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Woodies featured in a "Half Price Dining" deal which was advertised on my local radio station, Spirit FM, just before Christmas. The deal was for a £30 voucher to spend on both food and drink for the paltry sum of £15. As Woodies is a bit of an institution in Chichester, not surprisingly the deal was snapped up very quickly and sold out within days.
Woodies have been trading in Chichester since 1972 and it's the sort of place everyone knows. Woodies used to be known as "Woodies Wine Bar", but I noticed that the name has now been changed to "Woodies Bar and Brasserie" to make it more new millennium I guess. Wine Bars (and Bistros) give off a 70's and 80's vibe whereas Brasserie is a shade more continental and à la mode :o)
Evidently Woodies was closed due to a fire in the kitchen last summer and it only reopened its doors in early December last year. The last time I ate there was back in 1998 so I was keen to make a return visit to a previously favoured haunt.
~*~ WEIGHING IN ON WOODIES ~*~
Woodies is slap bang on the side of one of busiest main roads leading out of Chichester. It's on St Pancras so it's very near to the bottom of East Street and Eastgate Square where you can find both Brasserie Blanc and Carluccios. There is no parking to be had outside Woodies so diners need to leave their vehicles in a nearby pay and display car park, either the big Cattle Market one in Market Avenue or the smaller one at New Park Road (lunchers will have to pay, but they're both free to park in after 6pm).
Woodies is located inside a mismatched pair of quaint looking period buildings. On side is the brasserie/restaurant and next door is the bar. Both buildings look rather small and pokey from the outside as so many period buildings can. However, inside the place is rather large and has a surprising depth of space. The décor to the front of Woodies is rather dark and cosy. It's definitely a venue for a quiet romantic table for two. However, towards the back of the venue there's a huge conservatory which really opens the place up and it's much lighter and brighter.
It was a Tuesday evening when we dined there, and the restaurant was rather quiet, probably about 30% to 40% capacity at the most. We had rung and booked a table only an hour or so before we went so we weren't expecting it to be particularly busy...otherwise they wouldn't have been able to accommodate us at such short notice! We were given a warm welcome by the owner and shown to a roomy table for four in the centre of the conservatory. As there was just the two of us dining we were able to spread ourselves out and make ourselves at home.
~*~ THE MENU ~*~
Woodies offers typical brasserie dishes with no particular allegiance to any one country or cuisine. There's a good mix of traditional English dishes mixed in with a little bit of a Pan-Asian and topped off with a European accented flourish. So in essence, something for everyone.
Starters at Woodies all cost around the £5.50 to £6.00 mark. None of the starters are what you would call traditional - they're all fairly innovative sounding dishes. So there's no Pâté and Toast here but you might like to try the Guinea Fowl, Prune and Pistachio Galantine with Beetroot Relish and Truffle Oil. Similarly a simple dish like Moules Marinière is upgraded to Mussel, Lentil and Tomato Broth served with Lemon Dumplings. If you like the sound of the starters more than the main courses at Woodies, many of the starters are also offered as main course options too at a slightly higher price.
Main courses range in price from £11.50 up to £16.00. Sadly there is no steak on the menu at Woodies but there are plenty of other dishes to choose from such as Breast of Free Range Chicken, Peanut Butter, Sweet Cure Bacon and Sweetcorn Pancakes or Braised Funtington Belly of Pork, Black Pudding Mash and Spiced Pear Chutney. There are also a couple of daily specials that change regularly. On the night we dined there we could have had either Stone Bass or a Cod dish as well as all the regular menu dishes. The desserts here are all priced at either £5.50 or £6.00. I was tempted by the interesting sounding Iced Peanut Butter Parfait, Warm Banana Bread and Sauce Anglaise, but went for something different in the end.
Although we had dinner there it's worth mentioning the excellent lunchtime offer at Woodies. They offer a great value deal of two courses at £14.00 or three courses at £17.00 and that includes a glass of wine or bottle of beer. The dishes on offer at lunchtime are the same as those on the dinner menu so I imagine they reduce the portions a little bit at lunchtime as it really is a fantastic deal.
~*~ DINNER FOR TWO ~*~
Whilst we were perusing the menu, we were bought a full carafe of chilled tap water and complimentary dish of honey marinated olives - both of which were a nice touch.
My partner chose Honey Cured Salmon served with Orange, Dill and Pea Shoot Salad (£6.00). This dish was beautifully presented on a slab of grey slate and was a delightful picture of greens, pinks and oranges. The salmon was served raw but thinly sliced and well marinated in honey and spices. He did enjoy the dish but found it overly sweet and I had to agree when I tried a slither. The combination of honey and oranges just made the salmon and accompanying salad a little too sugary. We both would have preferred a touch or lemon or lime in the dish just to give it a hint of acidity rather than 100% sweetness. Nonetheless it was a delightful presentation and a rather interesting starter.
I chose Crispy Filo Prawns served with Lime and Ginger Aioli (£6.00) which was a generous portion of five king prawns wrapped in filo pastry and deep fried. The prawns were very tasty indeed with crispy filo pastry to the outside and I really enjoyed them. I wasn't so impressed with the lime and ginger aioli as it was far too sweet. Traditionally Aioli is supposed to be a traditional Provençal mayonnaise-like sauce made of garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. In the Woodies version the overwhelming flavour was of lime and nothing else. I think they should up the ginger and garlic here.
For my main course I had no hesitation in ordering the Crab and Prawn Thai Style Fishcakes with Coriander Hollandaise (£12.00) which sounded wonderful. I was duly served three enormous dome shaped patties liberally coated in breadcrumbs. I was expecting two fishcakes at the most so to receive three was more than generous and I rather struggled to finish them. The shape of the fishcakes immediately confirmed they were homemade as they were rather lumpy and misshapen. That's not a criticism - as a homemade lumpy fishcake wins hands-down over a perfectly rounded defrosted disc. Inside the fishcakes were stuffed full of crabmeat but rather sparse of prawns. As the menu described them as Thai style fishcakes I thought the crab and prawns would be speckled with Thai spices such as chilli, lemongrass or coriander but they were more fishy than spicy. However, the fishcakes were presented on a good dollop of Hollandaise sauce and that had been flecked with coriander so perhaps that the nod in the direction of Thai flavouring. The dish was finished off with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and some flat leaf parsley. I did enjoy my fishcakes but would personally have preferred less crab, more prawns and some Thai spices mixed in with the seafood. All dishes at Woodies are served with either fries/new potatoes OR seasonal vegetables/mixed salad. I chose a mixed salad with my fishcakes and it was a nice mixture of cucumber, tomato, salad leaves and red onion. I was offered a jug of vinaigrette to drizzle over the top.
For his main course, my partner chose Slow Cooked Shoulder of English Lamb, Braised Cabbage and Chestnuts with Onion Jus (£16.00). He received two very generous noisettes of lamb which were liberally sprinkled with roasted chestnuts and sitting in a pool of rich gravy. To the middle of the plate was a parcel of Savoy cabbage which was filled with more cabbage and chestnuts. He thoroughly enjoyed this dish and pronounced it delicious. He normally avoids lamb as it can be so fatty, but he thought they'd cooked this to perfection, and he certainly wasn't expecting two such large pieces of lamb on his plate. Himself had chosen Fries with his lamb, but the owner made a mistake with the order and brought me vegetables instead of the side salad I'd chosen. He realised his mistake as soon as he plonked the vegetables on the table (and without us saying anything). He immediately went off to get me a side salad and rather generously left the vegetables with us anyway. The mixed vegetables were served nicely al dente and comprised of carrots, French beans, courgettes and suede. One criticism that we both had of our main courses were that they were not really served piping hot. My fishcakes were very tepid in the centre, and my partner thought his lamb could have been served a little warmer.
Despite the over generous portions on our main courses, we both decided to try and squeeze in a dessert after a short break. I went for the daily special of Warm Marmalade Sponge served with Vanilla Ice Cream and Crème Anglaise (£5.00). If we thought our main course temperatures were rather tepid, there was no such complaint with this dish. The marmalade on top of the sponge was like molten lava! The sponge under the marmalade topping was lovely and light and I thoroughly enjoyed this dish once the lava had cooled down. It was served with a good dollop of ice-cream, a strawberry and a Chinese gooseberry for decoration. I didn't think that the Crème Anglaise / custard added anything to the dish as it was a drizzle rather than a proper sauce, but the ice-cream was very nice.
My partner had a portion of Warm Marbled Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Vanilla Ice Cream, and White Chocolate Sauce (£6.00). The brownie was served warm and also with vanilla ice-cream. The white chocolate sauce was more for decoration than an actual sauce, but the dish was very nice nonetheless. We rounded our desserts off with a cup of cappuccino apiece at £2.20 each.
~*~ DRINKS, SERVICE & EVERYTHING ELSE ~*~
My partner was delighted to find draught lager on the menu at Woodies so he didn't have to lash out for expensive bottled beers. Here they serve draught Coors at £3.30 a pint. I stuck to the chilled tap water they served us when we arrived as it was perfectly acceptable and I was driving. As there is a full stocked bar in the building next door to the restaurant, there is plenty on the drinks menu as well as food menu at Woodies. As well as an extensive wine list, they also do a full range of cocktails.
The service was most attentive and very friendly throughout the night. Evidently Woodies is owned and run by two brothers - one of them being the head chef and the other the front of house manager. We were served several times throughout the evening by the front of house brother as well as a young girl, and they were both very attentive and on the ball.
It has to be said, sadly, that the smell is the only thing that let Woodies down. As you enter the restaurant from the St Pancras side there is a distinct whiff of toilets which is fairly off-putting. I have no idea where this whiff comes from as neither the ladies nor the gents were smelly when we visited them. Both were clean, well stocked and fragrant. Perhaps there is cess pit or septic tank under the floorboards near the entrance and that is what is giving off the nasty niff. It's worth bearing in mind that if you enter the venue via the conservatory on the New Park Road side then you will avoid that pungent pong. And talking of toilets, both of them involve steps (the ladies is upstairs and the gents downstairs), so that's worth bearing in mind if you are visiting with a wheelchair user or somebody with mobility problems.
Our bill came to £28.70 once our £30 Spirit FM discount voucher had been applied and we left a £6 tip. At full price we would have paid around £60 for our meal, and it was definitely worth it. The portions were generous, the food delicious and the service spot on.
~*~ RECOMMENDED? ~*~
This was a return trip to Woodies after an absence of some 15 years and we most definitely won't leave it so long next time. The service was very friendly and the atmosphere relaxed. We both enjoyed our dinner immensely, the portions were generous and the prices reasonable.
The only negative thing to reiterate is the unpleasant waft of toilets, but it's certainly not a deal breaker. Just avoid the St Pancras road side entrance and go into Woodies via the conservatory entrance at the back (New Park Road) and you just won't notice it.
Woodies gets five stars from me despite the stinky sewers. The food was delicious, the menu innovative and the service warm and friendly. Woodies comes highly recommended and is definitely worth a visit.
~*~ FURTHER DETAILS ~*~
Woodies Brasserie and Bar
10-13 St Pancras
* Open six days a week - Monday to Saturday.
* Lunch is served from 12pm to 2pm six days a week (closed on Sundays)
* Dinner is served from 5.45pm to 9.30pm (Monday to Wednesday) and from 5.45pm to 10.30pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights (closed on Sundays)
* The restaurant has no private parking, but there are two pay and display car parks nearby - one in Market Avenue and another smaller one off New Park Road (NB: parking charges do not apply after 6pm)
* Dress code is most definitely relaxed and informal
For the last couple of years my partner and I had been "making do" with a kettle he'd purchased in Tesco for £2. A bargain, I hear you cry...and it certainly was in the beginning. Several years use had seen the white plastic of the kettle turn an unattractive yellowy colour and it also leaked like a sieve every time it boiled. It was time for a replacement before one or other of us managed to scald ourselves.
I decided I wanted a black and chrome kettle to match all the other gadgets in our kitchen, and so the search commenced. I dislike metal kettles as they tend to take ages to break-in and not make one's tea taste "funny". When I say "funny" I mean they give the boiled water a sort of TCP taste, which just doesn't sit well with a freshly brewed PG Tip. Therefore my new kettle had to be made of plastic, as I know from experience I can rid a new plastic appliance of its revolting medicinal tasting boiled water very quickly.
My partner spotted a very nice looking plastic kettle in Homebase and came home and told me to look on their website under the Russell Hobbs range. Several minutes of searching revealed several likely suspects, but not the actual kettle he was banging on about. He then changed his mind and decided that the kettle he had seen was actually from the Morphy Richards range. Once he'd finally decided on the correct brand it was much easier to find it on the Homebase website. On the plus side it was a very nice looking kettle and I was sold. However, the downside was that Homebase wanted nearly £40 for it which seemed a little rich for a plastic kettle no matter how nice it looked. I herded on over to Amazon as per usual and found the same kettle for £26.97 inclusive of delivery. This was a much better deal so I snapped one up.
*** THE KETTLE ***
The model we chose was from the Morphy Richards Accents range and its official moniker is the Morphy Richards Accents Black Jug Kettle (model number 43173). I didn't have any particular requirements of my kettle other than it should be made of plastic and that it was black in colour with chrome accents. I was drawn to this model as it not only matched all my other kitchen gadgets but it's rather stylish looking with a pleasant curved lid to the top.
This model holds 1.7 litres of water, but it's still fairly lightweight to lift and pour, weighing in at just over 1.5 kilos. Although the kettle holds a good amount of water, it doesn't look as massive as some jug kettles you see in the shops. I think this is because the kettle is quite squat and wide rather than tall and thin like some other models.
It has a good sized easy grip plastic handle and a nice study base to sit on. It's powered by a 3kw element so it takes less than two minutes to boil enough water for two cups of tea. However, this kettle is capable of boiling enough water for 8 mugs of tea should you so wish...it will just take it a little longer to boil.
There's a handy and easily visible water gauge on both sides of this kettle which has a marker showing where to add the water for anything from 1 to 8 cups of tea or coffee. This is ideal if you are trying to save money and boil just enough water for one or two cups of tea.
The kettle sits snugly on the 360 degree round base when not in use. It all feels nice and solid so you can feel confident nothing is going to tip over and spill when the kettle begins to boil. You can place the kettle anywhere on the base and switch it on. There is also a cord storage facility under the base if you don't want a long electrical cord trailing across your work-tops.
There's a silver knob at the top of the handle which rather abruptly flips opens the chrome and black plastic lid on the top of the kettle for ease of filling it with cold water. Or you can just do the lazy person's trick of shoving the spout under the tap and filling it that way. I must say that the kettle's spout is nice and wide so filling it under the tap is very easy. It also pours very well when your water has boiled. With our old Tesco kettle the spout was rather small so you needed to hold the kettle almost on its side in order to extract the last drop of the water from the kettle. I made the mistake of tipping my new Morphy Richards kettle on its side when I first used it and was rather alarmed by the gush of water that came out much more quickly than I was expecting. I didn't make the same mistake twice! The wider spout on this model makes pouring your drinks a much gentler and easier process.
Inside the kettle is a removable limescale filter, which just needs to be given a bit of rinse under the cold tap from time to time, especially if you live in a hard water area like we do.
*** OPERATING ***
Once filled, the kettle boils quickly and seamlessly. The kettle is switched on by a large silver lever at the base of the appliance. When you switch the kettle on an electric blue light illuminates behind the water gauge so you know its working. Once the kettle has boiled it automatically switches off and the pretty blue light goes out. It's a rather pleasing and ambient blue light so it's rather a shame when it goes off.
When you first use the kettle, Morphy Richards recommend that you fill the kettle to capacity boil the contents and then tip them down the sink before attempting to make proper tea. This way any factory dust and plasticky smells can be cleaned out of the kettle before you attempt to make the real McCoy. I did this process at least three times in order to ensure that that my tea tasted like tea should and not like necking down the contents of a TCP bottle. This appeared to do the trick and our first cup of tea from our new kettle tasted good and we got that oooo from our Typhoo :o)
The kettle is much quicker to boil than my old Tesco model. We can have enough boiling water for two cups of tea in less than two minutes. I've not yet timed the kettle's boiling speed at its full capacity of eight cups, but I would imagine it's just as swift and a hell of a lot safer than my previous leaky Tesco model.
*** PLUS POINTS ***
I love the look of the kettle. It looks good with all my other black and chrome appliances and it looks smart on the worktop next to my black and chrome Gaggia coffee machine.
I'm impressed with the speed with which our new kettle boils. It takes literally less than two minutes to make two piping hot cups of tea on the table. I also think that the two gauges on the sides of the kettle are very handy so we can fill the kettle with enough water for two cups of tea rather than taking a stab in the dark and either over or under-filling the kettle as we did with our old Tesco model.
The kettle also feels a lot safer to use and pour than my old Tesco one. The Morphy Richards one doesn't leak at all, which couldn't be said of my previous model which tended to get a little bit damp and wobbly everytime it reached boiling point. Similarly I love the wide spout on the Morphy Richards Accents kettle - it makes pouring easy and a lot safer.
The kettle is very easy to keep clean. It has a removable filter inside the lid which you can rinse under the tap every now and then to remove any limescale. As we live in a hard water area, this needs to be done every two weeks, with a full kettle descale undertaken every six weeks or so. As I rather lazily tend to fill my kettle by shoving the spout under the tap rather than opening the lid properly, the kettle does tend to get dried water marks around the spout. A quick buff with dry cloth removes any water marks from both the black plastic and the silver chrome accents.
Finally the instruction booklet that accompanies the kettle is clear and to the point. It's easy to follow with both diagrams and trouble-shooting lists.
*** NEGATIVE ISSUES ***
However, not all is rosy in the Morphy Richards garden and there are one or two issues I have with this kettle. That said none of the issues are massive and I certainly won't be plugging my old Tesco appliance back in any day soon. That's been well and truly consigned to the dustbin.
My first issue with this kettle is the noise. It's not the quietest of boilers, in fact it's really rather noisy. There is no gentle build up background noise as the kettle does its thing. You know it's switched on and you've just got to wait for it to finish before you can resume your conversation. Thankfully it's quick to boil so you don't need to wait long!
Although the water tasted fine after we did the initial boiling and discarding after we first used the kettle, the plasticky taste to the water does tend to creep back in occasionally. My second beef about this kettle is the taste of the water if you try and reboil water that has just recently boiled. In the past if we fancied a second cup of tea within half an hour of our first cuppa, then we'd simply reboil the kettle or just top the kettle contents up with cold water from the tap. If we do this with our new kettle, the water tastes absolutely revolting - that full medicinal TCP taste that overpowers and spoils even the strongest teabag. Unfortunately it means that we have to fully empty the kettle of any remaining water and refill it with fresh tap water every single time we want a cup of tea. This is not only time-consuming but rather wasteful of not just water but electricity. Perhaps this is something that will disappear with time, but after eight weeks use, there's no sign of any abatement in that disgusting taint to any reboiled water.
*** COST AND AVAILABILITY ***
We originally spotted this kettle in Homebase where it retails for a rather whopping £39.99. You can, however, buy it direct from Morphy Richards for £29.99.
That was still too rich for us and we headed on over to Amazon and picked it up for £26.97. At the time of writing Amazon are now selling this model for £27.96.
*** RECOMMENDED? ***
I love the look of my new kettle - it looks very smart on my worktop and matches perfectly with my other black and chrome appliances.
I've been impressed with the speed at which it boils water and how safe and secure it feels on its stand as it boils. There's definitely no more leaking hot water on my worktop with this model.
However, whilst the noisiness isn't a major deal breaker for us, I really am hoping that the plasticky taste to any reboiled water will disappear over time. I'm happy with the taste of the water when it's freshly boiled, but cannot understand why water than was boiled less than 30 minutes beforehand should develop such an unpleasant taste if you make the mistake of reboiling it. It's both wasteful and time-consuming to have to empty and refill the kettle every single time you want to use it.
I'm afraid that this kettle loses a star over this issue and therefore only gets four stars from me. If and when the kettle manages to lose that unpleasant taint to the taste of its reboiled water then I wouldn't hesitate to upgrade it to a full five stars, but for now it remains firmly at four stars.
*** TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS ***
A full description of this kettle can be found at http://www.morphyrichards.co.uk/ products/kettles/jug-kettles/43173-Accents-Black-Jug-Kettle.html
* Plastic kettle with chrome accents
* Dimensions: Height 23cm, Width 18.4cm, Depth 25.5cm
* Weight 1.6kg
* Wattage: 3kw for a rapid boil
* Capacity: 1.7L or 8 cups of tea
* Length of cord: 2m with cord storage under the base
* Water level indicator
* Water gauge with blue illumination
* 360 degree cordless base
* Removable limescale filter
* 1 year guarantee
As well as black, this kettle comes in a superb range of colours such as lime green, cream, beige, red or purple.
Although we'd had a four slot toaster for years, the left hand side of it had stopped working many moons ago. We made do with the remaining two working slots for yonks before they too stopped working. We then decided to do without a toaster altogether and just use the grill function on the oven. That proved far too time consuming and fiddly not to mention an undoubtedly more expensive way to get one's morning toast. In the end a bargain deal on Amazon made up our minds for us, and we duly purchased a brand new four slot toaster for £22.95 (inclusive of free delivery).
The model we chose was the Tefal Avanti Classic (model number 523718) in rather stylish looking black with chrome to the handles and toasting slots. The toaster now matches all my other kitchen gadgets and gizmos which all tend to be black with silver handles or knobs.
~~~ WHAT'S IN THE BOX? ~~~
This is quite large toaster - it's just over 32cm wide with a similar 32cm depth and its height is just over 25cm. Therefore you need to find a big enough space on your worktop to accommodate it as it is on the bulky side. However, despite being on the large side this toaster is surprisingly light weighing in at just 2 kilos. It's therefore relatively easy to lift up and clean underneath to remove stray crumbs and then reposition on the worktop. The toaster is predominantly black with chrome buttons and matching chrome panels surrounding the four toasting slots. The labelling on the toaster is in white and red. I think it's a rather plain but attractive toaster and it looks good on my kitchen worktop as well as complimenting the other black and chrome kitchen fittings and implements that I have. Some reviewers on Amazon have complained that this toaster looks cheap and plasticky looking. However, although it's made predominantly from black plastic, the silver chrome accents on the toaster made it look very smart in my opinion and I certainly wouldn't describe it as cheap looking.
The toaster was easy to unpack and position and took literally minutes. Inside the box from Amazon was quite simply the toaster with plug already attached, the guarantee and a small instruction booklet. Therefore it was simply a case of removing all the packaging and then plugging in the toaster. Tefal advise you to turn the toasting dial up to No. 6 (this gives you maximum browning on your bread) and then depress both toasting slots for three sequential sessions before you start any real live toasting of bread in order to get rid of any plasticky smells or dust. This process worked a treat and we were soon able to get underway with the main business of the day i.e. toast and jam.
~~~ OPERATING ~~~
Obviously I don't need to describe how to toast bread here as every man and his dog has worked a toaster before, but I will describe the particular features of this model.
The buttons on the toaster are all of a good size, clearly labelled and easy to depress and operate. The front of the toaster has a silver dial from 1 to 6 on it. If you like your toast cremated chose No. 6 as this will give you maximum browning to your bread.
We tend to stick our dial on No. 4 and that gives us ideal toast. I like my toast nicely crispy to the outside but with the bread still slightly soft and moist in the middle. I hate toast that is in anyway burnt, charred and dry throughout. Once you've set the browning dial you need to depress either one or both of the two large silver levers to each side of the toaster which of course lowers the bread into the toaster and starts the toasting process. Although the toaster has four slots, both sides work independently so you can pop two slices of toast in either the left or right hand side if you really cannot force four slices down your neck for breakfast. When your toast is done it pops up ready to be decorated with copious amounts of butter, jam et al.
The Avanti Classic has a slightly angled front to it which is allegedly designed to let you see how your toast is doing without trying to peer inside and risk singeing your fringe or eye-brows. As this toaster has a rather powerful 1200 watt element, your toast does get toasted rather quickly and the curved front means you can keep an eye on those foodstuffs that love to burn as soon as you show them to a toaster i.e. pitta bread or any type of flatbread.
The toaster has a thick and thin feature which means you can toast bulkier items such as crumpets, English muffins and teacakes without getting them wedged inside the toaster and therefore burned to a crisp. The toaster has wider slots which contain self-centring guides which place the bread/teacake/crumpet right in the middle of the slot. This not only ensures a uniform toasting of the item but the wider slot means the chunkier food items don't get stuck inside the toaster. However, should by chance your thicker than average crumpet does get slightly wedged and you can smell burning, the toaster has two hi-lift levers, which pop the offending object out of the toaster quickly and at some speed. The toaster also has a stop/eject button which immediately turns the heat off.
The toaster also has a further two buttons, namely the reheat button and the defrost button. Both of these functions only work on the two left hand slots of the toaster so it's no good popping your frozen loaf into the right hand side slots of the toaster as it just won't play ball.
~~~ GOOD POINTS ~~~
The toaster is very simple to operate, and you don't need to phaff about too much with dials and levers to toast a variety of different items. As I said earlier, we tend to leave the browning dial on our toaster at No. 4 and this gives us consistently nicely browned bread. However, the beauty of this Tefal is that both sides are independent. So if your husband or wife like their toast cremated, the dial on their side of the toaster can be racked all the way up to No. 6 on the browning dial and they'll get their preferred burnt offering slightly later than the nice pale slice of toast you've set your heart on by using the other side of the toaster and option No.3 on the browning dial. Voila! No more arguments at breakfast....allegedly.
As the toasting slots are quite wide on this model toasting bulkier items like teacakes and crumpets does not present the toaster with a problem. Many a time a teacake would get wedged in our old toaster resulting in a revolting burned and charred offering once you'd managed to prise it from the hungry jaws of the toaster with whatever sharp and pointy object came to hand....thereby possibly electrocuting oneself as well as going hungry.
This Tefal is man enough to handle whatever you throw at it - huge door step slices of bread, thick English muffins or frozen waffles. If things do get a little too heated too quickly once the toasting process is underway, you can either press the stop/eject button to kill the heat or you can press the hi-lift button to remove the offending item from the toaster.
The toaster is pretty darn quick too. A 1200 watt element means that your toast has invariably popped up ready and done before you've finished making your accompanying cup of tea and assembled all the necessary accoutrements like jam, butter and such like.
~~~ TEETHING TROUBLES WITH THIS TOASTER ~~~
The instruction booklet with this toaster is short and to the point, but it does contain a lot of ridiculous detail which they are probably obliged to put in on the grounds of health and safety, but it does make you wonder if common sense is no longer taken into consideration when writing these pamphlets/instruction manuals nowadays. What sort of idiot needs to be told to "not place the toaster in the dishwasher" or to "not immerse the toaster in water or run water into the toaster". It beggars belief!
One thing to watch out for this toaster is that if you have an extra "tall" loaf like the ones we make in our Panasonic breadmaker, the very top bit of the slices will stick out the top of the toaster and remain untoasted as the slices are simply too big for the slots. This isn't so much of a problem for me as you simply turn the slice upside down and stick the untoasted section head down in the toaster after it's finished toasting the rest of the bread. However, if you eat a lot of homemade bread and your loaves are bigger than the average shop bought ones it may be something you need to consider.
The main drawback with this toaster is the flimsiness of the hi-lift levers. They've obviously been mounted on a spring that just isn't up to the job, and if you press the lever with too much force the spring can snap. We purchased our toaster from Amazon in early August and in less than four months the left hand hi-lift lever stopped working. I fired off a rather short email of complaint outlining the problem to Amazon and was not expecting anything at all in the way of a response. I was rather amazed and most impressed to get a response within an hour of sending my email informing me that a new replacement toaster had been dispatched to me by first class delivery and would be with me within two working days. How's that for service?
The new toaster did duly arrive within the promised time frame, and so far, so good. We're being extremely gentle with the hi-lift levers in the hope that neither of them break. The worst aspect of the Amazon replacement toaster saga was that they wanted the faulty toaster sent back to them in the same packaging that contained the new toaster. Although this was easy enough to do, Amazon insist that all returns are made through a Collect+ outlet and our nearest one was miles away.
~~~ SHINY AND NEW ~~~
The toaster is fairly easy to keep clean, but the black plastic does tend to show every single greasy fingerprint as well as every stray crumb in the vicinity. It's easy enough to wipe the front over with a damp cloth as that removes any greasy marks and crumbs. Like most kitchen utensils over time it does accumulate a layer of grease from daily cooking. I find a little bit of Cif on a sponge easily removes the worst of any caked on oiliness. You just then need to buff the chrome coloured bits of the toaster with a dry cloth and they look as good as new.
At 2kg the toaster is lightweight enough to lift up off the work-surface to get at the inevitable crumbs that lurk underneath it. At the back of the toaster are two easily removed crumb trays. They are rather on the shallow side, so you do need to remember to empty them fairly regularly as they will fill up fast if you like a lot of toast.
~~~ COST AND AVAILABILITY ~~~
We picked up our Tefal Avanti Classic toaster on Amazon for a bargain price of £22.95 in August. At the time of writing Amazon are now selling this model for £34.99 so I'm rather glad we snapped it up four months ago at a tenner less.
You can buy this toaster direct from Tefal for £39.99, Woolworths have it for £39 but Littlewoods want a whopping £50 for it. I certainly wouldn't pay £50 for this model but it's a reasonable enough buy at £25 or under. I daresay Amazon will drop their price again soon to a more reasonable price.
~~~ A TOAST TO THIS TEFAL? ~~~
This toaster looks rather nice on my work-tops and I'm very pleased with how nice it looks alongside my other chrome and black gadgets. It certainly toasts well and handles even the thickest and fattest items we throw into it with ease and quickness. It's most pleasant to pop a hot cross bun into this toaster knowing it's not going to get wedged inside. Before it was always a race to try and remove the burned item with a knife before it triggered the smoke alarm which in turn freaked the dog out. The toaster cleans up well with just a damp cloth and a quick buff.
However, the problem with the weak hi-lift button on this toaster means you have to treat it a lot more gently than you sometimes want to. In the early morning rush to get to work, it's often hard to remember that applying reasonable force to this button may make the spring inside snap and the handle then limp and useless.
I'm glad we only paid £23 for this toaster as I don't think its quick lift mechanism is robust enough to make this toaster worth more than £30 at the most. Several reviewers on Amazon also complain of problems with the lifting buttons so it is obviously a common fault with this toaster.
Recommended with four stars if you can remember to treat this toaster kindly and not be too heavy handed with the lifting mechanism.
~~~ TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS ~~~
A full description of this toaster can be found at http://www.tefal.co.uk/All+Products/Breakfast/Toasters /Products/Avanti+4+Slice+Black+Classic+ Toaster/Avanti+4+Slice+Black+Classic+Toaster.htm
* 4 slice toaster with two independent sides
* Power = 1800W
* Electronic browning control with dial (1 to 6)
* Defrost, reheat and stop/eject buttons
* Extra wide and deep bread slots
* Dimensions = 32cm x 32cm x 25cm
* Weight = 2kg
* High-speed toasting
* 2 x hi-lift levers
* Crumb tray
* Cord storage
This pub had long been on my radar to visit as it had a good reputation locally for great Thai food. The pub was then known as "The Selsey Arms" with the food side given over to a Thai concession called "Simply Thai". Sadly a visit here was obviously never on the cards as 2012 saw the pub closing, and it remained boarded up for ages. However, at the beginning of 2013, signs of life starting appearing outside the building and it soon became apparent that someone had acquired it and was in the process of refurbishing it.
Spring 2013 saw the reopening of the pub, newly christened "The Dean", and I duly made a mental note to give it try sometime. My mental note was prompted into action by the appearance of a great offer on the website of a local radio station, Spirit FM, where they were offering a £20 voucher giving the holder £40 discount off the price of a meal to the first 80 applicants. I had a look at the Dean's website, but it was very sparse on detail and there was no menu to peruse. I sent an email to the Dean asking for a menu, but heard nothing back. In end I decided to take a chance and purchase the voucher anyway - nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that jazz.
~~~ THE VENUE ~~~
Having never been to this pub in its previous incarnation as "The Selsey Arms", I had nothing to compare it to in terms of the refurbishment. The Dean's website boasts of a high specification refurbishment and the addition of a dining hall and airy conservatory to the building, and it certainly looked very freshly decorated and shiny and new when we entered. Evidently the old barns at the back of the pub have also been renovated and now house bed and breakfast accommodation, but I was there to eat and not sleep!
There's a huge car park at the Dean to the side of the pub. However, you do need to walk around to the front of the building to enter the pub. Once inside, I was rather impressed with the décor. There were lots of leather looking low slung sofas for lounging in and enjoying a drink. Less impressive were the clientele crowding around the bar, who were all rather rough looking to say the least and if we hadn't pre-booked a table in the restaurant, it could well have put me off remaining there. One couple were sharing a bar stool and openly groping each other in full view of the rest of the pub. There were also a couple of greasy looking bikers perched on stools at the bar, who make a great deal of revving their bike engines when they left a hour or so later. Despite the friendly welcome from the bar staff, the overzealously amorous couple and the bikers did make the place seem a little down-market. I was rather glad to leave the bar and go into the restaurant, as the clientele in there looked a lot more sociable.
The dining area of the Dean is an L-shaped room with the alleged conservatory (which looked more like a room with large windows than a conservatory to me) leading off the side of the building. The main dining area has been done out like a medieval banqueting hall. It has a high vaulted ceiling with lots of cast iron candelabra style light fittings hanging down. The walls have been decorated with animal heads, but instead of using the traditional stuffed glassy eyed deer, they're put silver metal ones up instead, which are much nicer, and rather quirky. The room is also decorated with several pieces of interesting looking sculpture, namely a horse's head made out of lots of different pieces of driftwood. I must say that the banqueting hall look would work if the place is busy, but it would feel rather empty and cavernous to any diners visiting on a quiet night. We dined there on a Friday night in July and the place was about 70% full so the atmosphere was buzzy and upbeat. However, I would imagine that the same space half filled would be rather glacial and lacking any atmosphere.
~~~ THE MENU ~~~
The menu at the Dean talks about uncomplicated traditional pub food but "with a twist", so I was rather interested to see what sort of twistyness they'd come up with. The website also makes much ado about using local produce which is nothing new nowadays, but what is interesting is that they smoke their own meat, fish and cheese on site.
The Dean serves both lunch and dinner every day, except no dinners on Sunday evenings. There are a good range of dishes on offer, but I couldn't see much in the way of a "twist" to their menu. To my mind most of the dishes were the sort of traditional pub grub you'd see anywhere in the UK. Lunchtime dishes consist of a range of sandwiches (£5 to £7) and light bites (£3.50 to £10.50) comprising of dishes such as Whitebait, Soup of the Day, Beer Battered Mushrooms and Smoked Salmon. If you're after something a little more filling you can partake of Ham, Egg and Chips (£8.50), Prime Steak Burger (£9.50) or a Range of Salads (from £7.50). The most interesting dishes on the lunchtime menu were an Oriental Ginger Beef Salad (£9.50) or a Ploughman's Platter Sharing Board (for two at £17.50), but I think that the choices are a little safe considering they've tempted their diners with a walk on the twisted side.
I hoped I'd find more evidence of their dark and twisty side on the dinner menu, but here too, I was left rather disappointed. Starters start at £4.50 and run up to £9.00 on their dinner menu and consist of such things as Chicken Liver Pâté, Seared Scallops and Smoked Chicken Caesar Salad. A nod towards more interesting fare can be found with Smoked Bacon and Cheddar Bubble and Squeak Cake and Goat's Cheese and Red Onion Tart, but they still weren't blinding me with their innovation. Main courses range in price from £11.50 up to a whopping £21.50 for a fillet steak. Dishes here are things like Sea Bass with Herb Crushed Potatoes and Fennel and Dill Purée (£17.50), or Mango and Summer Vegetable Curry served with Coriander Rice and a Poppadum (£11.50) or Free Range Chicken Breast with Creamy Dauphinoise Potatoes, Stewed Savoy Cabbage and Smoked Bacon with a Rich Red Wine Sauce (£14.50). I'm afraid to say that none of these choices really blew me away and I rather struggled to find something that appealed.
In addition to the printed menu, there is a chalked up blackboard on the wall by the kitchen hatch which lists the daily specials on offer. On the night we visited this comprised of two starters (Baked Camembert or Scallops) and about three main courses (Lamb's Liver, Lamb Steak or Fillet of Hake).
~~~ OUR MEAL ~~~
I made the reservation the day before over the phone and once we'd ordered our drinks in the bar we were offered the choice of staying in the bar or being shown through to our table in the restaurant. Due to the dodgy looking drinkers in the bar area we opted for the latter and were shown straight through to our table. We were offered a choice of tables and chose one at the back of the room where we had an excellent view of the room.
For my starter I had Home Smoked Salmon served with Horseradish Cream, Lemon, Capers and Homemade Rye Bread (£6.50). The smoked salmon had been smoked in-house and it really did have a lovely oaky flavour to it. I wasn't so keen on the homemade rye bread which tasted a little bit too dry and musty for my liking. However, I smeared some of their deliciously tangy horseradish cream onto the rye bread and it definitely improved the flavour and made it more palatable. The starter was finished off with a nice garnish of salad leaves which had been drizzled with lovely, tasty vinaigrette. The capers I left in a pile on the side of the plate as I dislike them. My partner chose off the blackboard specials at the Dean and went for Smoked Haddock Rarebit served on a bed of Spinach and Summer Leaves at £5.50. He received a fairly thin piece of smoked haddock topped with melted cheese which was served on a nest of spinach and mixed salad leaves. He enjoyed his starter, but thought that the piece of haddock was rather mean.
I was rather tempted by one of the blackboard specials of Rump of Lamb with Redcurrant Sauce, but decided to have the lighter (and cheaper) option of Ale Battered Cod with Pea, Chilli and Lime Purée, Rock Salt Homecut Chips with Tartare Sauce and Lime Wedge (£12.00). I definitely made the right decision here, as my posh fish and chips were absolutely delicious. The cod had been deep fried in a lovely crispy batter and was carefully balanced against a tiny little wire basket containing some chunky chips. I'm not a huge fan of chunky chips, but these were delicious - crispy and salty to the outside but lots of fluffy potato when you bit inside. The dish was a bit of a picture on the plate - as well as the artfully arranged fillet of cod propped up against the wire chip basket, the plate had been drizzled with three large dots of balsamic vinegar and a teardrop shaped pea purée. I detest peas, but this purée was absolutely superb. It tasted fresh and interesting (not to mention adding a lovely colour to the plate) and was the perfect accompaniment to the crispy battered fish and chips. This was a dish I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to anyone eating there.
My partner plumped for Locally Sourced Pork Three Ways - Slow Roasted Pork Belly, Smoked Shoulder and Braised Cheek served with Wholegrain Mustard Mash, Spinach, Butternut Squash Purée and a Quince Jus (whew) at £17.50. He really enjoyed his pork and mashed potatoes, but found it slightly odd that there were no other vegetables served with the dish; it was just the three pieces of pork and a dollop of mash. I tend to agree with him and adding a carrot or two or a floret of broccoli wouldn't have gone amiss here, especially as he was paying £17.50 for the dish. I tried a little of the smoked pork shoulder and it was full of flavour. However, he did say that the Butternut Squash Purée didn't really add anything to the dish, and he had no idea where the Quince Jus had got to as he couldn't find it anywhere on his plate despite hunting high and low.
We both decided we could make room for dessert so our waitress brought over a hand chalked blackboard listing what was on offer. I was tempted by Lemon Posset served with Shortbread Biscuits, but decided instead to have their Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownie with Toffee Sauce and Vanilla Ice-cream at £5.95. This proved to be one of the nicest desserts I'd had in a long time and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The brownie was nicely crunchy to the outside but lovely and moist inside and studded throughout with plenty of whole hazelnuts. It was so rich I rather struggled to finish it... but I forced myself :o) My partner went for Sticky Toffee Pudding with Toffee Sauce and Vanilla Ice-cream (also £5.95). He said that the pudding was nice enough but rather dry and there wasn't enough of the toffee sauce to make it a little more moist. The toffee sauce had been drizzled on the plate but it was rather sparse and he would have preferred a little jug of it to tip on the pudding himself. We rounded things off with two cappuccinos at £2.40 apiece.
