Marta escapes the city for dinner at one of Sussex's finest country pubs - The Sloop Inn.

Spring is in the air and our night out was a lovely sunny evening, I was very excited about leaving the city for a countryside drive. That is what I treasure about Brighton & Hove – we are spitting distance from countryside, the South Downs National Park, and the sea. 

Road surrounded by trees en route to The Sloop Inn pub

With bluebells out on route and a pheasant walking in the road to greet us along the picturesque country lane, the pub felt rural but it's so close to Haywards Heath it was easy to find in the evening. We spotted a sign for a walking path on arrival so next time we'll visit in the daytime and investigate where that leads too. 

Arriving at The Sloop Inn, I loved the sign noting it calls itself a “genuine” free house.  Authentic and local is what many people are seeking these days. The red tile building, wooden beams and cosy, rustic atmosphere of the little booth with stain glass window where we sat, made it certainly feel that.

Beer gardens at The Sloop Inn pub

Sloop means old boat so we guessed the pub must have been on water at some point in its history, an old canal connected to the river Ouse. For those visiting from further afield there is a B&B close by, handy if you've spotted a path you want to explore. And the pub has plenty of outdoor seating if you want to enjoy a summer’s day eating al fresco. Dogs are welcome too. But I am digressing…

We received a warm welcome and were seated, the bottled water arriving promptly (I hate having to ask for it). There were some local ales and beers on offer as you would hope, with some great names such as “Only with Love” beer.

We were given time to relax and decide what we wanted to order, we only had to sit back discreetly for the waitress to wander over, the service was excellent throughout our visit. Now on to the food and the pickled mackerel was immediately my choice. My Slav routes mean I eat many herrings, but this was less sharp and easier on the palate, still full of flavour– the waitress said it is so popular that it has now appeared on the set daytime menu too.

Starter at The Sloop Inn pub

The smoked duck mixed smooth pâté and crunchy toast textures. Apologies if I am sounding like I am trying to present MasterChef but it combined flavours the right way – the hint of sharp pickled fennel and capers didn't overpower the smooth duck pate, the balance was just right.

Next came the lamb - oh my word - amazing. Good heavens. Crisp on the outside and inside was cooked medium rare to perfection. The website states the head chef has held a Michelin star for 12 years. We were not surprised. The head chef wasn’t on duty, but he has obviously taught the other chef well!

Roast Lamb at The Sloop Inn pub

I am usually reluctant to order chicken as it is not often exciting but this time I was curious to see what could be done with it and luckily this was the right decision. The chicken skin crisp served with the succulent chicken ballotine tastes like a light pork crackling - so clever. The creamy sauce and cabbage with sauté potatoes marry the dish perfectly. Delicious sums it up.

The velvet, sweet red cabbage accompanied the lamb melting in my mouth. Curried parsnips with caramelised almonds are an extra cheeky addition - just creative with a little spice but still roasted. A welcome addition. I was bowled over by the lamb. Wonderful!

Dishes at The Sloop Inn pub

With an array of desserts to choose from - big to mini ones, we were spoilt for choice and even though we were full to the brim we simply had to try something. The salted caramel fudge is perfect with an espresso. Homemade makes such a difference. The chunky hazelnuts and dark chocolate brownie with honeycomb were like a new take on a Crunchie – with raspberry sorbet cutting through it, it was less heavy than how a standard rich one can be, focusing on flavour instead – same for the light, sharp, fruit, super tangy crumble. Dessert was also very aesthetically pleasing.

Dessert at The Sloop Inn pub

By the time we came out, there were fairy lights in the trees outside. These little touches just add to making you feel at home at The Sloop. It’s at times like this I think - well someone must do this job. And I’m glad it’s me. Thank you to The Sloop Inn. You’re making us proud to be in Sussex … watch out Brighton 😉



The Sloop Inn
The Sloop Inn

The Sloop Inn is an idyllic cosy country pub nestled deep in the Ouse Valley near The Bluebell Railway.



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