Mermaid Street, RYE, TN31 7EY
The aura of the smugglers' inn remains at the Mermaid, which is one of the most famous and photographed of England's ancient pubs. This venerable black and white timber-fronted building was a haunt of seafarers from the Cinque Port harbour. Its colourful history is reflected in ships' timbers for beams and huge open fireplaces carved from French stone ballast dredged from Rye harbour. A vast inglenook where the infamous Hawkshurst gang warmed themselves also has a hidden priest hole. British and French-style food is served in the bar, restaurant and under sunshades on the patio. Perhaps choose venison Scotch egg, remoulade and Kent salad; or potted mackerel and toast; followed by steak and kidney pudding, new potatoes, seasonal vegetables and red wine gravy; or sherry braised duck leg with celeriac and mushrooms. Superb wines, local Harvey's beer and comfortable bedrooms complete the package.