~~~ SERVICE, DRINKS AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN ~~~
The service at the Dean was really super-friendly and very efficient. As the Dean is fairly new to the area there aren't all that many reviews on Trip Advisor yet, but one recent one (that now seems to have been removed) was fairly damning of the place, and made specific mention of the manner and accent of one of the members of staff, objecting to being called "my love" by her in a yokel Somerset like accent. We were served by the same said member of staff and we didn't find it at all offensive. Yes she does call you "sweetie" and "my love" throughout the evening, and I guess some would find it a little over-familiar, but it's just her manner and she is not trying to cause offense by it. She was really efficient and enthusiastic throughout the evening which more than compensated for her calling us "my love" about 15 times! I'd much rather be served by someone who is obviously enjoying their job (no matter how effusively!) than a monosyllabic robot who just goes through the motions.
As the Dean bills itself as an Ale and Cider House there are plenty of both on offer, all of which are changed very regularly. Draught lagers are from Carling and Grolsch, with real ales from Sharps Doom Bar, Oakleaf TSB and a house beer called Dean Ale. I'm afraid I failed to spot any of the ciders on offer but the Dean's website states that they have a full range of both ales and ciders on hand pumps as well as by the bottle - "from Craft ciders to new wave North American craft beers to well-established Belgian Abbey style beers and everything in between". My partner had three pints of Carling lager at £3.70 a pint and I had a lovely tall glass of refreshing Pimm's at £4.20 as it's my favourite summer tipple.
The toilets at the place were well stocked and very clean. Like the rest of the pub they'd been recently refurbished and were done out in smart white and grey painted walls with lots of slate tiling splash backs around the basins.
Our bill for the evening came to £73.50 for two three-course dinners, two coffees and four drinks, which we thought was rather good value. Once we'd applied our £40 Spirit FM discount voucher the final cost came down to a rather reasonable £33.50 and we left a £7 tip on top of that.
~~~ RECOMMENDED? ~~~
I enjoyed all three of my courses at the Dean, but most especially the fish and chips and the chocolate brownie. I made some wise menu choices here as all my dishes were delicious. My partner didn't fare so well, and although he enjoyed his meal, his dishes weren't nearly as good as mine. However, all in all, we both thought the food and the service at the Dean were very good and we wouldn't hesitate to return.
The Dean may have some rather rough looking clientele in the bar, but you shouldn't let the hairy bikers put you off a visit here, as the food is well worth a visit. The service was enthusiastic and efficient, and as long as you don't mind being called "my love" fifteen times in one night by a complete stranger, I thoroughly recommend a visit.
Four stars from me.
~~~ FURTHER INFORMATION ~~~
The Dean is located on main Midhurst Road (A286) in the tiny village of West Dean, six miles north of Chichester. West Dean is home to rather splendid West Dean Gardens (http://www.westdean.org.uk) which feature a walled garden and a 300 foot long Edwardian pergola. They also hold annual garden and produce events such as the Chilli Fiesta as well as lectures and open air theatre events.
The Dean Ale & Cider House
- There is an ample sized car park to the side of the pub
- All major cards accepted
- Bed and breakfast accommodation if you fancy staying in the area
~~~ Food Service Times ~~~
Lunch: From 12.00pm to 3.00pm (until 5pm on Saturday and 6pm on Sunday)
Dinner: From 5.30pm to 9.30pm (no food on Sunday evenings)
Due to the unseasonably mild autumn weather we had in early October this year, we decided to make the most of it with a cycle ride over to the Crown and Anchor in Dell Quay. The pub is about three miles from my house and involves a rather picturesque bike ride (or walk) alongside the banks of the sea inlets at Fishbourne and Apuldram. The cycle ride took about thirty minutes from home to pub, and by the time we got there we were in need of some liquid refreshment and a bite to eat.
The Crown and Anchor is situated by the harbour at Dell Quay in Apuldram and it therefore has delightful sea views whatever time of year you visit. Sometimes the mud and seaweed can look a bit unsightly (not to mention smelling a bit) if the tide is out, but on the whole it's a lovely spot to sit and enjoy a drink and some bracing sea air. Despite being all aglow from our cycle ride, sadly it wasn't warm enough to sit outside on this occasion. However, I can vouch for the fact that there is plenty of outside seating at this pub should you choose to visit on sunnier day than we chose.
~*~ THE PUB ~*~
The pub is situated just to the side of the Dell Quay wharf at Apuldram. The harbour is steeped in history and is very likely to have been used by Roman galleys to reach nearby Fishbourne Roman Villa. The existing wharf behind the pub was not built until the 16th century, but was extremely busy back in the day as it was the only official landing place for the city of Chichester at that time. As the quay had neither warehouses nor inn, local citizens were keen to build one. Hence the Crown and Anchor being built towards the end of the 16th century (although it was initially christened "Dell Key House"). Sadly nothing appears to remain of the original 16th century building today, but what stands there now is still a very pretty looking cream painted period building which is likely to date from the 19th century. The pub is a good sized building in itself and it also has plenty of outside seating as well as a generous car park to one side. The outside seating area has plenty of tables and chairs and is set directly overlooking the water so you can admire the views, various sea birds and other people messing about in boats.
Inside the Crown and Anchor is surprisingly spacious with plenty of space for both drinkers and diners. Being so close to the sea it's no surprise that they've gone with a nautical theme to the pub. However, the profusion of dark wood to the ceiling, bar, floor and walls means that the interior is akin to stepping on board an old clipper ship (but without the listing...). The walls are festooned with ancient mariners' timbers, ship's knots and all manner of sea faring gadgets from yesteryear. Even the long stretch of bar is curved so it resembles the prow of an old wooden ship. Although the pub is sparkling clean and shiny inside, you can't get away from the fact that it is rather dark in there. Even though there are plenty of floor to ceiling windows overlooking the quay at the back of the pub, it seems to do little to lighten the place. To be honest, despite its size, I find the pub rather gloomy inside as all that wood makes it overly dark and claustrophobic. I much prefer to sit outside in the fresh air and enjoy the views. However, that was not an option when we visited earlier this month, and I had to bite the bullet and sit indoors in one of the gloomy corners.
~*~ THE MENU ~*~
The menu at the Crown and Anchor is quite plain and simple. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty there to suit most appetites and tastes, but haute cuisine it isn't. Most of the dishes are best described as good old British pub grub, but with an emphasis on fish and seafood type snacks, no doubt due to their location and seafaring theme.
The menu at the Crown and Anchor is changed regularly to reflect seasonal availability, but it is kept short and sweet. The menu is printed on one side of A4 paper and there is usually a pile of them on the bar for you to help yourself from. They don't festoon every table in the place with a menu and nor is every table laid up with cutlery, which is a good thing in my book. Far too many pubs don't welcome drinkers anymore but this one clearly does. As well as the paper menus behind the bar, there is also a blackboard with a few daily specials on offer too, although it has to be said that it was rather sparse on content and options when we were there. Maybe they'd already run out of some of the dishes, but there were just two main courses remaining on the blackboard, one being Lamb Koftas with Pitta Bread and Tzatziki (£8.95) and the other was Homemade Game Pie with Buttered Mash and Seasonal Vegetables (£13.00) (which was also on the printed menu so hardy a "special") and the only starter listed was clarification on the soup of the day which was also listed on the main menu.
I'm afraid there are no real surprises on the menu here - it's all pretty standard pub fodder you find on 1,001 pub menus the length and breadth of the UK. There are a range of Sandwiches starting at £6.50 or a Ploughman's for £8.75. There are also a range of smaller dishes which you can have as starters in the evening or smaller luncheon dishes. This range comprises of dishes like Soup of the Day, Hot Smoked Mackerel served on a Potato, Spring Onion and Horseradish Salad or Prawn Cocktail with Marie Rose Dressing, Cos Lettuce and Lemon. Prices here range from £5.25 to £6.00.
If you're after a bigger plate of hot food, there are a limited choice of dishes like Honey-Roasted Ham, Two Fried Eggs and Chips (£10.25), 8oz Beef Burger in a Toasted Sourdough Bun, Relish, Salad and Chips (£10.50), Fresh Beer Battered Haddock, Chips, Garden Peas and Homemade Tartare Sauce(£12.00) or you can push the boat out and partake of an 8oz Sirloin Steak with Roasted Tomato, Flat Mushroom, Potato Rosti and Peppercorn Sauce for a whopping £19.50.
All in all the range of dishes on offer are pretty run of the mill and there's not much in the way of innovation on offer. Some of the dishes are marked with an asterisk on the menu to indicate that they can be served as smaller children's portions at a reduced cost of £5.95. Items marked are things like the beef burger, fish and chips and ham, egg and chips. The menu is also marked up with a small "v" to indicate vegetarian options but the options are fairly limited if you don't eat fish. The one dish I spotted was Flat Mushroom topped with Mixed Peppers, Red Onion, Courgette and Melted Mozzarella served with a Rich Tomato Sauce and Side Salad at £9.75.
~*~ LUNCH FOR FOUR ~*~
Despite it being a mild autumn day, the breeze off the water outside the pub was fairly brisk and quite chilly. Therefore we didn't have the option of dining al fresco so we parked our bikes outside the pub and wandered on inside. As we had our Golden Retriever with us, we were asked to move from the main bar area through to the side of the pub. This was fine as we know that no everyone appreciates a slobbering, smelly and panting dog watching them eat their lunch. We found a quiet table for four right at the back of the pub and encouraged the dog to park herself out of sight under the table by bribing her with a packet of eye-watering expensive Tyrrells crisps. Sadly she wasn't having any of the slinking out of sight and re-emerged to try and greet our neighbours at nearby tables as soon as she had demolished her crisps. Despite being banished to the cheap seats in the pub due to our canine companion, we still had a lovely table near the window with a bird's eye view of the choppy blue sea.
After we'd had our first round of drinks, we decided we were all quite peckish. The cycle ride certainly hadn't been all that strenuous as it had only travelled three miles and it's all totally flat terrain. However, all that fresh air had certainly sharpened our appetites so we decided we'd have a look at the range of sandwiches on offer. We certainly didn't feel we'd exerted ourselves enough to justify either a full main course or a pudding...
I decided on Handmade Fish Goujons, Tartare Sauce and Cos Lettuce served in a Bap at £6.75. I received a good sized floury white bap with a ramekin of tartare sauce to one side. Inside the bap were two fish goujons which had been deep fried in batter. Sadly the cos lettuce was virtually non-existent and limited to two or three small pale strands. The bap was quite pappy and lacking in flavour, but the goujons more than made up for it as they were delicious. I also received a generous helping of homemade tartare sauce in a ramekin (though wiping the side of the dish would have made it present better as it had a long trail of slightly congealing sauce to the outside of the ramekin). The goujons were still hot and by adding in copious amounts of their creamy tartare sauce the bap made a rather tasty and filling lunch.
My father went for Whitebait, Side Salad and Tartare Sauce at £5.00. He received a nice pile of breadcrumbed fish in a neat pile alongside a generous amount of salad garnish. He also enjoyed the tartare sauce too...although they'd managed to get all of his sauce inside the ramekin :o) He did say that the whitebait were a little bit greasy, but other than that he had no complaints. Both the fish goujon bap and the whitebait were nicely presented on grey slate rather than your usual plate.
My partner went for Sausages, Buttered Mash and Seasonal Vegetables in a Red Wine Gravy at £10.75. For this he received two sausages in a pile of mash and a puddle of gravy. It certainly wasn't the most generous portion of sausages and mash we'd ever seen. I'd have expected at least a third sausage for that price and definitely a bigger mound of mash. However, what there was of it was very tasty, and you couldn't fault the portion of vegetables on the side which were substantial and nicely cooked.
My mother went for Homemade Carrot and Coriander Soup served with Bread and Butter at £5.25. For this she received a huge bowl filled to the brim and a nice roll and butter. The soup looked really thick and substantial - definitely a winter warmer. She said it was really very filling indeed, but that it lacked a depth of flavour. Carrot soup can be tricky to get right as it the flavours aren't developed enough it can taste a little bland and wishy-washy. She would certainly have the soup there again, but not the carrot one as it was just a bit too watery in flavour.
All in all our meals were enjoyable, nicely presented, reasonably priced and fairly generous of portion. Although I think that their menu is incredibly pedestrian and rather boring, I can see that the catering at the Crown and Anchor is designed for the masses; they need to greet them, seat them and feed them as quickly as they can on a sunny day so they're not going to want to fiddle about with anything too complicated or unusual.
~*~ DRINKS, SERVICE AND PET FRIENDLINESS ~*~
The Crown and Anchor is owned by Young's Brewery, but as well as serving a range of Young's ales and bitters, they also offer a changing range of guest ales. They always have a range of Young's Brewery ales on offer such as Special, London Gold and Bombardier, but guest ales for the autumn are Robinson's Dizzy Blond, Harvey's Sussex Wild Hop and Dartmoor IPA. Fosters lager was on offer too and I availed myself of my usual half a pint of shandy.
A more polite person than me would describe the service at the Crown and Anchor as efficient. It's certainly quick and to the point. However, I find the service there bordering on the brusque. The bar staff are disinterested in having a chat and are there purely to fill your drinks order as quickly as they can ready to move onto the next punter. I can understand that attitude in the summer or at the weekend when the place is full both inside and out, but they certainly weren't rushed off their feet on that Wednesday lunchtime so there was no need for such harried service. It has to be said though at the waitress was friendly enough when she brought and cleared our plates.
We visited the pub on a Wednesday lunchtime in October, and they must have been delighted with their mid-week trade as the place was more or less full - mostly with lunchers rather than drinkers. We were served quickly and efficiently with our drinks, and then politely asked to move through to the side of the pub if we wished to remain inside with our dog. Dogs are welcome at the Crown and Anchor providing they are well behaved and are taken through to the side area of the pub. We were impressed with the amount of doggy water bowls in both the garden and at the front of pub both of which had been filled with fresh water. They are obviously used to catering for plenty of dog walkers in the area.
All food ordering needs to be done at the bar and you need to quote your table number before they'll accept your order. We didn't ask about running a tab, nor did they offer one, so I imagine everyone has to pay for their food at the time of ordering. Your food is then brought to your table once it's ready. When our food was brought to us, we were asked if we wanted any sauces or condiments to go with it. Once we were finished our plates were quickly cleared and we were asked if we'd enjoyed our lunch.
Unfortunately they don't ask if you'd like any desserts, so you would need to go back up to the bar and ask for the dessert menu, and then revisit the bar to place your order. We didn't bother with puddings as we were only after a quick snack type lunch. However, for the purposes of a review I did have a quick glance of the fare on offer (all priced at around the £6 mark) and desserts included delights such as Mango and Passion Fruit Pavlova, Lemon Tart with Blood Orange Sorbet, Chocolate Fudge Brownie Cake with Vanilla Ice-cream and Vanilla Cheesecake with Strawberry Compote not to mention several others I've forgotten.
~*~ FINAL THOUGHTS.... CROWNING GLORY OR CROWN OF THORNS? ~*~
The Crown and Anchor is in a truly lovely location with almost panoramic views of the water and surrounding countryside. I don't much like the inside of the pub due to its darkness, but that might just be me, and what I find gloomy and claustrophobic, another may describe as cosy. I do find the service at the pub to be a little terse and taciturn. However, I suspect the staff are used to dealing with large volumes of customers especially during summer weekends and bank holidays when they just don't have time for a chat and a how-do-you-do, so they lose the habit of chatting to their punters when it's quieter.
The food is nice enough, but lacks much in the way of imagination. However, this pub gets absolutely mobbed on sunny days, so one can understand why they keep their menu simple and straightforward. The outside seating area for this pub is vast and it's a pretty roomy inside too, so that's a lot of punters to cook for when the sun shines and you can't really blame them for keeping to the basics catering wise. What they do offer they do well and it's not too expensively priced either.
I really do recommend this pub for a drink on a sunny day as it's an absolute delight to sit beside the water and enjoy the unspoiled views. I probably wouldn't recommend you make a special trip there for the food though, as its all pretty average and nothing to write home about. However, if you're looking for a pit stop on your ramble, boat trip or bike ride then it's a lovely spot to pause, rest awhile and refuel for the ongoing journey.
Recommended for drinks (and maybe a light snack) if you enjoy waterside views and unspoiled scenery. It's certainly not a crowing glory of a pub, but then neither is it deserving of a crown of thorns either. It's just average - so it gets three stars from me.
~*~ THE SMALL PRINT ~*~
The Crown and Anchor is part of the Young's Brewery chain with some 200 plus pubs throughout England - mostly in London, the south east and the south west. Young's Brewery is based in Wandsworth in South London and is evidently Britain's oldest brewery as there have been brewers on their site since 1581.
The pub is in the tiny village of Apuldram which is about 2 to 3 miles outside of the city of Chichester. Apuldram has no amenities at all apart from the Crown and Anchor (and a sewage plant!), but it's very easy to find nonetheless. The pub is right at the bottom of Dell Quay Lane and overlooks Dell Quay itself so waterside views are always guaranteed. The pub is rather off the beaten track and not the kind of place you're going to spot as you're driving past- you do need to know it's there and make a special trip.
The Crown and Anchor is a nice spot for a quick lunch or drink and then a walk along the banks overlooking the water. It also makes a nice stop off point if you are cycling in the area as there are plenty of off-road cycle paths from Bosham, Chichester and Fishbourne. Near to the pub are buildings housing Dell Quay Sailing Club, Apuldram Fishing and Boat Club and a classroom for the Chichester Harbour Education Centre. And due it's proximity to the water, you can of course sail there if you have boat...tides permitting.
Crown and Anchor
Dell Quay Road
Telephone No: 01243-781712
- The pub opens at 10.00am to 10.00pm everyday (11.00pm closing on Saturday nights)
- Food is served everyday from 12.00pm to 9.00pm
- Tea and coffee served all day as well as breakfast for early birds and afternoon teas for walkers
- Good disabled access with plenty of easily accessible tables both indoors and outdoors
- Plenty of car parking to the side and front of the pub
When my house flooded last summer, we were unsure whether the flood water had penetrated as far as the kitchen, as with a fully tiled floor it was hard to ascertain. However, the loss adjustors and their surveyor soon put paid to any ideas we might have had about the kitchen being water free. Evidently the water had penetrated underneath the tiles and all our kitchen units had soggy bottoms (to coin a phrase from Mary Berry). Sadly this discovery meant that we would have to move out of our house for three months and into rented accommodation whilst they did their flood repairs. On the upside, it did mean that we got a brand new fitted kitchen out of the deal. Unfortunately our old stand alone cooker, washing machine and dishwasher couldn't be accommodated into the new kitchen design with any great ease, so we decided to splash out on new fully integrated appliances so as to not spoil the look of our new kitchen. After much research we finally chose a Hoover fully integrated washing machine and it was duly plumbed in for us by the kitchen fitters just over a year ago now. Twelve months is more than sufficient to give it a good trial run and get used to how it works, so I thought it was time to bash out a review on how it has measured up for us.
We decided to buy a Hoover HWB 814 D washing machine as we wanted a washing machine that could handle a bigger load of washing than the norm. This machine can handle up to 8kg of washing so that's a pretty big drum inside the machine. Despite my household consisting of just me and my partner, we also own a dog. My partner and I don't need to wash our clothes any more or less than the average household, but we do need a larger machine to cope with the amount of washing our dog generates. She's a rather hairy Golden Retriever who loves swimming. If there is no deep water to hand, a mud filled puddle will do the trick or how about a stagnant slurry pit? She invariably gets covered in mud, twigs and grit not just on a walk but if she is just outside in our garden. Keeping her clean is never ending, especially in the winter. Therefore we have a constant need for clean and fresh towels in order to keep the beast looking beautiful and more importantly to stop her traipsing her muddiness throughout the house. An 8kg drum holds a lot of dirty towels so we can have a continual supply of clean linen to keep her clean and dry. Added to which, this machine also has a 1,400 rpm spin-cycle so those clean wet towels come out damp rather than wet so therefore don't need much in the way of drying.
