An Inspector Calls… at the Cat Inn in West Sussex, which charms with ‘wonky ceilings’, a candle on the dresser and ‘stupendous confit duck’
- The Cat Inn, in the West Sussex village of West Hoathly, has four rooms
- The Inspector says it’s the food that brings people from miles away
- He described his breakfast as ‘perfect’, with ‘everything you could possibly want’
Cosy: By the fireside at the Cat Inn
Let’s start with breakfast — because it’s perfect at the Cat Inn, in the pretty West Sussex village of West Hoathly.
Rather than one big buffet shared by all, each table is laden with its own, with everything you could possibly want.
Mine has a decanter of fresh orange juice, bowls of muesli, cornflakes, prunes, apricots and a selection of berries at one end; creamy Greek yoghurt, pots of jam, honey and home-made butter at the other.
All impossible to resist, and that’s before owner Andrew Russell pops up to ask what sort of cooked breakfast might be of interest. No need to bother with a menu, as he drops into the conversation, ‘eggs, bacon, mushroom, smoked salmon…’
Ten years ago, Andrew was the manager at nearby posh Gravetye Manor, which has a Michelin star and rooms starting at £295 b&b. Here, the food is just as good, albeit nothing like as fussy, and a room is as little as £105.
The building dates back to 1450 and is opposite the church, from where you can see Brighton on a clear day over the South Downs. It has never been anything other than an alehouse and has two open fires, wonky ceilings, sloping floors, nooks and crannies.
I had taken a taxi from Three Bridges the night before but was £5 short, so had to borrow a fiver from the chirpy woman behind the bar, who handed it over as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
There are four rooms. Mine is across from the churchyard and no expense has been spared on the essentials: duvet, sheets, pillows, towels. Get those right and you’re halfway there.
There are four rooms at the Cat Inn and the Inspector said his was across from the churchyard
Beside the comfortable bed is a pile of books. There are no dimmer switches but, thoughtfully, a candle and box of matches sits on the dresser.
Locals drink here but it’s the food that brings people from miles away, with no fewer than eight chefs working rotas, led by the talented Alex Jacquemin.
I start with a stupendous confit duck, crispy egg and field mushroom salad before moving on to the seabass with creamed leeks, mussels and butternut squash. Superb.
A taxi has been ordered for 8.30am but it doesn’t turn up. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take you,’ says Andrew. And he does. The Cat Inn sets the standard when it comes to pubs with rooms; its owner for generous hospitality.
The Cat Inn, North Lane, West Hoathly, West Sussex, RH19 4PP.
Double rooms start from £130 and singles from £105, both on a B&B basis. For more information call 01342 810369.