Anglesey Arms ticks all the boxes… but could add more ‘Sussex’

A few weeks ago my sister and I wanted to spend a day with our parents in the South Downs.

Who knew trying to get a Sunday lunch in West Sussex was going to be so tricky? I’ll also add who knew you had to get a second mortgage to visit local tourist attractions, but that’s a whole different story.

Anyway, we had to try to book online or call a dozen pubs and they were all full. I dare say it still has something to do with the lack of staff in many hotel businesses, but it was an eye opener for me.

Just before the desperation set in, luckily we finally came across Anglesey Arms on the Goodwood estate.

This is a perfectly formed mid to late Georgian coaching inn about a mile from the Goodwood Farm Shop.

Clearly a lot of love has been put into a recent refurbishment, keeping the original ceiling beams and herringbone flooring alongside the obligatory roaring fire, tasteful antiques and paintings of the aristocratic families associated with the wider area. All very comfortable and atmospheric without being too twee – luckily I didn’t spot any county horse brass.

The bar is a cozy space with a larger dining area to the side. To the rear there is about a decent acre of garden with plenty of benches and an open marquee for rainy days.

Even on a sunny but cool day in early April, the garden was teeming with couples and families and a rather spoiled Labrador retriever was getting treats from his owner’s plate.

There’s a good choice of starters and bar snacks – ranging from pub grub like the scotch egg with piccalilli and crispy pork belly bites, aka pork scratchings, to entrees inspired by international cuisines like arancini, croquettas, padron peppers and southern fried chicken and shrimp. Prices range from £5 to £9.50.

It was good to see that alongside the range of roasts – beef, lamb, pork or vegetable wellingtons – there were a few other lighter choices including seared trout with garlic prawns and risotto with asparagus and peas for those days when a big piece of meat doesn’t float your boat.

Since I don’t particularly cook roasts at home, I opted for the pork belly with apples.

It was a fairly hearty portion of melt-in-your-mouth pork, although the skin could have been a bit crispier. There were plenty of sharing bowls of vegetables for the table – green beans, carrots, roasted parsnips and red cabbage – made all the more flavorful by hits of butter.

A slight whine here would be that the Yorkshire pudding only came with the beef. These days you can be sure that anyone ordering a Sunday roast wants a pudding with it, so a bit naughty to charge £3.50 for one – it’s just simple dough after all. But I would say the roasts were good value at 15-18 pounds.

The chef definitely knows his stuff. Although there is nothing particularly overwhelming in terms of creativity, the dishes are well balanced and thoughtful and a great deal of care is taken in the plate to ensure they are a feast for the eyes as well as the palace.

Quality products are clearly an important part of the offering. While not particularly local, the beef heralds Aubrey Allen’s acclaimed butchers in Leamington Spa, who source their ingredients from top-tier ranchers. Off the top of my head I can think of at least half a dozen small family farms raising incredible quality meat in West Sussex alone, so it seems like an odd decision if not based on price.

There weren’t really many Sussex beers at the pump, with the only local wine on the list being a Bolney Estate sparkling and the closest liquor being a gin from Chapel Down in Kent.

With Sussex being home to over 75 wineries, around 50 breweries, around 20 craft distilleries and a number of traditional and modern style cider makers, it seems like a missed opportunity not to include at least a few local beverage producers.

Service was friendly and fairly quick, but some waiters seemed to be a bit more focused on gossiping in the serving area than staring at diners, but this is a pub that definitely relies on the work of local youngsters . villages therefore a relatively minor detail.

All in all Sunday lunch at the Anglesey Arms was an enjoyable hour or so.

It’s a lovely space – everything you’d expect from a country pub – and the food ticked all the relevant boxes.

I think the shame is that it would be a decent pub if picked up and dropped off anywhere in the country. It would be good to fill the plates and glasses with a little more Sussex.

Nick Mosley

l Anglesey Arms, Halnaker, Chichester, 01243 699644, www.theangleseyarms.com

Martin E. Berry