In Reviews

I was delighted to have been invited to sample a roast at The Jolly Sportsman pub, I felt particularly pleased when I woke up to see it was a bright, sunny day with blue skies. Not only does it put you in a great mood, but I had decided to explore the local countryside afterwards.

To get there, we decided to drive the scenic route out of Brighton. It was a pretty drive on narrow lanes through Ditchling to East Chiltington, but as the staff pointed out, you would want to take the A27 route if icy or very wet instead. After a quick, twenty-minute drive from Brighton alongside magnificent views, it felt like we were miles away in the peaceful countryside of Sussex. After a busy week in the city, this was good for me and worth the small effort made.

On arrival, we had a friendly welcome which is always nice. The pub was cosy with candles lit everywhere and the staff were polite but down to earth.  

The Jolly Sportsman pub near Brighton

Whist we were there, I could hear that all the reservations had been made in advance and the pub was full. Nonetheless, all the staff seemed calm and attentive. It was as if they wanted to be there, especially the proud chef who asked me into his kitchen to look at his roast preparations.  I saw how the cuts of meat were cooked, then smoked in the smoker barrel in the garden and finally finished off over a charcoal grill. Can you put any more love into cooking roast beef or lamb? That is why the meat was as it looks in the photo – delicious. It comes from just down the road by the way, from their local farm.

The Jolly Sportsman pub near Brighton

But before I make you salivate, just to let you know that the staff have realised what to do to keep a family happy. Within minutes of ordering, my son had an apple juice and a colouring sheet with pencils. Not an artificial carton juice drink but a refreshing, tangy, freshly pressed juice. He commented that he felt warm, and the ice was very cooling (living up to being the next potential critic!). His food also arrived first giving him a head start. This is all relevant because it meant I could sort him out with his dinner and wait for mine and eat it hot! Hospitality is all about these small but key details. As for his dinner, he could have chosen from more traditional children’s options but went for the children’s roast. My husband thought the generous portion might put him off but as we all know with young ones, when the food is to up to standard, they seem to eat like an adult and so he cleaned his plate clean including all the vegetables. For a child who does not care for red meat, I was surprised!

The Jolly Sportsman pub near Brighton

Back to my dinner of roast beef. It was evident from its flavour that the beef had been smoked and on the grill. Thank goodness somewhere still serves rare roast beef. In fact, I rarely order a pub roast beef any more for fear of having it overcooked. The gravy, the broth made with the bones from the beef, was full of flavour. My husband commented that his was the best crackling he had ever had with his pork, a good judge as he used to have a pub roast each Sunday in his bachelor days, for many years - that’s many pubs tested. As for the veggies, the carrot had just enough bite and the purple cabbage spiced beautifully. Add to this the mashed squash and the bright dark greens to make a plate full of colour which is so appealing to eat. I would never have given up my beef even if I have cut back on meat but for any vegan or veggie, there was a mushroom nut roast or an artichoke risotto (made veggie or vegan if requested).

The Jolly Sportsman pub near Brighton

Onto dessert which my son could not wait to order. I can’t believe any child would have room at this point for a brownie but it went down a treat. Having said that, I polished off a cardamom crème brûlée with pistachio shortbread without a second thought. The unusual flavour worked as it was not overpowering. The tasty crisp top was as it should be. The shortbread was moreish. The delicate burnt Basque cheesecake with brioche crust was my husband’s choice and he said it was up to scratch. I only like a sharp, tangy continental cheesecake with sultanas that you get in New York, Austria or Poland, for example, so I never choose it as a dessert in the UK. The flavour of the blackberry compote did make you feel as if the berries were picked in the pub’s back garden though. (They probably were!) I forgot to mention the garden where a few people were sitting in the sun. A large terrace and garden overlooking fields makes this an authentic countryside pub.

The Jolly Sportsman pub near Brighton

To be able to move, I needed an espresso. It gave me enough power to walk off the meal on a lovely circuit of the Weald around East Chiltington. I married a former walk leader which is very useful but if that's not your situation then the knowledgeable staff our happy to help plan a route instead. We followed a walk from this useful webiste: With simple steps to follow, you do not need to be an expert. Being a circular, we started the walk from the pub instead of from the station (number 3).  The Weald is scenic, and I enjoyed the walk. For me it is not in the same class as the South Downs but my husband tells me that scenery is a personal choice! You do not get the rolling hills but a flat wooded terrain which can be muddy after rain but clearly this has advantages after a huge roast, with a small child in tow, on a sunny day.

Walk from The Jolly Sportsman pub near Brighton

Having finished our meal by half past one, we walked until early evening. There was no need to move the car as we started from the pub. Now you cannot get more convenient than that. I was tempted to pop back in for a drink at the end of the day, but I probably would not have got in to be honest. Now I know why it was so busy!


Add the The Jolly Sportsman to your #BrightonWishlist


The Jolly Sportsman
Front of Pub

Nestled at the foot of the South Downs National Park, The Jolly Sportsman has been serving some of the best food and wine in Sussex for more than 20 years



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