Countryman Lane, SHIPLEY, RH13 8PZ
Alan Vaughan and his family, having run this traditional rural free house for around 30 years, certainly know a thing or two about pleasing their customers. Surrounding the inn is the Knepp Castle Estate, 3,500 acres devoted to nature conservation through regeneration and restoration projects. In the pub's log fire-warmed bar, you'll find cask-conditioned beers from Sussex-brewed Harvey's, as well as ales from smaller microbreweries such as Hurst and Greyhound. Making their way to the kitchen are fish landed at Shoreham and Newhaven, the two closest ports; free-range meats from local farms; game from the Knepp Estate; vegetables and salads grown in the pub's own half-acre garden; and, through a 'swop shop' arrangement with villagers, unusual ingredients such as quince, kohlrabi or romanesco. Surplus garden produce can be purchased in the bar. Choose from six fillings for the Countryman sandwiches made with the day's artisan bread. Starters and light bites include potted crab and prawns with melba toast; and grilled Golden Cross goats' cheese with caramelised fig salad. Classic favourites range from a beef and mushroom pie in shortcrust pastry, served with chips and garden peas; to a bacon, sage and onion roly-poly accompanied by home-grown vegetables and dauphinoise potatoes. Desserts don't disappoint traditionalists either, with the likes of banoffee pie or crème caramel. Children are welcome in the restaurant, although the inn doesn't have a separate play area or family dining room. In the garden, weather permitting, an open-air kitchen serves grills, ploughman's and other snacks. In the pub's own farm shop you can buy free-range eggs and home-made preserves, pickles and relishes.