=== Features ===
The Hoover HWB 814 D is plain white and rather boring looking, but because it's integrated behind the kitchen units it doesn't really matter how dull it looks. This machine has 12 basic wash programmes, all of which can be modified in different ways i.e. altering the temperature, the spin speed or the length of the wash. Briefly these twelve programmes are for "Resistant Fabrics + Pre-Wash (cotton and linen)", "Mixed Fabrics and Synthetics", "Very Delicate Fabrics", "Rinse", "Fast Spin", "Drain Only", "Silk/Handwash", "Machine Washable Woollens", "Resistant Fabrics (with no Pre-Wash)", "Rapid 14", "Rapid 30" and "Rapid 44". Each of these programmes can then be "tweaked" to raise or lower the temperature of the wash or reduce or increase the spin speed. The temperatures on the various programmes range from 30° to 90° and the length of the cycles start at a mere 14 minutes with the "Rapid 14" programme up to a lengthy 2 hours and 47 minutes for a 90° "Resistant Fabrics + Pre-Wash (cotton and linen)" cycle.
You can also add in other little variations to your chosen programme with various other goodies such as "Fast Iron", "Stain Blaster", "Spin Speed" or "Sensitive Care" buttons. The "Fast Iron" button is allegedly a uniquely designed anti-crease system tailored for specific fabrics. I've not tried this button so I cannot comment on how effective (or otherwise) it is. The "Sensitive Care" button is for the "Cotton and Mixed Fabrics" programmes only and it's been designed to treat the fibres of garments of those with sensitive skin more gently. The load will be washed in more water than usual so that the detergent dissolves more quickly. The drum is also filled and emptied more often so that any detergent is more effectively rinsed away.
The "Stain Blaster" button sounds more like a ride at Alton Towers than it does a programme on washing machine, but by pressing this button (for Cotton cycles only) it tells the machine to rotate in such a way that the detergent is distributed more evenly. It also increases the speed of the programme so that those stains are pounded into submission. Finally we have the "Spin Speed" button which is of course designed to remove as much of the water from your washing as possible. This can be amended to increase or decrease the speed of the drum. It should be noted that not all the selected programmes can be customised. For example the machine will not allow you to use the "Fast Iron" button on the Resistant Fabrics/ Cotton / Linen programme because it simply would not work. Cotton and Linen always need a good iron and the programme on this machine just wouldn't work. Similarly the "Spin Speed" button cannot be hiked up to the max on some of the programmes such as woollens or delicate wash as that would just destroy the fabrics. I must say that this machine has been designed to make washing your clothes as fool proof as possible so by blocking the fast spin option on your silk blouse you're not going to make any costly and irritating washday mistakes.
The HWB 814 D also has a "Delay Start" button which allows you to bung your washing in the machine and then use this button to pre-programme the wash cycle to start up any time in the next 23 hours. I haven't used this programme but from the description it sounds very easy to set in motion. I imagine this programme would be handy if you work shifts and you don't want to be disturbed by the noise of the washer in operation whilst you're getting some zeds in. Or you could set the timer some your wash finishes just before you get home from work.
=== Operating ===
It has to be said that the controls on the HWB 812 D are not that simple to operate initially. Unfortunately the programming dial is made of tiny symbols rather than words, so initially I found myself having to constantly refer back to the manual in order to decipher what each symbol represented. This is both time-consuming and fiddly and I much prefer my older machine where the dial clearly stated what each programme was for. I don't like having to work out what a grey leaf means on this machine when my older model clearly told me it was a "Delicate Fabrics" programme. Also a cloud is used to indicate the "Cotton" programme so I'm not at all sure how they arrived at that decision. Clearly not all the symbols on my Hoover are indecipherable - a grey ball of wool with two needles is pretty self-explanatory in that it's a "Woollens" programme and a hand symbol is indicative of a "Handwash" programme. However, on the whole I dislike the dial on this machine as it's not instantly obvious which programme is which until you get to know and understand the symbols they use. Once you've mastered them, it's fairly simple to operate, but it is somewhat of a learning curve and I would prefer a dial with one word labels rather than symbols next time.
On the far right of the machine is the dial to programme your machine with the wash you want. It's a very simple dial which you turn smoothly and easily until it "clicks" against the programme you want. The dial can be turned both clockwise and anticlockwise but it doesn't need to be pushed in or pulled out like my older washing machine. The dial is a large white one with small grey symbols etched against each of the twelve programme options. Next to the dial is an LED digital display panel which lights up in red with your chosen options. This display panel will constantly inform you about the status of your wash i.e. what programme you've chosen, what temperature it's operating on and most importantly how long the cycle has left to run before completion. Once it's done its thing it will display a red "End" sign so you know it's safe to open the door and remove your washing once a two minute delay has ended. To either the side of the LED display are the "Spin Speed" and "Wash Time" buttons which can be altered to lengthen or shorten the times of your washing programme and increase or decrease the intensity of the spin at the end. Underneath the LED display are six large white buttons which are your "Stain Blaster", "Sensitive Care", "Delay Start" and "Fast Iron" programmes. The fifth button here is for altering the "Wash Temperature" on your programme. This is pretty self explanatory of course - you can decrease or increase the temperature of your wash. However the machine won't allow you to be stupid and try and wash your jumper or your silk undies at 90° so it's pre-programmed to only let you alter the temperature on programmes that can take higher temperatures. Finally the sixth white button is the "Start/Pause" button which you depress to get your washing underway. There is another button just under the programming dial and that's to open the machine door once the programme has finished. All of these buttons are labelled with symbols rather than words, and they too take some working out if you don't use them all that often. There is a handy chart in the user manual which you can refer to, but who honestly wants to get the book out and leaf through it in order to work out what some of the more obscure symbols relate to? It's irritating and frustrating when a simple one word label would be so much easier.
The LED display is very clear and easy to read and it's immediately obvious what length of programme you've chosen as it lights up as soon as they dial has clicked into place. You can also check what temperature your programme is set to, what spin speed you've chosen and the cycle duration. The machine is also quietly intelligent, or dictatorial, depending on your viewpoint, in that it will not allow you to select certain features against specific programmes. So no fast spin on your woollens or delicates here and no high 90° washes allowed for your silks.
The detergent drawer is located on the top left hand side of the machine and pulls out very easily. There are three compartments in this drawer with the one on the far left being for pre-wash detergents, the one in the middle for any fabric softeners, starch, stain removers etc and the one on the right for the actual washing detergent. I don't tend to use the detergent drawer much as I prefer to pop my washing detergent in with the washing in a plastic dosing cup. However, occasionally I will pop some soda crystals in the middle drawer if I want to get my whites a bit whiter. I've never really bothered with pre-wash detergents or fabric softeners as normal washing detergents are so all singing and dancing nowadays, not to mention very highly fragranced, that adding in extra liquids seems superfluous.
This is a front loading washing machine and you need to depress the "Door Open" button underneath the programming dial to open the door. The machine is easy to load and unload as the door opening is quite large. As this machine takes a massive 8 kg of washing the drum inside the machine is much bigger than an average washing machine. My only bone of contention with this machine is how very hard the door is to close. There is no handle on the door unlike my old machine. Although this is good in the fact that when the door is closed it's flush with the rest of the machine, in practice it makes the door very hard to close. You really have to shove the glass hard to close the door and it often takes more than one attempt which is incredibly frustrating.
=== The Results ===
I'm happy to report that this machine produces extremely clean clothes. Initially the symbols used to indicate all the different programmes are beyond frustrating, but once you manage to familiarise yourself with the controls you soon learn which programmes work best for your household. I often decrease the temperature on some washes not only to save on time but also cut down the energy costs. Washing the dog's numerous towels on a 30°C cycle and a fast spin to end the programme works a treat. If the towels are not too stained and just wet and smelly I'll pop them in the machine for a 14 minute quick wash just to freshen them up and remove some of the dog hair.
As for the human washing, I do tend to find I use the same programme every single time as it's not too long and I can alter the temperature on the cycle to either 40°C or 60°C. I use the "Resistant Fabrics with no Pre-Wash" programme nine times out of ten this machine. I pop our clothes in for a 40°C wash which takes just 59 minutes. When I wash the bed sheets, tea-towels and bath-towels I tend to use the same programme but just up the temperature to 60°C and add in some Soda Crystals just to give them a bit more of a thorough clean. I'm more than happy with the results I get every single time I use this machine. Stains are lifted without having to make much more effort than just applying a bit of stain remover and then bunging the wash into the machine. Muddy towels are transformed into something a lot less grotty and lot more fragrant smelling very quickly and very easily. Similarly with the 1,600 rpm spin at the end of most programmes on this machine you tend to find that your washing comes out damp rather than sopping wet which makes drying so much easier and so much quicker.
For a washing machine this Hoover is rather quiet. I've had washing machines in the past where the spin cycle as so noisy you'd get more peace and quiet on the runway at Heathrow. The spin cycle on this machine is still loud, but not excessively so, and you can still hear yourself think, have a conversation or watch a bit of TV without straining your ears.
=== Any difficulties or drawbacks? ===
As I said earlier on the review, the washing machine door is a major problem with this machine. It's incredibly hard to shut the door easily and quickly. You cannot shut it by standing up and leaning down. You often need to crouch down and use both arms to push it shut (or a foot to kick it closed when you lose your temper with how bloody frustrating and stiff the door is and your arms alone aren't strong enough!). Obviously the machine doesn't start if the door is not shut properly which is as it's supposed to be for health and safety reasons. However, many a time I've thought I've shut the door only to find I haven't shoved it quite hard enough. An indicator that the door is not shut before you start programming the machine would be good here. It seems I'm not alone in my frustration with the door on this model. Nearly every review on this machine on Appliances Online says something along the lines of "nice machine but the door is a nightmare"....
Similarly, I do dislike the symbol system Hoover has used on the dial on this model. Initially it's really hard to work out which symbol relates to which programme, and I still get flummoxed if I'm in a hurry and not concentrating properly. I'd much rather there was a one word label or option for each of the 12 programmes and all the other functions rather than trying to work out what each symbol is supposed to represent.
Another feature that I miss on this machine compared to my old washing machine is the lack of bleeping. Now you may well think that this is a godsend as there are far too many machines in your life that bleep, ping or ring at you all day long everyday. However, if I'm upstairs I don't know that the washing machine has finished doing its thing as it just displays a silent "End" sign meaning the programme has finished and you can open the door. My old machine would give three distinct bleeps to let me know it was done meaning I could go downstairs and empty it. With this model I have to mentally remember when it will approximately finish otherwise the wet washing will sit in the machine longer than it needs too...especially if I'm engrossed in a good book or surfing the net upstairs in my study.
Finally, although this machine has a lot of functions and a lot of bells and whistles, not all of them are useable on certain programmes. The programmes are predetermined by the machine and you cannot override them. For example, you cannot alter the temperature settings on some of the programmes, so if you think your smalls would benefit from a hotter 90 degree wash but they really don't need two hours and 47 minutes to clean them if can't be done. Similarly you cannot increase the spin speed on some specific programmes if you've selected a lower temperature wash. I guess Hotpoint have predetermined the settings to make the wash programmes as foolproof as possible, but an override button in certain circumstances would be good.
=== Maintenance ===
This washing machine has that all important 'A' rating for energy efficiency and is allegedly easy to fit. However, I really cannot comment on how easy (or otherwise) this washing machine was to plumb in as it was all done by the team appointed by our insurance company to do the flood renovations. That said, they seemed to have no problems in fitting it, but they were professionals.
The user manual that comes with the machine is very user-friendly. It's written in simple and clear language and all the diagrams are useful and relevant. Although it's a massive 30 pages long it's mostly full of relevant information. This machine comes with a twelve month guarantee in the event of electrical/mechanical breakdown. It also comes with a five year parts guarantee which you need to activate either by completing the form within the user manual or you can do it online. Ideally you do need to activate the guarantee when you receive the machine, and not a year later when you find the form whilst leafing through the manual in the midst of writing a review on the machine....doh!
I've not yet had any mechanical problems with the machine (touchwood), but the manual also includes a useful cleaning and routine maintenance section as well as a malfunctions section. The drum and the door glass still look as good as new on my washing machine. However, whilst photographing the machine I noticed that my detergent drawer looks suspiciously grubby and rather unpleasant so I managed to hook the drawer out the machine very easily and give it a thorough clean in the sink.
=== Price and Source ===
We paid £399.00 for this washing machine in November 2012 from www.appliancesonline.co.uk and that price also included free delivery. It seems this particular model is no longer for sale with either Appliances Online or Currys, but you can still buy it on Amazon for £439.00 with a fairly hefty delivery charge of £24.50 or at www.365electrical.com for £408.99. Hoover seems to have discontinued this particular model but is now selling virtually the same specification model under the new name of the HWB 814 DN1. This can be purchased from either Appliances Online or Currys for £429.00. If you do purchase from www.appliancesonline.co.uk (or Currys) do remember to go through a cashback site like Quidco or Topcashback as they'll give you a further percentage off the price you'll pay. We got 2% cashback on our purchase, which is not huge I know, but when you're buying a cooker, cooker hood, washing machine and dishwasher all at the same time then it all adds up, and we got a nice £35 bonus from Topcashback.
=== Recommended? ===
This is a very good washing machine and I'm more than happy with the results of my wash. It has a good range of programmes that cover any laundry you need to do. The larger 8kg drum is ideal for washing those never-ending towels we need to keep our dog clean. Similarly the 1,400 rpm spin means that said towels leave the machine almost dry and therefore need minimal drying, which is a godsend at colder times of the year when you don't have the option of hanging the washing outside and are limited to festooning the airing cupboard with 5 or 6 damp towels.
However, it's not all rave reviews here. The stiff door on the machine is a complete nightmare and it really does need to be looked at by Hoover as it's really hard to close without a handle. I'm also none too keen on their use of symbols for all the buttons and the dial on the machine rather than using simple one word labels. Having to refer back to the manual to decipher the code is time-consuming and irritating. Sometimes I think that it was quicker for them to break the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park than it is to work out what two teardrops and a plus sign means ("Sensitive Care" in case you're wondering!).
Four stars from me as I'm afraid it loses a star for that troublesome door....not to mention those irritating symbols and the lack of a bleep.
=== Full Specification / Key Features ===
* Fully integrated washing machine
* 12 wash programmes
* Quick wash feature with 14, 30 and 44 minute programmes
* Maximum Rotational Spin Speed is 1400 rpm
* Handles a large 8kg wash load
* Front Loading
* Water consumption is 53 litres (cold fill only)
* Dimensions are Height: 82cm Width: 60cm Depth: 54cm
* Weight 71kg
* This washing machine has an 'A' rating for energy efficiency
* Red Digital LED Display
* 23 hour timer start delay programme
Further details at: http://www.hoover.co.uk/large-appliances/products/49/built-in/62/laundry /1055/fully-integrated-washing-machine/
The last time I visited the Partridge Inn was in the 1990s and it was called the Fox and Hounds in those days. I used to work at Goodwood Racecourse, and Singleton is one of its nearest villages. However, I must confess that I'd only been to the Fox and Hounds less than a handful of times as it was a bit of a dive compared to other places in the area. The landlord at the time was distinctly odd, rather lecherous and the food nothing special, so we didn't go there much at all.
I have no idea when the Fox transmogrified into a Partridge, but I suspect it had something to do with the name being non PC and fitting in with New Labour's fox hunting ban. No matter, the arrival of my daily Groupon email in my inbox invited me to revisit this old haunt. The deal was for two starters and two main courses for £25 and I swiftly snapped it up. I'd read in the local newspaper that the Partridge Inn (along with The Earl of March pub in nearby Lavant) is now owned by Giles Thompson who used to be the executive head chef of the Ritz London, so I rather hoped with that sort of accolade the food would be a vast improvement on that on offer in the 90s. I rang and booked a table the day before we visited and made it clear we were on the Groupon deal. The gentleman on the other end of the phone was efficient, but rather brusque, and told me to ensure I brought my Groupon voucher with us on the night.
*** A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME.... ***
The pub dates from the sixteenth century and there are plenty of period features throughout the building. There's a delightful fireplace complete with beam above it saying "The Partridge Inn circa XVIth cent" done out in olde worlde script. Sadly it's not authentic - not in the slightest. The Partridge Inn was not called the Partridge Inn until sometime in the late 20th or early 21st century...before that it was called the Fox and Hounds, so if the beam was authentic it would have a different name on it! Talking of beams, the pub is full of them - both on the ceiling and on the walls. There are lots of little alcoves and crannies inside the pub so it's ideal for a romantic assignation or a quiet drink. Most of the walls are festooned with horseracing pictures of nearby Goodwood Racecourse.
I don't recall the garden at all from the 90s (and have no idea if it even had a garden in those days), so I was rather surprised to see an absolutely huge garden to the back of the pub. There are a pair of double doors leading to a terraced area and then a huge expanse of lawn beyond. Both the lawn and the terrace are laid out with some lovely garden furniture complete with cream brollies. Had the weather been warmer I would have loved to eat out there, but we had to make do with a swift and bracing drink outside and then make our way indoors to a warmer climate....despite it allegedly being "flaming June".
The pub has a large gravelled car park to the front and side of the building with plenty of space to leave your vehicle. There is also a little bit of parking on the street in the village of Singleton should the car park prove full.
*** BIRD WATCHING ***
We visited the Partridge on a cool Tuesday evening in June. Despite it being early in the evening, the pub was already fairly busy with both drinkers and diners. To their credit, there are plenty of tables in the pub if you just fancy a drink, unlike a lot of local gastro pubs where every single table in the building is laid up with cutlery thus sending out a clear message that drinkers are not so welcome.
The Partridge serves food every day, and there's plenty on offer to suit most tastes providing you're not looking for a cheap lunch. They have a bar snack menu with a range of very expensive sandwiches starting at a whopping £6.95. There are a range of salads from £9.95 and a small selection of light bites such as soup or ploughmans.
As well as the bar snacks, there is an à la carte menu with a good range of dishes on offer. Starters range in price from £3.75 to £8.50 and include tempting delights such as Shallot and Goat's Cheese Tarte Tatin with Rocket and Parmesan Salad, Chicken Liver with Smoked Bacon and Port Pâté, Berry Compote and toasted Pain d'Alsace or House Potted Brown Shrimps with toasted Pain d'Alsace.
Main courses start at £10.95 (scampi and chips) and go all the way up to £21.50 (fillet steak) and include a range of tempting options to choose from namely Salmon, Chive and Fresh Herb Fishcakes on Wilted Spinach and Creamed Leeks, Lamb's Liver with Bacon, Mash, Red Wine Jus and Seasonal Vegetables or Pan Fried Sea Bass Fillet with Olive Crushed Potatoes and Sauce Vièrge to name but a few.
As well as the printed menu, there is of course the ubiquitous daily blackboard specials. On the evening we dined there I spotted Lamb Cutlets in Redcurrant Sauce and Fish and Chips with Minted Mushy Peas.
*** THE NAME OF THE GAME ***
I had reserved our table the day before and made them aware we were on the Groupon deal (£25 for two starters and two main courses). There was a problem with the lager pumps when we arrived so I wandered outside into the garden to enjoy a bit of the evening sun. My partner brought our drinks out with him five minutes later, but disappointingly he hadn't been offered any menus to bring with him despite alerting them to our reservation.
We had to go back inside the bar and sit at our designated table before the menus appeared. The host ran quickly through the menu and informed us of what we could and couldn't have on our Groupon deal. The blackboard specials beside the bar were off the agenda which was a pity as I quite fancied the lamb cutlets. However, the printed menu did not lack any choice, so I contented myself with that. For a Groupon deal, the Partridge was pretty good, and nearly everything on the menu was available to us (which you cannot say for many deals which tend to add supplements all over the shop). Here, the only supplement payable was if we wanted either fillet or rib-eye steak and even then it was only a paltry £3 charge.
For starters I chose Tiger Prawns pan fried with fresh Garlic and Herb butter and served with Rustic Bread at £8.50. The dish served was not really what I was expecting. I thought I'd receive a bowl with some medium sized peeled prawns swimming in butter. However, I actually got four huge Mediterranean prawns complete with heads and tails sitting in a pool of butter and millions of capers. I'm not a huge fan of capers and these were so strong in flavour they totally overpowered the garlic and herb flavours of the dish to the extent one couldn't taste anything but the capers. Now I love Mediterranean prawns as much as the next person, but they're extremely messy to eat, especially if they're coated in sauce. For heaven's sake if you're going to put whole unpeeled prawns on your menu, please, please, please serve them with a fingerbowl, or at least a pile of napkins or some of those scented finger wipes. Unfortunately, the Partridge managed to serve their prawns without any means of cleaning oneself up afterwards, so I had to spend a good five minutes in the ladies trying to get bits of prawn out of my finger nails. A black mark to the Partridge for their lack of consideration for their messy diners here. That said, the prawns themselves were very tasty once you could get at them. The rustic bread was very nice too, it was just a shame the overkill on the capers spoiled the sauce.
