mash and red wine reduction. A reservation is essential for evening dining where choices may include deep-fried calamari with aļoli or beetroot infused salmon gravadlax followed by wild mushroom, pea and spinach risotto or chargrilled fillet steak. Finish with dark rum and vanilla pannacotta with pecan shortbread, or pear tart Tatin with clotted cream.
Harvey's & Sussex Old Ale, Fuller's London Pride, Sharp's Doom Bar, Larkins
11.30-3 5.30-11 (Sat-Sun all day)
25 Dec drinks only
Children's play area.