My partner chose Deep Fried Whitebait with Tartare Sauce £6.75. This dish was nicely presented and more than generous of portion. The breadcrumbs were nicely crunchy to the outside but the whitebait inside still fleshy and moist. The dish was accompanied by a lovely fresh salad garnish and a generous portion of creamy Tartare sauce.
For main course I chose the 10oz Rump Steak with Hand Cut Chips and Seasonal Vegetables £16.95. The price of the steak also gave you a choice of sauce to accompany the meat. From memory I believe there was a black peppercorn, Béarnaise or something else. This was a real plateful of food and a half and I struggled to finish it. The steak was juicy, thick and cooked nicely medium rare as requested. The vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, French beans and broccoli) that accompanied the dish were beautifully cooked and full of flavour. The chips weren't all that special as they were extremely thick and rather dry tasting, but to be fair I'm not a huge fan of chunky chips, I much prefer the shoe-string variety. The dish would have received top marks from me were it not for the rather dreadful Béarnaise sauce it came with. I absolutely adore Béarnaise sauce, but this version was very poor. Béarnaise sauce should be "A classic French sauce made with a reduction of vinegar, white wine, tarragon, black peppercorns, shallots and finished with egg yolks", but the Partridge version just tasted of slightly stale margarine. There was no hint of tarragon or vinegar to it, and I was more than a little disappointed. Luckily the sauce was served on the side so it hadn't been smothered all over the steak and I could enjoy the steak unadulterated by the poorman's Béarnaise sauce.
My partner decided on the 10oz Sizzling Rump Steak served with Grilled Field Mushroom, Tomato and Hand Cut Chips at £16.95. This came served on an iron skillet, but I missed the sizzling entrance as I was in the loo trying to remove prawn debris from my hands. He was rather impressed with his dish as it consisted of two generous hunks of meat, a large grilled tomato and a good sized mushroom. The portion of chips was a little small, but the generosity of the portion of meat more than compensated.
Desserts weren't included in our Groupon deal, but that didn't stop us from looking at the desserts blackboard (all priced at £5.95). There was a rather tempting sounding Toffee and Pecan Flapjack with Ginger and Honeycomb Ice-cream, but we were quickly informed that it had run out so that put paid to that idea. Other choices on offer were a Pear and Almond Tart and a White Chocolate and Rhubarb Panacotta with Rhubarb Ice-cream (as well as a selection of different ice-creams). In the end I chose Treacle Tart with Cream which was a nice generous slice of tart with a lovely sticky filling and a crisp shortcrust pastry case. The cream was served in a tiny little pouring pot as it was single cream. Himself went for Chocolate Tart with Cream, but it came served with Rhubarb ice-cream instead of the described cream. He wasn't all that impressed with this change of accompaniment as he found the Rhubarb ice-cream a little bit too perfumed in taste and would have preferred the cream. However, I thought the Rhubarb ice-cream was rather tasty - fruity and perfumed yes, but with a rather nice acidic bite to it. The chocolate tart, however, was delicious - rich, dark and rather bitter.
*** KNOWING ME, KNOWING YOU ***
The Partridge offers draught lager in the form of Becks or Stella Artois and cider is from Stoford Press. Real ale lovers can sup on London Pride or Harvey's Best. My partner ordered a pint of Becks as he dislikes Stella Artois. However, the Becks was frothing like mad despite a change of barrel whilst we waited. In the end the manager told him the Becks was off and he'd have to make do with Stella Artois. We noticed afterwards that we'd been charged for the more expensive Stella (at a whopping £5 a pint!) despite him wanting the cheaper Becks (£4.10 a pint). It would have been nice if they had adjusted the bill to charge us for the cheaper lager he'd wanted, rather than the expensive lager he'd received but no matter.
The service at the Partridge was rather hit and miss. The gentleman behind the bar was efficient enough, but his queries as to whether we'd enjoyed our meal seemed forced and robotic rather than genuine. One felt he was asking as he'd told to rather than because he genuinely wanted to know. As for the waitress we had for the evening, she was clearly doing the job for some pocket money rather than any genuine love of the job. Her questions were also robotic, but she either failed to understand our answers or she had the memory of a goldfish. She asked us if we wanted desserts to which we replied in the affirmative. Ten minutes later she was still standing behind the bar looking gormless and bored having totally forgotten to bring us the dessert blackboard. When prompted there was no apology, just a "oh yeah, I forgot". When she took our order for desserts she laboriously wrote the details down and then said in a very confused voice "anything else?". We'd ordered two desserts so why would we want a third or a fourth pudding? Or perhaps she meant to say "and would you like tea or coffee with that?", but failed to communicate what she meant. The Partridge need to invest some time and effort in training that young lady so she comes across as less dim and far more animated. When you've charging £35 to £40 per person for three courses of pub grub one expects a degree of professionalism from one's serving staff, and failing that most definitely a spark of enthusiasm for the menu and the venue.
The ground floor toilets were clean enough but a little bit dated in décor. I had some trouble working the taps in the ladies - they were easy enough to turn on but I had to ask another customer if she knew how to shut off the flow. Luckily she did! The toilets are signposted "Stags" and "Does" and there's a separate disabled toilet as well.
Our bill for the evening came a reasonable £23.95 and we left a £6 tip despite the distinctly average/poor service. Adding in the £25 Groupon deal, our meal for the evening cost us just shy of £55. At £55 the meal was of an acceptable value as the portions were generous and the food good. However there is no way on earth we would return to this pub and pay full price. The meal we had *should* have cost £80 if we'd paid full price and it was quite simply not worth £80. The food was good enough, the portions generous but the service left a lot to be desired.
*** IS IT WORTH DOING BIRD? ***
The Partridge is half-heartedly recommended. It's a lovely gastro pub in a delightful countryside setting. The food is good, not outstanding, but good. The portions are generous and I'd say all the food was freshly made (apart from the dreadful stale tasting Béarnaise sauce). However, this pub is more than let down by its service. The waitress was clearly disinterested in her job, and the manager came across as perfunctory and mostly indifferent. Maybe it was because we were on the Groupon deal and therefore not paying full price, but with that sort of attitude we really wouldn't be encouraged to return and pay full price next time.
The Partridge gets three stars from me as the food might be good and the portions generous, but the service really needs to buck its ideas up here. Recommended for summer's day when you can sit outside and enjoy their lovely garden and the stunning views.
*** FURTHER DETAILS ***
Singleton is a tiny little village nestling at the bottom of a very steep hill. Singleton is only 2 miles from Goodwood Racecourse (and the rest of the Goodwood Estate is only a tiny bit further on). You'd think such a short two miles distance would be walkable, but the hill is incredibly steep, so it's not recommended unless you love a very steep hike! Singleton is home to the renowned Weald and Downland Museum, which is an open air museum full of period reconstructed buildings and well worth visiting (see my review at http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/museums-national /the-weald-and-downland-open-air-museum-sussex/1223092/ if you're interested in further details). Just up the road you have West Dean Gardens in West Dean, and Chichester is just 7 miles away.
The Partridge Inn
Telephone: 01243 811251
Back in the mists of time I wrote a review on DooYoo all about the village of Bosham (pronounced Bozzum) which is very near to where I live. In case you're interested, the review is entitled "Time and tide wait for no man" and can be found at http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/destinations-national/bosham-village/1016963/. Bosham is a very pretty village about 3 miles outside of the city of Chichester in West Sussex and is located within one of the creeks of Chichester Harbour so is subject to high tides twice a day. Bosham is one of a number of places that lays claim to the King Canute legend as the location where he tried to turn back the tide (the claim strongly evidenced by the fact that his infant daughter is buried in the Saxon church at Bosham).
In my Bosham review I wrote all about the things to do in Bosham and made mention of the Anchor Bleu. My words were "There is one shorefront pub, The Anchor Bleu which dates back to 1740. It has some pleasant outdoor seating from which to watch the world go by. However, if it's good ale and friendly bar staff you prefer, then I suggest you go a little way inland to the Berkeley Arms, as the food, drink and welcome at the Anchor Bleu leave a lot to be desired". That was my opinion in 2005, and I cannot recall having gone anywhere near the place since then despite it being so close to my house. Would my revisit eight years later leave a more favourable impression, or would I still be recommending going elsewhere?
~*~ THE PUB ~*~
The very first thing I need to mention about the Anchor Bleu is that there is no parking whatsoever. It's best to park in pay and display car park opposite Bosham Craft Centre and then take a short three minute walk to the Anchor Bleu. Now you may think there's plenty of space on the road behind the pub (Shore Road), but do PLEASE check the tide that day. Every year several idiots park their cars on Shore Road and fail to notice the prominent signage stating "Road liable to tidal flooding". Unfortunately for them the tide very frequently swamps Shore Road in both summer and winter, and many a motorist has returned to find their car up to its wheel arches in salt water. A small crowd always gathers around any partially submerged vehicle and amused locals will start to take bets on how long it will be before the red faced motorist returns to their sodden car. It's almost a local sport! Inside the pub, the walls are festooned with photos of various half submerged cars from over the years. If salt water is washed off quickly, then your car *should* not suffer too badly, but a completely submerged car is likely to be a write off....as was the fate of a brand new Rover five or so years ago. It doesn't take long for any motorist caught this way to realise that like King Canute many centuries before him the tide at Bosham waits for neither man nor car!
The Anchor Bleu looks truly charming from the outside. The building dates back to the 18th century and is painted cream with pretty nautical blue window frames and gorgeous flower baskets in the summer months. There is large terraced area set within an ivy encrusted flint wall to the front of the pub with plenty of outdoor seating (and brollies should the weather prove inclement). To the back of the building is a very small terraced area set behind a white wrought iron railing. There is a scattering of tables and chairs here which are very popular with anyone visiting the Anchor Bleu as you get a bird's eye view of the harbour, and therefore sea views when the tide is in.
Inside the Anchor Blue is rather small and somewhat pokey. There is a nautical theme to the pub with a ship's wheel and various other sea faring memorabilia on the walls. However, most eyes are drawn to the many photos on the walls of various submerged vehicles throughout the years.
There isn't a great deal of seating inside the pub, so it tends to be a fair weather place. If the weather is warm you'll have more chance of a seat as there is a lot more outside seating at this pub than there is indoors. However, if the weather is unkind, then you'll need to get there very early in the day or evening, otherwise you'll not find an inch of space indoors and you'll have to sit and shiver outdoors. They don't accept lunchtime reservations at the Anchor Bleu, so you either have to get there early or just take pot luck that you'll be able to grab a table.
~*~ THE MENU ~*~
Eating at the Anchor Bleu earlier this month wasn't my choice, as I had no fond memories of the place as I said earlier. However, I was meeting a former colleague for lunch and she picked the venue. I was interested to see whether the place would be more welcoming than it used to be, and besides it was only a ten minute cycle ride from my house (the cycle ride turned into a fifteen minute expedition as I got my skirt caught in the back wheel of my bike and spent a good five minutes trying to release it and drawing a small crowd of helpers...doh!).
There is no printed menu at the Anchor Bleu, only a blackboard towards the back of the pub. This is fairly limiting, and heaven help the poor unsuspecting people sat on the table under the blackboard as there is a constant stream of punters looking over their shoulders at what is on offer. Whatever you do, don't pick that table under the blackboard as it will destroy any chance you wanted for a quiet lunch or dinner.
I'm afraid there are no surprises on their blackboard - it's all the pub fare you'd expect to find anywhere in the UK. There are a range of filled baguettes from £5.95, a selection of ploughmans and a range of different salads from £7.95 on offer. If you're after hot food, there's a choice of Beef Burger, Chicken Burger or Fish and Chips (£10.95) and a few other dishes but that's about it. I'd looked the menu up online before I went there so I'd know what to expect, but any of the dishes that sounded tempting to me weren't on offer that day. I loved the thought of Salt and Pepper Squid or a Thai Fishcake but neither of them were available.
All in all I was pretty unimpressed with the selection of luncheon dishes on offer as there wasn't really a single dish that stood out as innovative and interesting. It was all terribly run of the mill and boring.
~*~ LUNCH FOR TWO ~*~
We were lucky with the weather on the day we visited as it as a decidedly hot day. I don't like spending any time indoors at the Anchor Bleu as its pokey, claustrophobic and you get jostled and pushed trying to fight your way to the bar. Outside, the Anchor Bleu's a much less frenzied and more relaxed option. If you can grab a table on either the front or the back terrace, then you're likely to have a much more enjoyable respite.
There weren't any starters on offer at the Anchor Bleu so it was straight into the main event. I did find the menu rather limiting and I rather struggled to find something that tempted me. In the end I ordered a Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Granary Baguette which came with Homemade Coleslaw for £5.95. (I could have had other fillings such as Smoked Salmon and Cucumber, Bacon and Brie or Prawns in Marie Rose Sauce). The baguette was cut into two manageable wedges and generously filled with a couple of rashers of bacon and a layer of lettuce and tomato. The whole thing was bound together with mayonnaise, and the baguette had been slightly warmed so it was nicely gooey. Less impressive was the tiny tub of homemade coleslaw. What there was of it was sparse and heavily laden with far too much raw onion. I rather wished I'd ordered a plate of chips to go with my baguette to make it more of a meal rather than a snack, but there was no way on earth I fancied going back up to the bar to order a portion.
My friend decided to order their quiche and salad which cost £7.95. She received a nice wedge of Asparagus and Pepper Quiche with a nice shortcrust pastry crust. The salad surrounding the quiche was plentiful and consisted of mixed leaves, tomatoes and cucumber. To make things a bit more interesting they'd added a salad of cold broad beans and peas, which I would have hated but she seemed to enjoy. They'd also added a couscous salad to the plate but she left most of that as it was a little too dry and boring.
As the pub was so busy due to the gloriousness of the weather all the outside seating was taken up. A small party of three asked if they could share our table as there was no other space available and it was interesting to see the food they ordered. One of them had a Dressed Crab and Prawn Salad (£13.50) and it looked very nicely presented. Another had a plate of Whitebait which looked nicely crispy and the third went for Beefburger and Chips which didn't look so good due to the nasty pappy floury bap the burger came in.
All in all our meals were enjoyable, nicely presented, reasonably priced and generous of portion. I just think that the menu is incredibly pedestrian and rather boring. However, they'll be full there on a summer's day whether they offer their punters a packet of crisps or lobster thermidor, so I guess they don't have to try too hard to impress anyone.
~*~ EVERYTHING ELSE ~*~
The Anchor Bleu is a free house and offers a good range of real ales, lagers and bitters. From memory they are currently serving Hog's Back T.E.A., Ringwood Fortyniner, St. Austell Brewery's Tribute Ale, Sharp's Doom Bar and Sharp's Cornish Lobster.
As usual the Anchor Bleu was mobbed inside, and I had to fight my way to the bar. There was a largish party trying to place a food order (all food ordering has to be done at the bar too - no table service here), and it seemed to involve all of the bar staff as well as five punters. I stood there like a lemon for a good five minutes before one of the bar staff deigned to serve me. I asked about running a tab as we planned on eating, but they wanted to me to leave my credit card behind the bar so I declined and paid cash. I ordered half a lager shandy and a glass or rosé wine.
When I enquired about food I was brusquely informed that there were no printed menus and I'd need to look at the blackboard at the back of the pub to see what food was on offer. So far, the Anchor Bleu were not presenting themselves in their best light. Once I'd looked at the blackboard, I had to fight my way back up to the bar and place the order. You are then given a numbered wooden spoon to take back to your table, and you have to listen out for a member of staff shouting your number. They do bring the food to your table both inside and outside, which I was very relieved to hear, as I certainly didn't fancy another trip inside and pushing my way through the crowds.
When our food was brought to us, we were asked if we wanted any sauces or condiments to go with it. Similarly when our plates were cleared, we were asked if we'd enjoyed our meal by a rather charming young lady - the only member of staff to show any friendliness at all in the entire time we'd been there. However, she didn't ask if we'd like a dessert, and the thought to trying to locate the choice on offer and then fight one's way back up the bar to place the order was all too much hassle, so we did without.
~*~ SAIL AWAY, SAIL AWAY, SAIL AWAY.... ~*~
The Anchor Bleu is in a truly lovely location and the views from the back of the pub at high tide are delightful. However, despite it being surrounded with such natural charms, the pub itself still leaves me cold, and I can no more recommend this place today as I could eight years ago. Inside the pub is small and pokey and I really wouldn't want to spend any length of time in there. The service is as brusque and terse as it's always been. You have to fight your way to the bar and then receive not so much as a welcome, just a quickly filled drinks order. I realise that the place is thronged with tourists all summer, which possibly accounts for the terse and unwelcoming service, but nothing they say or do ever really encourages me or anyone else to make a return visit. They are sitting on an absolute gold mine if the weather is good, yet they squander it with indifferent service, food and ambience. I guess they just don't have to try too hard to be pleasant or interesting as they're always going to be full come summer due to their location.
The food is reasonable but unimaginative, but I really do dislike having to try and push my way through the hordes just to look at the blackboard of daily specials. By the time you've looked at the board, memorising as much as you can, you'll have forgotten half of what's on offer by the time you get back to your party at the front of the pub. A small printed menu would be a much easier option.
Recommended for drinks if the weather is sunny and warm, as there's no finer place to sit and watch the world go by, but do try and limit the time you spend inside the pub to an absolute minimum. Oh and the food is much nicer elsewhere. Two stars from me.
~*~ FURTHER DETAILS ~*~
The pub is very easy to find as its slap bang in the centre of Bosham. However, do please heed the flooding warning signs if you decide to park outside the pub. It's much safer to use the pay and display car park nearby. As you enter Bosham you'll see Bosham Craft Centre on your right hand side. Follow the road to the left into the pay and display car park. As you leave the car park on foot, turn left towards the water, and then take the first road on the right (the High Street). The Anchor Bleu is just a short may up the High Street on the left hand side.
The Anchor Bleu is a nice spot for a quick lunch or drink and then an afternoon preamble around the pretty village. As well as the craft centre mentioned, Bosham also houses a Saxon church, a harbour and lots of quaint waterside property. Oh and you can of course, visit Bosham by boat should you have one. You can access Bosham Quay 2½ hours each side of high tide. You can have 15 minutes free mooring alongside the quay but after that you need to go and find the Quay Master to pay launching and mooring fees.
The Anchor Bleu
Telephone No: 01243-573956
- The pub opens at 11.30am on weekdays,11am on Saturday and 12pm on Sunday
- Lunch is served from 12.00pm and dinner from 6.30pm everyday (all day dining on Sunday only)
- Disabled access here could prove a problem as the entrance to the pub is down a rather steep step
Amelie and Friends is a rather delightfully named restaurant right in one of the busiest streets in the centre of Chichester. Being given the name "Amelie and Friends" you'd think the menu would most likely be French, and the venue bistro like, but it's not. Despite being quirky in both name and décor, this restaurant takes its catering cues from all around the globe, and there is a lot more than a French flavour to its menu. Due to its superb location right in the heart of the city, it's a rather popular venue with ladies who lunch, local office workers and the odd tourist. However, despite opening 2 or 3 years ago, this was the first time I'd eaten at Amelie and Friends, though I'd heard many a report about it - both good and bad. Earlier this year was my opportunity to judge for myself when I finally got to dine there. My boss had invited the team out to lunch as a thank you for all the overtime we'd been putting in recently due to staff shortages. The surgery was closed until 3.30pm and we had booked a table for six for 1pm, thinking we would have plenty of time for a long and leisurely lunch.
~~ ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH DEAR FRIENDS ~~
Amelie and Friends is located in North Street, which is just a hop, skip and a jump from both Chichester Cathedral and the Cross, both of which are the main landmarks/tourist attractions of Chichester. North Street is full of great shops (both high street names and independents), and some good pubs (it also houses a Greggs the Baker, which is best avoided). Amelie and Friends is just a five minute walk away from Chichester Festival Theatre so it's an ideal venue for one of their special pre-theatre dinners (available from 5.30pm to 7.00pm Monday to Saturday 2 courses are £18.00 or 3 courses for £21.00).
Like so many venues in Chichester Amelie and Friends is housed in a Georgian brick built building complete with original sash windows and portico entrance. Despite sharing the building and entrance with an estate agent, Amelie and Friends is much larger than you expect it to be once you get inside. It's light, bright and airy inside due to a huge conservatory towards the back of the building.
It also has a truly hidden gem once you get beyond the conservatory, as the doors open out into a delightful and spacious walled garden. There are plenty of tables and chairs in the garden so you can enjoy some splendid alfresco dining if the weather permits. A city centre garden of this size is virtually unheard of in Chichester so Amelie and Friends do well to make the most of it and advertise their jewel in the crown by placing an A-board in North Street stating "Garden open for lunches today". I would imagine it's a splendid way to attract in both old and new clientele when the sun is shining.
Sadly Amelie and Friends has no parking whatsoever and its entrance is in the pedestrianised part of North Street. Chichester is always a bit of a nightmare to park in, and it can cost you an arm and a leg. There is a tiny bit of voucher parking towards the bottom of North Street, but your best bet to use the large pay and display car park beside Chichester Festival Theatre.
The venue has lovely high ceilings and stripped wooden floorboards. The building used to house an off-license (Arthur Purchase) for many, many years, and someone has obviously spent a fortune updating the décor and converting it into a restaurant. Despite being done out in mainly creams, greys and browns, the lighting is so clever that it's not in the slightest bit drab. Of course, the natural light from the huge conservatory and garden help boost the light enormously but I was rather amazed at just how spacious and light it was inside the place. I can remember how very dark and pokey the off-licence used to be, so they really have transformed the place into a hidden gem.
~~ THE MENU - FLEXIBLE FRIEND ~~
The menu in Amelie and Friends is quite brief, but there's enough to tempt even the most jaded diner. I'd describe the menu as brasserie style favourites, but with a definite twist. For example they serve a duck dish, but it's served with rhubarb instead of the traditional orange and they serve coleslaw with one of the sandwiches but it's made with red cabbage instead of the usual white one. The menu is full of little quirks and unusual ingredient pairings, which tend make you think "that's a nice idea, I could try that at home".
As Amelie and Friends is a restaurant cum brasserie, it's more of a place for a proper sit-down meal rather than a quick snack. As such sandwiches aren't *really* on the menu...well there is one, but it's one of those posh expensive sandwiches (Pulled Pork Sandwich in Foaccia with Red Cabbage Coleslaw at £7) so you know it's going to be a good plateful of food rather than a quick snack. Other items listed on the Amelie and Friends "snack" selection include Quiche of the Day, Eggs Florentine, Eggs Benedict or Eggs Royale all priced at around the £7 to £8 mark.
The main menu at Amelie and Friends is an all day one and has a fairly limited but interesting selection of dishes. Starters range from £2.50 to £6.30 and include things like Baba Ganoush, Hummus and Flat Bread, Duck Egg, Bacon and Watercress Salad or Mozzarella Crostini with Green Chilli and Lemon Zest. Main courses are split into either Fish or Meat sections with about 4 or 5 different choices on offer to each. I'd heard good things about their Homemade Fish Pie - packed with cod, haddock, salmon, shrimps and boiled egg at £11, and one of my colleagues quite fancied trying their Homemade Cottage Pie - enriched with Oxtailat £9. Vegetarian dishes are marked up clearly with a large "V". As well as the main à la carte menu, there is a fixed price lunch menu for £10.95 (2 courses) or £14.50 (3 courses) which offers dishes from the main menu but in smaller portions.
~~ OUR MEAL - FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS ~~
On the day we visited, the sun had finally made an appearance, so Amelie and Friends was very busy. The garden was full to bursting with lunchers, and all the tables inside were occupied as well. We had booked a table for six in the conservatory but rather regretted we hadn't asked to sit outside. However at the time of booking we had no way of knowing the weather would be nice enough to sit outside.
As I said earlier, my visit to Amelie and Friends was at the invitation of my boss and his wife to thank the team for all our overtime of late. We had booked a table for six for 1pm and arrived spot on the dot. There seemed to be some confusion over our booking as we were left standing like a bunch of lemons in the main reception area whilst one of the staff spoke to another member of staff. After a brief confusion we were shown to a lovely table in the conservatory and given a menu apiece and our drinks order taken.
As is the case when you're not paying the bill, you have to wait and take your cue from the person that is! It's no good ordering a starter and the most expensive main course, if the payer is making do with a plate of eggs. I suspected from previous works dos, that starters weren't really on the agenda and we'd launch straight into main courses, and I was right. As a last minute thought, the boss ordered a couple of homemade bread baskets with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar dips, but they weren't huge and we quickly chomped through the lot. I had some trouble finding an appealing main course that was averagely priced and not the dearest thing on the card. I was tempted by the Ribeye Steak with Chips and Béarnaise Sauce as I absolutely adore Béarnaise sauce with a good plateful of steak and chips. However as this was priced at £19.50, I decided it would make me look like a right greedy guts and that I was trying too hard to get my money's worth from the boss. Instead I plumped for the more modestly priced Homemade Fishcakes with Poached Eggs, Spinach and Hollandaise at £11. Two other members of our party also ordered this dish so I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I'd made the right choice. The fishcakes were very obviously homemade and coated in a nice coating of golden breadcrumbs. When you cut into them there was a nice quantity of flaked salmon mixed in with fluffy potato and fresh dill. The fishcakes were balanced on a small portion of steamed spinach, but it was a big enough portion for the dish. There were two perfectly poached eggs sitting on top of the fishcakes and these had been drizzled with Hollandaise sauce and a sprinkling of freshly chopped chives. When you cut into the poached eggs the yolks were still lovely and runny. The Hollandaise sauce accompanying the fishcakes was rich and buttery, but there simply wasn't enough of it to get more than a tiny smear with each mouthful. All in all, I thought the fishcakes were superb, but they could do with upping the quantity of sauce with this dish. I was particularly impressed with the perfection of the poached eggs here having seen what a mess they got into with poaching eggs on Masterchef recently :o)
Two of our party choose Confit Duck Leg with Rhubarb, Bok Choi and Roast Potatoes at £14.50. This didn't look like a particularly exciting dish to me, but both parties said it was delicious and how well the rhubarb worked with the dish instead of the usual orange. The final dish chosen by our party was Homemade Lamb Burger with Tzatziki and Onion Rings at £10.50. The presentation of this burger was stunning as the onion rings were placed on top of the burger in a tower effect. It needed to be quite literally demolished to be eaten.
Five out of six in our party were interested in a dessert so the majority ruled on this occasion. There are a limited selection of desserts (£4.50 to £6.50) on the card at Amelie and Friends but they all sounded most tempting. I quite fancied Affogato (Vanilla ice cream, espresso and honeycomb), but was swayed by noticing one of my all time favourites instead - Eton Mess. Four of us ended up having the Eton Mess and someone else chose Lemon and Pinenut Parfait with Raspberry Sorbet and Raspberry Tuile. Other desserts on offer were Homemade Ice Cream, Crème Caramel, Rhubarb Fool or Moelleux au Chocolat. Without exception we all said how disappointing the Eton Mess was. Instead of it being whipped cream, crushed meringues and fresh strawberries as it should be, the Amelie and Friends version was far too plain and boring - more like "Eton Tidy" as one of my colleagues quipped. Instead of fresh strawberries we had watery cubes of poached red berries, which looked more like beetroot than berries :o( The meringues weren't crushed but just plonked on top of whipped cream and then garnished with the rather dreadful fruity cubes - which weren't particularly fruity. I do wonder if the kitchen had run out of fresh strawberries and defrosted the fruity cubes as a quick standby. They'd have done better to send someone out for a couple of punnets of strawberries in all honesty. No such disappointment was reported from the owner of the Lemon Parfait in our party, who really enjoyed her dessert. She was the only one who didn't wish she chosen something else.
We rounded things off with a selection of coffees - two decaffeinated, two lattes and one cappuccino. I didn't spot the bill at the time, but when we got back to the surgery it was put through petty cash, so I managed to see that it came to £141 with a £14 tip to round it up to £155. Working out at around £25 per person I thought this was reasonable enough for the quality of the food, service and venue.
~~ WHAT ELSE? - FRIENDS, ROMANS, COUNTRYMEN.... ~~
Other than the dreadful Eton Mess, the food was very good at Amelie and Friends. However, it wasn't all perfection on a plate here. I'm afraid that the slowness of the service really let this place down. We had the initial confusion over our booking when we arrived as I've already mentioned, but that was quickly sorted out and we were seated, drinks arrived and orders were placed. We chatted amongst ourselves, and then we chatted some more. I attempted a surreptitious look at my watch as I was getting hungrier and hungrier and there was no sign of the food. Having placed our order at around 1.10pm to 1.15pm, our food finally arrived at just gone 2pm. Yes, I know this is a sign that it's all freshly cooked, but a 45 minute wait for lunch is really not acceptable. People need to eat more quickly at lunch as they need to get back to the office. Luckily the surgery was not reopening until 3.30pm that day, but if we'd had any 2pm appointments scheduled then at least two of us would have had to have gone hungry and returned to work before our food arrived. The place was packed to the rafters due to the unexpected sunny weather, but that's no excuse for not keeping your diners informed. At no stage did anyone from Amelie and Friends come over and explain the delay in the food arriving. By the time 2pm arrived, everyone in my party had foregone the polite chit chat to join in with a good old grumble about the slowness of the food service. We were asked to fill in a comment card when the bill arrived, so we wrote that the food was good, but the service far too slow.
I thought the ambience and surroundings at Amelie and Friends were delightful. I had no idea that they had such a huge garden for al fresco dining and it really is a charming feature of the venue. However, if you visit the place during inclement weather the conservatory is just as lovely a place to sit in as you get a bird's eye view of both the garden and the main dining areas too. Drinks wise we mostly stuck to water as most of us needed to be back at the surgery later on that afternoon. The two that weren't returning to work had glasses of white wine. If you have more time Amelie and Friends do a good range of cocktails from £6, as well as a full range of wines and champagnes. Please note that none of the beer is draught here - it's bottled Peroni Lager, Sussex Pale Ale or Thatchers Cider.
Apart from the awful Eton Tidy and slow food service, the only other thing that let the venue down were the rather miserable staff. They were efficient and polite, but there was little warmth or friendliness to their service. The owner was flitting about in the background throughout our meal but she didn't come anywhere near our table. As we left she was standing behind one of the counters in the main reception area, and she didn't manage to crack either a smile or a thank you in our direction, which I thought was most remiss of her. Her general demeanour was rather cold and I wonder if this has rubbed off on her staff and made them act in a similar fashion?
It has to be said that Amelie and Friends is not really a kiddies venue and I suspect that children are not really encouraged here (there was certainly no evidence of any special kiddies menu or facilities on offer). There's a definite "grown-up" and somewhat sophisticated vibe to the place - it's mainly for "ladies who lunch" or a business people.
Entry to Amelie and Friends is through the front door on North Street and there are a couple of steps up into the building. Wheelchair access may prove difficult even though the steps are rather shallow. Once inside the restaurant, there are no further steps and it's all fairly level (unless you venture out into the garden - more steps down). There are two unisex cloakrooms inside the venue (both of which appear to be wheelchair accessible), which were clean and tidy when I visited them.
~~ FRIEND OR FOE? ~~
We all agreed that the food at Amelie and Friends was reasonably priced and good value for the quality received. We all thoroughly enjoyed our main courses. However, they really do need to go back to the drawing board with their Eton Mess as it was quite the worst version any of us had ever partaken of.
Everyone agreed that Amelie and Friends was a super venue and our table in the conservatory was perfectly placed for a pleasant lunch. However, without exception we were all astounded by the slowness of the food service. Yes, we understood it was perhaps busier than they expected to be due to the sunny weather, but that does not excuse the lack of apology or explanation as to the delay in our order. A wait of 45 to 50 minutes is simply not acceptable at lunchtime as a large percentage of Amelie and Friends diners have desks they simply have to get back to. They really need to up their game or those that are time constrained at lunchtimes will go elsewhere.
Recommended as a pleasant city centre venue for lunch and dinner...provided you have enough time to spare.
Four stars from me - they lose points for the miserable owner, slow food service and that diabolical Eton Mess.
~~ FRIENDS WILL BE FRIENDS ~~
Amelie and Friends
31 North Street
Monday - Saturday: 10.00am - 11.00pm
Sunday: 10.00am - 4.00pm
My last two hairdryers have been from Boots own range (the Boots Essentials 2000W hairdryer) and they've served me fairly well. However, they have a habit of becoming unusable after two or so years. The first one blew up mid blow-dry which scared the life out of me, and the second one just stopped working mainly due to the extremely twisted cord I suspect. As their lifespan appears to be fairly limited, I decided that buying a third Boots hairdryer was a false economy even though they retail at £12.99 apiece. This time around I decided to try a different and more expensive model in the hope it would make it past the two year mark. Enter stage right my brand new hairdryer from Vidal Sassoon. The official name of my new hairdryer is the Daily Hydration Dryer and the model number is the VSDR5825UK. I purchased my new hairdryer from Boots for £19.99.
*** FEATURES ***
The Vidal Sassoon Daily Hydration Dryer comes packaged in a stylish looking white box with purple and grey accents. Inside you get a rather brief instruction leaflet. The instruction leaflet is tiny - there's a diagram of the hairdryer showing you what each switch is for, some safety instructions and the contact details in case of problems. The instruction booklet is also your guarantee as this hairdryer comes with a two year guarantee (provided you keep the receipt from where you purchased it too).
So, onto the hairdryer itself. The hairdryer is a lovely shade of purple matched with grey. That's really why I bought it. I love purple - it's my favourite colour and it will match our bedroom, which is painted lilac and mauve. After I'd seen the wondrous purpleness of the dryer, everything else was just details. I suspect I would still have bought the dryer if it had a speed of 600w and it took me an hour to blow-dry my hair every morning such was the loveliness of the colour. Luckily, this dryer is not all about the looks, and it does have all the necessary bells, whistles and buttons to give me a quick blow dry. The dryer has two switches side by side on the handle which give you three different heat and two different speed settings of up to 2200 watts. Further up the handle you have the cool shot button, which I've just found out is what you are supposed to use on your hair once you've achieved your desired style. Evidently your style can be set with a flow of cool air. I can honestly say I had no idea that's what this button was for on this or any other dryer I've ever owned. I've always used it when my head or hair feels a bit hot! You live and learn.
The back of the dryer has an easily removed air inlet which you can take off to clean the dryer if it gets furred up with fluff etc. The dryer also comes with a concentrator nozzle which needs to be firmly pushed into place and is used for "precision styling and smoothing of hair follicles". I just pushed mine onto the end of my dryer on the day I unpacked it and that's where it will stay until the day it goes to the great hairdryer graveyard in the sky. I always find my head and hair get far too hot too quickly if I try and dry my hair without a concentrator nozzle on the end of my dryer. Hence my wedging it straight into position.
The dryer comes with a 1.8m swivel cord which is long enough for me, as it reaches quite easily to the nearest plug socket behind my dressing table. However, many reviewers on Amazon, Boots and Argos have complained that the 1.8m cord is simply not long enough and it could do with additional length. My biggest concern with any hairdryer cord is keeping it straight. My previous two Boots hairdryer cords both became unbelievably twisted and snarled, which is rather dangerous after a while. Indeed my last Boots hairdryer stopped working altogether as the cord had twisted so badly. Its early days for my Vidal Sassoon model but I'm hoping that the fact the cord on this model swivels may prevent it twisting quite so badly. Failing that, had anyone got any good tips on how to prevent it?
This model also has a hang up loop in the handle, but it's rather rubbish to be honest. The hole is so tiny you'd need a small metal hook to hang it up, so I just ignore the Hang Up Loop on this model and leave the dryer resting on my dressing table. The hanging loop on this model may be rubbish, but I'm pretty impressed with the folding handle on my new dryer. With a quick twist to the handle you can fold the dryer up into a much more ergonomical shape. Whilst this dryer is never going to be as small as a travel hairdryer, with the handle folded away it's pretty damn close and would definitely be a contender for my suitcase when I next go on my holidays.
Finally the science bit about Ionic Technology which I'll let Vidal Sassoon tell you about, as it all sounds like hairdresserly marketing techno babble to me - "Featuring an innovative on board Ionic generator this dryer produces four times more Ions than a standard hair dryer meaning that the natural moisture of your hair is protected". Good to know you've getting your four a day in Ions with this hairdryer Vidal! That's me sorted with my five a day in the kitchen and four a day in the bedroom :o)
*** OPERATING ***
The dryer has a pistol grip handle and it's made with good sturdy ridged plastic so it grips well when you are manoeuvring it around your head. Although the dryer feels much bulkier and bigger than my previous Boots one, it's still easy to lift and hold in position as I style my hair.
As the dryer has 2200 watts so it's pretty powerful and fast to dry one's hair. I use mine with the Concentrator Nozzle on the end as it makes it easier to control the flow of hot air, and it also keeps things a little cooler for my head. If things do get a little too hot, it's easy enough to reach the heat and speed settings on the dryer which are positioned half way down the handle. With a quick flick to the switch on the left hand side you can push the button down a notch to a lower heat setting and right next to it is the switch to turn the speed down a tad too. The dryer is fairly noisy so by reducing the speed you can also quieten the dryer down a bit too.
If things are still a little too hot on your head, the cool shot button is located just at the top of the handle and you can flick that switch for a blast of cooler air. I must say that this button is not too reachable mid-dry, and you need to hold it away from your head a tiny bit to operate it.
*** WASH AND GO ***
I have shoulder length hair in a flicked bob short of shape. My hair is fairly easy to maintain, but it is incredibly thick so it takes some time to get it dry. I cannot be doing with washing my hair in the mornings as it just takes too long to dry it as it's so thick. I therefore wash my hair every night when I have a bath and then leave it to dry naturally during the evening. However, as my hair is so thick, it's rarely completely dry when I go to bed three to four hours after my bath. I therefore use my hairdryer to give it a quick blast to get the roots dry before I go to bed. If I go to bed with damp hair I wake up looking truly frightful the next day and it takes an age to sort out in the morning! My hairdryer gets more use in the mornings when I use it to shape and style my hair for the day ahead. I inevitably spray my hair with a fine misting of water and then add a quick application of either mousse or styling gel. By dampening it with water and squirting on styling gloop, I can then blow dry my hair into an acceptable shape in about five to seven minutes. Job done.
I must say that my new dryer does dry my hair pretty damn quickly if I have it on the highest heat seating and the fastest speed. It takes roughly five to seven minutes of blow drying and styling to get it into shape after I've dampened it and applied mousse or styling gel. However, I cannot tolerate the highest heat setting on this dryer for more than two minutes as it gets pretty darn hot far too quickly. I therefore tend to flick it down a notch to the second highest heat setting for the remainder of my morning blow dry. In the past I would have held my finger on the cool button on my Boots hairdryer when the heat got a little too unbearable, but on my new Vidal Sassoon dryer the cool button is quite awkward to reach with my finger mid-style. You really need to move the dryer away from your head to reach the switch and that just slows you down on a busy morning when you're in a rush to get ready.
My hair has never suffered from a frizz problem as its more or less dead straight. I therefore cannot really comment on how effective the Ionic generator is on this dryer. I must say that the dryer has not made my hair look dry or straw like so the claims of it keeping one's hair silky and smooth are true. My hair still looks to be in tip-top condition and is always glossy and smooth looking after using the hair dryer. Maybe the Ionic control level of this dryer is doing wonders for my moisture levels in my hair, or maybe it's the products I use on it. Who knows?
*** WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD? ***
The hairdryer is quite a bit bulkier than I expected it to be. It does have that foldable handle which reduces the size if you're travelling, but it's still a fairly large dryer. On the plus side, its largish size does not equate to heaviness in weight and this dryer is easy to lift and manoeuvre being just over half a kilogramme in weight. Do bear in mind that if you prefer a quiet and purring dryer then this one is not going to bit the bill. On its highest heat and fastest speed setting this dryer is none too quiet. That doesn't really bother me as I want speed and quickness of drying above all else, but my partner did complain it was incredibly noisy* when I barged into the bedroom and switched it on at 7am last week (*or maybe he meant me rather than the dryer....).
Whilst I love the rather funky looking purple and grey colours of my dryer, it's actually made out of a matte plastic rather than a shiny one. This means it shows up every single greasy mark going. If you've just put some wax or styling lotion in your hair you're going to have to remember to wash your hands thoroughly before you pick up the dryer otherwise you could easily get mucky marks or greasy smears on the dryer.
Looking at the customer reviews on Argos, Amazon and Boots there are as many negative as there are positive reviews on this model. Most of them complain that the cord is too short, but all tend to agree that it dries hair quite quickly. However, there are a rather alarming number of reviews complaining that their dryer stopped working after a few months or that it simply blew up. With this in mind, do remember to keep your receipt as the dryer does have that two year guarantee with it. If mine does blow up or stop working I'll be straight into Boots for a refund.
*** AND FINALLY... ***
I'm more than happy with my new dryer as it does the job I need it to do. It dries my hair quickly and easily and I am able to achieve the hair style I want in about five minutes. My hair looks glossy and shiny and holds its shape well throughout the day.
I will admit that this dryer is noisy, but I'm happy to put up with the noise as I prefer speed over tranquillity when I'm in a rush to get ready for the day ahead. The dryer is little bulkier than I expected it to be, but it's still lightweight enough to make styling one's hair easy enough. And I love the fact that the handle can be folded away to make it more compact for travel.
Recommended with four stars. It loses a star for the poor positioning of the cool shot button, the fact that the matte plastic is going to show every single greasy mark going and its noisiness. However, these are only minor issues for me, and the fact it dries my hair so quickly and easily gives it more than a good recommendation in my book.
*** PRICE AND AVAILABILITY ***
I bought my hairdryer at Boots for £19.99. The link can be viewed at http://www.boots.com/en/Vidal-Sassoon-Purple-Daily-Hydration-Hairdryer_1236086/. However, since I purchased my dryer at the beginning of August, Boots have reduced this model from £19.99 to £14.99 (most irritating that I purchased it a month too early...). Argos currently have the dryer on sale at £14.99 too but Tesco is out of the running by offering it at £20.76. Amazon are selling it for £16.49, but it has the rather ominous message against it saying "Item Under Review. This product is not currently offered by Amazon.co.uk because a customer recently told us that the item he or she received was not as described".
*** THE TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS ***
* 2200 watts
* Compact and lightweight model at 0.52 kilogram
* Folding handle for easy storage and packing
* Variable temperature with 2 x speed settings and 3 x heat settings
* Cool shot button
* Ionic conditioning locks in moisture to keep hair healthy and frizz-free
* Concentrator nozzle for controlled styling
* 1.8m swivel cord
* Removable filter for easy cleaning
* Hanging loop for easy storage
* Manufacturer's 2 year guarantee
* Size is 21.5cm (H) x 28cm (W) x 6.2cm (D)
With all the lovely sunshine recently it's hard to remember what a nightmare last summer was for us and many other households in the UK. Record rainfall in June 2012 resulted in many flooded households and ours was one of the unlucky ones. Despite all the trauma and upheaval of ruined carpets and flooring, one silver cloud on the horizon was the promise of a brand new fully fitted kitchen. Despite having lived in our house for 17 years, until last year we had been making do with the kitchen we inherited with our house. We had plans to remodel it, but never really got round to it as there were so many other more important jobs to do. The flood forced our hand, and we were getting a new kitchen whether we were ready or not :o) Along with brand new cream units and oak worktops, our insurers also agreed to pay for new integrated appliances in the form of a cooker, washing machine and dishwasher (as our old stand alone cooker, washing machine and dishwasher couldn't be accommodated into the new kitchen design).
The dishwasher was by far the easiest of our newly installed appliances to master, and with it having been plumbed in approximately ten months ago now, I've had ample time to put it through its paces and now give it a through review on its strengths and weaknesses.
== FEATURES ==
The Beko DW602 dishwasher is a full sized machine and it can accommodate up to twelve place settings. Although the dishwasher is allegedly silver, because it's integrated it matters not a jot as you never really see the front of the unit as it's encased behind a cream painted kitchen unit. The dishwasher has a front loading door that pulls down very smoothly.
The controls are all encased in the top of the dishwasher door. On this particular model there are five wash programmes and four wash temperatures from pre-wash/no heat to an intensive 70°C wash. The shortest programme (P1- Pre-Wash) is a 15-minute pre-wash cycle with no hot water/heat which is ideal for freshening up the inside of the machine if you don't yet want to put on a proper load. P2 (Rapid) is a 30-minute 35°C quick cycle. P3 (Eco) is an economy cycle operating at 50°C for a thorough yet eco-friendly wash. P4 (Quick and Clean) operates at 60°C. Finally we have P5 (Intensive) which is a 115 minute cycle operating at 70°C. We tend to use the P1 programme if things are getting a little stagnant smelling inside the machine but we don't yet have enough cups, plates and saucers to justify putting the machine on. When we do have a full load we tend to use the P4 programme which takes approximately an hour. The machine also has a Half Load button which shaves about 15 minutes off the usual timings on your chosen cleaning cycle.
As well as the programme buttons in the top of the dishwasher door there are also a salt indicator light and a rinse aid light to show when you need to top up both your dishwasher salt and rinse aid. If either of these red LED lights come on then you need to top up with salt or rinse aid.
Inside the dishwasher there are two racks (upper and lower) and a moveable cutlery tray with handle. The lower basket has racking for 12 large plates and smaller rows of racking for side plates and bowls. However, the beauty of this machine is that it has folding tines throughout the lower basket making the interior space very flexible and user-friendly. Saucepans, baking trays and bulkier bowls can easily be placed in the lower basket by flattening the racking. There are four separate "folding plate support rods" in the lower basket. One can either fold one section individually or all four at once depending on how much space you need to accommodate larger and bulkier items. You simply press the rods/tines firmly and they fold over to one side and lay flat.
The grey cutlery basket takes up to 12 sets of cutlery and has been designed to so you can put it anywhere in the bottom basket of the machine thus working around the crockery or bakeware you've put in the dishwasher.
The upper rack is for smaller items such as cups and glasses. This basket also has racking that can be folded away if you need to place larger items in it. However, we tend to use our upper basket purely for cups and glasses so all the support racking tends to get used. Wine glasses can be leant against the racking to give them plenty of support during the wash cycle. The racking can also be used to support high ball glasses though I must say that it is rather poor in this instance. We have some thick and heavy highball glasses and they need to be carefully wedged against the racking side by side before we can put the dishwasher on. Unless there is adequate support from similar highball glasses they tend to fall over and could smash as the racking is simply not supportive enough for taller glasses.
You can also adjust the height of the upper basket (even when fully loaded) as it has a lifting mechanism to the side, and you don't even need to remove the basket from the dishwasher. I haven't tried to alter the height of mine so I am unsure how easy or difficult this may prove. However, if it operates like the rest of the machine it will be simplicity itself.
== OPERATING ==
The Beko DW602 has a pull down door with the control panel embedded in the top of the dishwasher door. The controls are incredibly simple to operate. You decide which programme you want to use by pressing the large silver button labelled "P". By pressing this button it moves the indicator light from P1 through to P5. By taking your finger off the P button the light will stop on the programme you want. You then need to depress the large silver button with the "go" arrow to start the programme. The machine bleeps three times and you then need to close the dishwasher door before your chosen programme starts. It's incredibly simple to operate. However, I must say that this machine is so very quiet in operation that you often have to really strain to hear whether the machine has started up! Many a time I've thought that the machine hasn't been correctly programmed and I'll need to start again, but invariably it has started and it was my ears deceiving me.
Halfway down the door of the machine are the hollows for the detergent and rinse aid. You need to flip up the panel and place your dishwasher tablet inside the compartment and then close the panel shut. Next to the detergent slot is the rinse aid receptacle. Once this is full the visual indicator button above it turns dark. We don't use additional rinse aid in our dishwasher as we find that the rinse aid added to the Finish Quantum dishwasher tablets we use perfectly adequate for our needs. All our crockery and glassware comes out perfectly clean without any signs of scale or water marking so we're happy to continue using Finish Quantum tablets and do without the rinse aid. However, if the water in your area is hard it may make your household utensils more prone to scaling etc, so you might feel the need to add rinse aid to your machine. It only needs to be topped up every 40-60 washes so it's fairly unobtrusive and easy to monitor.
Finally you do need to add dishwasher salt to your machine as this will soften the water used in the cycle. The salt receptacle is located in the very bottom of the machine. You therefore need to remove the bottom rack of the machine to get at the salt dispenser. The cap has to be unscrewed anti-clockwise and the salt poured in via the funnel provided. Once filled the cap has to be screwed firmly back in place until you hear a clicking noise. This will activate the salt indicator light in the top control panel of the dishwasher. It can be a bit of messy and fiddly job, but luckily the salt lasts for a good long while (the receptacle takes 2kg of dishwasher salt) before you have to do it all again. Based on two to three cycles a week, 2kg of salt lasts us about three to four months.
On final word of warning for not just this model but any dishwasher is that before you press the "go" button on your chosen cycle you must make sure the spinning blade is able to rotate freely and easily and is not obstructed by any high baking trays or saucepan handles.
== THE RESULTS ==
Without fail, our dishwasher always produces excellent results - and that's with our just relying on dishwasher tablets and not bothering with the rinse aid. I drink rather a lot of tea and tea stains are really hard to remove from cups with simple hand washing (unless you soak the cup in something like soda crystals first). However, my Beko dishwasher removes any nasty tannin stains for all my cups every single time so I have no nasty brown rims in the bottom of my cups.
Similarly, by folding down the racking in the bottom basket of the dishwasher, I can easily fit in the grimiest and greasiest of baking trays, shut the door and, hey presto, an hour later, my scuzzy cookware is grease free and sparkling clean. I no longer have to soak that tray overnight before tackling it in the sink with plenty of Fairy Liquid and elbow grease the next morning.
The machine is incredibly quiet, and I mean very, very quiet. You really do have to strain to hear whether any of the dishwasher cycles have started. My old dishwasher wasn't noisy, but you could definitely hear the water sloshing about inside it. Not so with the Beko - it really does tiptoe its way through the washing process.
Once the machine has finished doing its cycle, I tend to open the door and leave the items to cool down and dry off a little before I empty the machine. On the whole, all the crockery and glassware come out bone dry so you can remove them from the machine and put them straight into the cupboard. There is never any streaking or scale on my glassware which is a real bonus. My old dishwasher did send some of my glassware a little bit "cloudy" after prolonged sessions through the dishwasher. Not so here - the Beko delivers excellent streak free and sparkling glassware time after time. Tupperware and plastic items do tend to come out with droplets of water still on them, so they need a bit of a shake and a spell on the drying rack by the sink before they can be put away. The cutlery tray can sometimes have a few stray stubborn droplets of water on it too, but a good shake of the tray usually sorts that out.
== ANY DIFFICULTIES OR DRAWBACKS? ==
I have really very little to complain about with this dishwasher as it gives excellent results time after time. My main criticism of this machine is that the upper basket has not been designed to give adequate support to tall glassware. Our highball glasses are made from rather thick glass and unless they are laid carefully against the rubber racking side by side, they can fall over and roll about - potentially chipping or smashing them. The system works fine if we put three highball glasses side by side so they support each other, but one highball glass on it's own just doesn't work as there is nothing to keep it fully supported and upright.
As both upper and lower baskets are on wheels/runners you do need to exercise some gentleness when pushing the baskets in and out of the dishwasher. Just occasionally the lower basket will come off its runners which can be tricky if you have a full basket of kitchenware in it. You need to carefully lift the basket back into its runners, but it's easy enough to do.
However, these are purely very minor irritations, as nothing is ever really perfect in this world is it? All in all, this machine is incredibly reliable, and it gives super results every single time. It's quiet, unobtrusive and you rarely even realise it's on.
== MAINTENANCE ==
Maintaining our dishwasher is very simple. We only need to top the salt up every 3 to 4 months. Other than that, it's a case of keeping an eye on the internal filters inside the machine. The filter in the Beko DW602 is a three-layer metal filter and it's both removable and washable.
I cannot comment on how easy or otherwise this dishwasher was to plumb in as I had no involvement in it. The dishwasher was plumbed in by the team appointed by our insurers to repair our house after all the flood damage. That said, they seemed to have no problems in fitting it, but they were professionals (allegedly...though we did wonder at times as our flood renovations seemed to take forever...). Finally, the dishwasher has that all important 'A' rating for energy efficiency.
The user manual that came with the machine is as user-friendly as the machine. It's written in simple and clear language and any diagrams are useful and relevant.
== PRICE AND SOURCE ==
We paid £248 for this dishwasher last November from www.appliancesonline.co.uk and that price also included free delivery. However, after a quick look on good old Google it seems this model has come down in price slightly, and you can now buy it from the same company for £239. Currys are also selling it cheaper than we paid for it at £240, but Amazon are miles out and have it on offer at £266. If you do purchase from www.appliancesonline.co.uk do remember to go through a cashback site like Quidco or Topcashback as they'll give you a further 2% off the price you'll pay. 2% is not huge I know, but when you're buying a cooker, washing machine and dishwasher all at the same time then it all adds up, and we got £35 from Topcashback.
== RECOMMENDED? ==
The Beko DW602 dishwasher is a full sized machine which can accommodate up to twelve place settings, so it could be argued that it's possibly too big for a household of two and half (the half is for the dog.....). However, we find it more than suitable for our lifestyle. We tend to pop the dirty crockery and cutlery in the dishwasher as we go and switch it on as and when it's full - which tends to be every three to four days or so. During hot weather or if we've been eating particularly pungent food, things can get a little stale smelling inside the dishwasher so rather than put on a half loaded machine, we tend to use the P1 programme (a quick wash programme of 15 minutes) and it freshens the interior up a treat and removes the nasty niffs.
What I love most about this machine is the quietness. It sits quietly and efficiently in my kitchen, always produces excellent cleaning results but does it in such a quiet and unobtrusive manner you rarely even realise its on. It's easy and simple to use, produces excellent results every single time, and saves me hours in the sink with a scrubbing brush.
Five stars from me.
== FULL SPECIFICATION / KEY FEATURES ==
* Full size integrated dishwasher
* 5 programmes
* 4 wash temperatures
* Accommodates 12 place settings
* Dimensions are Height: 82cm Width: 60cm Depth: 57cm
* Weight is 36kg
* Electronic programme selection
* Quiet operation - 49 db(A)
* Height adjustable upper basket
* Upper basket with folding racks
* Folding plate supports in lower basket
* Half load option
* Salt and rinse aid indicator lights
* Removable cutlery basket
* The dishwasher is rated 'A' for energy efficiency
Further details at: http://www.beko.co.uk/Item/DW602
With record rainfall last summer, we were one of the unfortunate households that flooded. We were totally taken by surprise as we do not live in a known flood risk area and we had lived in the same house for the last 17 years with neither a drip or leak. We were forced into rental accommodation for three months whilst our house was renovated. We were lucky enough to move into a newly refurbished barn just a short distance from our home. As everything was brand spanking new and shiny in our new abode, we were more than a little ashamed of some of our furniture. Top of the list of suspects was our kitchen table and chairs which looked absolutely dreadful set in a sea of new oak finished units, chrome fittings and ceramic floor tiles. Our kitchen table and chairs were pine laminate purchased in a sale in the now defunct Texas Homecare (remember them?) to furnish our first home back in the early 90's. I'm sure we were thrilled with our purchase at the time, but 20+ years on they were not looking so pretty and we were so ashamed of them we hid them under a swiftly purchased table-cloth. At that point we vowed to buy a new kitchen table and chairs for our post flood and fully renovated kitchen when we were able to move back in just before Christmas.
As our newly fitted kitchen was all cream wooden units with stained oak worktops, we decided to splash out on a new oak table and matching chairs. We most definitely did not want any oak laminate furniture, we wanted something that was built to last. Laminate can look rather cheap, it's much more easily damaged and after a period of time can have an unfortunate effect of sometimes lifting. We wanted our new table to be fully extendable so it could seat up to six or even eight, but we weren't sure at this stage whether we wanted four or six chairs with our table. If you're after some oak furniture then most furniture stores will carry a least two or three ranges but some of those may be laminate rather than solid wood. We started off looking in Argos and Homebase but their range is limited and some of their stuff is most definitely laminated. We then changed our search to online companies and the range was slightly more impressive with the market leaders seemingly being www.oakfurnitureland.co.uk and www.oakfurnituresolutions.co.uk. We finally decided upon using Oak Furniture Land due to their claim that they "never use chipboard, MDF or veneers in any of our products". Added to which their prices seemed very reasonable and there was a sale on. We've since found out like DFS and SCS, Oak Furniture Land perpetually have a sale on. As soon as the spring sale stops, the summer one starts! No matter, their range of furniture is more than impressive, but never be in a rush to pick up that bargain chair or sideboard as they claim the offer ends soon, as it will still be on offer at the same price next week. We purchased our table and chairs in November at a sale price of £757.82 (allegedly reduced from £1,715.14), ....but on a visit to www.oakfurnitureland.co.uk today the same table and chairs are on sale at exactly the same price six months later :o)
~~~ VITAL STATISTICS ~~~
We used the "Customise Your Dining Set" option at www.oakfurnitureland.co.uk as none of the pre-set options were quite right - either the chairs were wrong or the tables not the right size. We knew we wanted an extendable table to seat up to eight, but would be compact in its non-extended form. We finally decided on four rather than six chairs as we suspected that six chairs would clutter up our kitchen too much, and two of the chairs would sit lonely and dusty most of the time.
In the end we chose a table from the Rustic range at Oak Furniture Land. The Rustic range is finished with a slightly tinted wax polish so the wood is ever so slightly darker than natural oak. As well as tables and chairs, the Rustic range includes other complimentary pieces of furniture such sideboards, coffee tables, wardrobes, beds, chests, bedside units, dressers, book cases, TV units and dressing tables...so you could have the entire house decked out in the matching range if you're rich enough and you like all that wood. There are at least 20 different ranges of furniture on offer at Oak Furniture Land - all solid oak and no veneers in sight. If oak is not your thing then you're almost in the wrong place, but there are a couple of ranges in either Mango or Mahogany. All the other ranges at Oak Furniture Land have similar accompanying bits and pieces of complimentary furniture.
The table we ordered is the 4ft 3" x 3 ft extending dining table from the Rustic Solid Oak range, and it cost £398.03 (allegedly reduced from £835.86). The table measures width 132cm x height 77cm x depth 92cm. The beauty of this table is that it is fairly compact and unobtrusive in our kitchen, but it can be extended to seat up to eight people should we so wish. Unextended it seats four people very generously with plenty of elbow room for all. However, you can move the table apart very easily and use the two panels hidden inside to either extend the table with one panel to seat six or with both panels to seat eight. Since we bought the table just before Christmas we have only ever used it to seat four people at the most, so other than trying to extend it when we first bought it, we haven't had any need at all to use the inner panels. For the purposes of this review, I decided to try and extend the table on my own just to see how easy it was, and I'm pleased to report it is simplicity itself. The table slides apart really easily without having to use any brute strength or much effort. The two extending leaves are snugly balanced between two metal rod shelves just under the surface. Pulling them out requires rather careful angling to make sure the wood is not scratched, but once you get the hang of it I'm sure it would be fine. The panels fit easily and quickly into the widened gap by way of some brass pegs. All you then have to do is carefully push the edges of the table back together and eh voila your compact table for four has become a generous table for six or eight in moments. I do prefer the table in its more compact state, as I fear there is rather limited room to manoeuvre in our kitchen once the table is extended to seat eight. I suspect we would have to alter the angle of the table so it goes lengthways in the kitchen otherwise no one will be able to get into the fridge :o( However, we certainly aren't going to need to extend the table other than for high days, holidays and the odd dinner party so it's not going to cause us any undue problems. The extending leaves fit neatly away within the table when they'll not in use.
The wood of this table has a rustic finish where some stained wax has been applied to darken the natural oak to a warm and rich honey colour. The table is very, very solid to the touch - it feels very substantial and well built. It has softly rounded edges so there are no sharp corners to catch yourself on. The table has an inlaid groove all around the table top, which is a very nice pattern, but a bit of design fault if you ask me. Unfortunately the groove is big enough and deep enough to gather all sorts of debris and crumbs, and it needs to be vacuumed out fairly regularly to remove all the dust. My partner made a quiche recently on the table and we were trying to remove all the flour that had gathered in the grooves for days afterwards. Other than that, I have no complaints whatsoever about our table. It looks lovely in my new kitchen and the oak worktops perfectly compliment the oak of the table.
Initially we were going to order some cheaper leather backed chairs at a cost of £78.49 apiece, but when we visited the store they were most uncomfortable and the padding a little too thin. Instead we ordered 4 x Braced Scroll Back Leather Dining Chairs at a more expensive price of £99.92 each (allegedly reduced from a whooping £219.82), as they were miles more comfortable. The chairs we ordered have solid oak frames with black leather cushioning. Each chair measures width 49cm x height 100cm x depth 42cm. They really are extremely comfortable to sit in, and the leather cushioning is very generous. The leather is soft and supple and buffs up very nicely to a burnished sheen with a soft cloth. The oak legs on the chairs are substantial and will support plenty of weight. If you're interested in this set but don't like the thought of leather chairs, then there are plenty of other options to choose from at Oak Furniture Land from fabric coverings in all manner of colours to just plain oak with no cushions. Please note that although they price their chairs individually, Oak Furniture Land only sell their chairs in pairs.
Despite the fact the total for our table and four chairs should have added up to £797.71, Oak Furniture Land took another £40 off the bill so we ended up paying £757.82 as we'd bought a full dining set.
~~~ DEALING WITH OAK FURNITURE LAND ~~~
Although they don't advertise as much as DFS and SCS, Oak Furniture Land are pretty hard to miss nowadays. They have 43 showrooms throughout the UK, but they're not as prevalent as many furniture stores. Our nearest one is about an hour away from us at Hedge End near Southampton so we weren't all that keen on making the trek to their showroom, and were happy enough to consider buying it all online without seeing it "in the flesh" so to speak. However, I would strongly advise that you make the effort to go to the store, see the physical product, sit on the chairs or lie on the bed if you can. We had picked out the table and chairs we wanted online and we considered a visit to the store as just a rubber stamp on the deal and not really necessary. We were so wrong! The stores are massive and all the ranges are set up in separate areas so you can see how they work for eating, drinking, sleeping and generally living with. The table we had chosen online looked rather flimsy and dare-I-say-it "laminate" like when we saw it "live", so it was immediately struck off our list. Similarly ranges we had discounted online as they looked too dark, heavy or ornate looked so much better in reality. The most important thing we learned from our visit was that the cheaper chairs we had earmarked were cheaper for a reason.....they were darn uncomfortable to sit on, even for a short visit. Instead we sat on a couple of chairs in the same range that were a little dearer and the difference was astounding. On the cheapie ones you could feel the wood through the leather, but on the dearer chairs, the cushioning for one's derrière was a little more substantial. The price difference was just over £20 per chair so we were happy to pay the extra for the comfort. The lesson we learned here is that buying things online is all very well, but there's nothing like seeing and trying the physical product out, especially if you are making a major purchase of around £700. Therefore, if you are considering an online purchase from Oak Furniture Land I really would recommend a visit to your nearest showroom if you possibly can.
That said, Oak Furniture Land's website is pretty good, although it is extremely cluttered and rather overwhelming at first. Every piece of furniture is photographed from several different angles and there is also a video you can play on many of the major pieces. They also have good old Phil Spencer from Location, Location, Location endorsing their products, and you can "Ask Phil a Question" on any of their products. Sadly my query of "Why is Kirsty Allsop so bossy?" didn't get an answer....
Finally, whilst I recommend a visit to the store to view the furniture if you possibly can, I would never dream of placing my order in the store. If you place your order online you can earn lots of lovely cashback if you go through Quidco or Top Cashback. By going through Top Cashback I earned around 6% so I received a further £50 off my £700+ purchase.
~~~ DELIVERY AND SETTING UP ~~~
All delivery from Oak Furtniture Land is free of charge, and they've pretty good at keeping you informed of the time and date they're going to call. We've now placed a total of three different orders (since the dining set, we've also taken delivery of a console table and a nest of tables for our study) with Oak Furniture Land and every single order has been delivered in a timely and most efficient manner. When you place the order online it will state what the lead in time is for the items you've chosen. You then get an email confirming your order and informing you of the latest possible delivery date they expect to get the item to you. You also get a second email entitled "Oak Furniture Land - Owner's Manual" which is a rather wieldy email. It not only gives you details on the best way to help the delivery people get the goods into your house, it goes into much detail on looking after your oak furniture to prolong its life. Sadly this email does not come with a voucher giving you a free tin of wax, but you can buy one from them for £14.95.
Once they have a specific delivery date in mind, Oak Furniture Land will make contact with you and offer you several dates. They then email and text confirmation of the date to you with a time-slot of around three hours. On the day itself we have found that they tend to call you from the delivery van and give you a more specific time slot so you're not left hanging around for three hours or so. All in all we have found that Oak Furniture Land supply exactly what you have ordered in a timely and professional manner and I would have no hesitation in either ordering from them again or in recommending them. The Owners Manual does conclude with graphic details of what to do in the event of a problem and their complaints procedure. As we've not had to use this system, I cannot comment on how effective or otherwise it is, but I have read a few reviews online where the system seems to be a little onerous and slanted in the favour of Oak Furniture Land rather than the consumer. But that's just hearsay and I really have no personal evidence to back it up.
Oak Furniture Land make much of the fact that they don't sell flat pack furniture and most of their products are designed with minimal home assembly needed. However bulkier items such as dining tables, beds and wardrobes may need to be put together. Whilst our four chairs (and our nest of tables and the console table) where delivered fully assembled, our dining table did need to be put together. Whilst I am not sure I would have been able to manage to assemble the table on my own, my partner seemed to have no problems. The instructions for screwing the legs onto the table top were clear and easy, and all the necessary screws, bolts and allen keys were included in the packaging. It look us less than half an hour to unpack and assemble our new furniture...and we could then sit down and admire it. The delivery team will take your furniture to the room you ask them to, but they won't stop and assist in helping you either unpack or assemble your new toy.
I must make special mention of the delivery packaging for Oak Furniture Land goods as it is extremely substantial and very plentiful. You'll be pulling off bits of padding, stickers, plastic wrapping and bolsters from every conceivable part of your new furniture for a good while as these babies come extremely well packaged to prevent any damage in transit. You really do need to have a sharp pair of scissors or a knife to hand to cut through all the webbing and cardboard. Most of the packaging can be recycled but do bear in mind that you need to keep all the packaging if you are not totally happy with your delivery (as I presume they will ask you to repackage the item to return to them).
~~~ DUE CARE AND ATTENTION ~~~
Although Oak Furniture Land recommend that you treat your new furniture with their £15 wax (not included!) every three months or so, we made do with some floor wax we had in our garden shed to give it good polish when we first assembled it. Since then it gets a once-in-a-blue-moon squib with a bit of Pledge and that's the extent of our maintenance waxing wise. After every meal we give it a wipe over with a sponge to remove any debris or marks, and it always looks as good as new. I must say we are careful to use placemats and coasters on the table as I really wouldn't want any nasty watermarks or burn marks on my lovely table.
I'm pleased to report that after eight months of daily use, the table still has a lovely warm sheen to it, and it has remained totally scratch free. As for the chairs, they get a quick buff with Mr Sheen every once in while and they look as good as new.
~~~ SITTING PRETTY? ~~~
Hell yes. We're more than pleased with our purchase and wouldn't hesitate to recommend this dining set (or any of the other furniture we've purchased from Oak Furniture Land recently). The table is a lovely looking piece of furniture and it's nicely compact in its four person persona, but we have the option of extending it when the need arises. As the table is so solid, it's quite heavy and would need at least two people to move it. However, extending it is simplicity itself and I can easily manage that aspect on my own. The only negative aspect is the groove pattern on the tabletop which does gather debris. However, this can easily be cleaned out with a hand-held vacuum cleaner every once in a while.
We're also really pleased we bought the more expensive chairs as they're really comfortable to sit in, even for long periods. My partner does a lot of work from home, and I often find him sitting at our new table with his laptop working away. If we'd gone for the cheaper chairs we'd ear-marked I suspect he'd be looking for either a proper desk or a comfier chair.
Highly recommended with a full five stars.
~~~ MORE DETAILS ~~~
Telephone: 0844 977 3300
The website gives you details on your nearest showroom as well as their full range of furniture.
My local radio station, Spirit FM, runs an occasional promotion called "Half Price Dining" which features many a local restaurant/pub. Last month an old haunt of mine, The Anglesey Arms, was featured, and I jumped at the chance of buying one of their vouchers. The Spirit FM deal was for a £15 voucher which gives the redeemer £30 off the final bill.
Neither my partner and I had been to the Anglesey Arms for getting on for 15 years, but it used to be a very popular place for a post-work drink or a spot of luncheon. My partner and I used to work at Goodwood Racecourse in the 80's and 90's and the Anglesey Arms was one of number of pubs that was in fairly easy reach. If we fancied a nice plate of food and a swift pint, then the Anglesey Arms was only a ten minute drive from the racecourse and one could always be guaranteed a good meal (and their lunchtime fry-ups were legendary!). We were therefore very much looking forward to revisiting an old haunt and seeing if the present day menu and venue lived up to our memories from the 90's.
*** THE PUB ***
The owners of the Anglesey Arms describe their pub as "A charming and old-fashioned country pub" and I would definitely agree with that. This is definitely a pub-pub and this was evidenced by the number of drinkers in the bar area on the night we dined there. Next door to the bar is the restaurant and that was a lot quieter than the bar area. The pub is housed in a Georgian brick building and has a wonderful two acre garden to the back of the place. The car park is large and well laid out to the side of the building. I would have liked to have had a quick peek at the garden to see if that was still as lovely as it used to be, but it was too dark to see it properly on the March night we dined there, so I will have to content myself with a return visit someday when the sun is shining.
Inside the pub is very laidback and lacking in airs and graces. It's all flagstone floors, wooden panelling and old ceiling beams. However, it has to be said that the place looked more than a little shabby. The décor was exactly the same as when we last visited the pub in 1997...only a lot more tired and a lot more used looking. Don't get me wrong, the place is obviously well loved, but it looked more than a little tired and in need for a good tablespoon of TLC. For example the carpets in the restaurant area were the same dark patterned swirly carpet that had first been laid last century and were not improved by the large swathe of yellow and black sticky hazard tape stuck on to keep the tread down. Equally, the toilets looked like something that had last been decorated in World War II - dark green paint, cobwebs and an ancient hot water device. There was a large arrangement of hideous plastic flowers (complete with dust and cobwebs) by the sink which leant absolutely nothing to the ambience and would do better to be tipped straight into nearest bin. The whole place was clean(ish), but oh so very dated. We really didn't expect to walk into a place we last visited 16 years ago and find it so completely unaltered. It was almost as if time had stood still and we needed to break into a chorus of "Let's do the Timewarp again".....
*** THE FOOD ***
The owners of the pub make much noise about their food being fresh and home-cooked as well as their use of many local suppliers. They get most of their meat from local suppliers and all their chicken is free range. All fish is locally caught and from sustainable stocks, and they try and use organic eggs and vegetables wherever possible.
The Anglesey Arms offers a full range of snacks as well as proper sit-down restaurant meals. If you've just popped in for a snack and a drink, there are a full range of sandwiches (from £6.50) and ploughmans (£10.50). If you're after something a little more substantial and hot then there a nice range of lunchtime classics in the form of Scampi, Beer Battered Cod or Sausages and Mash at £11.50 each. If you prefer to see something a little less traditional on your pub menu then you can partake of Thai Fishcakes with Homemade Chili Dressing and Oriental Salad (£11.50), Smoked Salmon and Poached Egg on a Toasted Muffin with Roquette Salad (£6.75) or how about Warm Salad of Free Range Smoked Chicken, Chorizo and Chili Dressing (£13.50)?
Dinner prices are a little heftier than lunchtime ones. Starters range in price from £5 to £7.50 with main courses priced from £13 (Ham, Egg and Chips or Cod and Chips) up to a massive £27 (8oz 21 day hung Sussex Fillet Steak).
In addition to the printed menu we were shown, there is the usual chalk blackboard with daily specials on it. There was a choice of about 2 or 3 starters (Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup or Grilled Halloumi) and 3 or 4 main courses on offer (Anglesey Fish Pie, Wild Mushroom Penne or Smoked Haddock on Warm Potato Salad with Poached Egg and Spiced Hollandaise Sauce) on the night we dined there. I must say that the lighting in the Anglesey Arms is rather dim and the blackboard in need of a further coat of black paint or a new stick of chalk as it was extremely hard to read. After squinting at it for a bit we managed to decipher the contents, but it wasn't easy :o(
*** DINNER FOR TWO ***
We visited on a Tuesday evening in March and the pub was rather busy with plenty of drinkers in the main bar area. The restaurant was much quieter and there were only about 3 or 4 tables occupied. However, this could well have been due to the fact that there was live music in the pub that evening and the band were setting up their gear in the main restaurant area. When I rang to book the table earlier in the day, the landlord did warn me that they had live music starting from 8.30pm that evening, so I booked the table for 7.30pm hoping that we would be able to eat most of our meal before it got too loud in there.
Upon arrival we ordered some drinks at the bar and then made ourselves known to the landlady. She asked us if we wanted to have our drinks in the bar or go straight on through to the restaurant. We opted for the latter so she furnished us with a couple of menus and asked us to pop through the door to the restaurant.
We were both rather hungry so we decided to have starters to take the edge off our appetites. There was plenty of choice on offer from Homemade Selsey Crab Pâté, Whitebait or Marinated Olives. There are also a couple of sharing platters on their menu in the form of Charcuterie of Salami, Chorizo, Serano Ham, Marinated Olives, Artichokes and Warm Ciabatta (£15) or Whole Camembert baked in a box with Crusty Dipping Bread (£11), but the smell of someone partaking of the camembert dish in the main bar put us off that - it smelled just like the drains needed attention and fast :o) I was tempted to try the Duck and Pork Rillettes but having not enjoyed rillettes much at Brasserie Blanc last year, I was unconvinced a second outing would improve things here. Instead I decided on one of the blackboard specials of Crispy Beef and Oriental Salad (£6). This was a very tasty dish indeed, although I did think that the portion was a little mean for a £6 outlay. What there was of it was very nice - tiny julienne strips of beef in a spicy sweet chilli marinade tossed in a salad of mixed leaves, cucumber and radishes. However, I do think it would have been nice to have some noodles or crusty bread on the side of this dish as I thought it was a little lacking for £6. It was also extremely spicy due to the numerous flecks of raw chilli in the dish. I needed a second lager shandy to deal with the fire that had been ignited in my mouth :o)
Himself also choose a special from the blackboard of Prawn and Crayfish Cocktail (£6.50). He was very impressed with his starter as there was a generous amount of both prawns and crayfish in the dish and it hadn't been bulked up with lettuce and Marie rose sauce like many places do. His dish was accompanied by four slices of brown bread and butter and I pinched a slice to make up for the lack of portion on my starter.
For my main course I was again tempted by the blackboard specials and chose the Escalope of Veal with Salad and Frites at £14. This was a more generous portion than my starter and it looked wonderfully appetising. There were two good chunks of veal coated in a thin, crispy crumb accompanied by a goodly mound of thin and extremely crispy fries. The dish was finished off with a separate bowl of salad. Unfortunately the dish was absolutely swimming in garlic butter and although I found it delicious initially, it was far too rich and rather sickly. The butter soaked into the bottom of the fries and the escalopes making them really soggy. If I had appreciated quite how much garlic butter there was on the plate initially I would have drained most of it off, as it rendered the remainder of the fries inedible by the time I reached them. They were just too wet and I was feeling a little sick from the surfeit of butter in the dish. All in all the excess of garlic butter just made this dish far too greasy and overly rich to the stomach, and I was left feeling more than a little nauseous.
My partner went for their Anglesey Organic Beef Burger with Blue Cheese, Onion Rings and Confit served in a Toasted Bun with Fries, also at £14. Neither of us is a fan of blue cheese so he asked if he could have his burger served with cheddar or mozzarella instead, and the landlady agreed to substitute the blue cheese for cheddar. The burger was quite rare to one side and it didn't look quite cooked to my mind. However, my partner begged to differ and said it was just very rare. Rather him than me! He reported that the burger itself was very tasty, but the bread roll was rather average tasting. He enjoyed the onion rings which were large and very obviously homemade. The salad garnish served with the burger was very nice and the fries nice and crispy.
Desserts were chalked up a small blackboard and there was a choice of about 5 or 6 different puddings. We were tempted to order a couple, but the landlady had now been distracted by the number of new arrivals to the pub wanting to enjoy the live music. Sadly there did not seem to be enough staff on hand to deal with all the newly arrived drinkers and those still eating in the restaurant. After a ten minute wait, we decided against ordering puddings in the end and asked for the bill instead. However, if you visit on a quieter night then the selection of puds consisted of things like Anglesey Mess (their version of Eton Mess), Apple and Pear Crumble, Banana and Chocolate Sundae, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Bread and Butter Pudding and Chocolate Brownie. All the desserts are priced at £6.50.
*** SERVICE, DRINKS AND EVERYTHING ELSE ***
The Anglesey Arms offers draught lager in the form of Becks and cider is produced by Stofford Press. Real ale lovers will be heaven as there are at least four different choices on offer, two of which change regularly. On the night we visited I spotted Young's Best Bitter, Black Sheep Ale and Havant Herd. Himself had three pints of Becks lager at £3.60 a pint and I made do with two halves of lager shandy as I was driving.
The service at the Anglesey Arms started off being brisk and efficient and reasonably friendly. However, as the pub got progressively busier the efficient service tailed off considerably and despite being asked if we'd like desserts, our order did not get taken as the landlady was obviously distracted by the number of drinkers that needed to be served in the bar. They really needed a third pair of hands in the bar to serve at the pumps as it was rather busy in there and they couldn't cope with demand.
In retrospect, we should not have dined there when they were holding a live music night. Despite being told it was taking place, I didn't appreciate it was being held in the restaurant nor quite how obtrusive the arrival of the band and their groupies was going to be. Although we were not seated by the door to the restaurant, we certainly didn't appreciate the cold draught from it being constantly opened and closed by the band arriving with their equipment. They appeared to have enough equipment to headline at Glastonbury! There were constant trips to and from their van with various amps, instruments and speakers all of which brushed past our table. Once all the equipment was unloaded, we had various hangers-on and groupies loitering by our table waiting for the band to start. We left as soon as we could as we get fed up with the constant interruptions and traffic by our formerly quiet table.
Our bill for the evening came to £54.90 for two starters, two main courses and five drinks, which represents reasonably good value. However, we had our £30 Spirit FM voucher to apply against both the food and drink which brought the final cost down to a rather reasonable £24.90 and we left a £5 tip on top of that.
*** RECOMMENDED? ***
Whilst we were eagerly anticipating revisiting an old haunt, we never imagined it would be exactly as we left it in 1997! The pub décor and layout was totally unchanged and it was just like taking a step back in time. The only thing that had altered was the menu and the owners. We were sad to see the demise of their legendry fry-up from the menu, but to be fair it isn't the sort of dish you'd want for dinner anyway.
On the whole we enjoyed our meal, and certainly thought it was good enough value for the price we paid, bearing in mind our discount voucher from Spirit FM gave us £30 off the final bill. However, I don't really think that the venue, food or service was special enough to make a return visit at full price. Maybe I'm remembering the pub with the rose-tinted glasses from the past, but nowadays although the food was good enough, it certainly wasn't the keenly priced huge plates of food you used to get there in the 1990's. What was strange however was the décor remained totally unchanged...and it really does need to be freshened up!
Recommended....if you don't mind tatty (and the band aren't playing)
*** FURTHER DETAILS ***
The Anglesey Arms is located in the tiny village of Halnaker (pronounced Hanaker as the "l" is always silent. It's a handy way to sort a local from a tourist as a newcomer to the area doesn't realise that the "l" is never used!). Halnaker is about four miles from Goodwood Racecouse and less than two miles from Goodwood House. The pub is on the A285 Chichester-Petworth road, which follows the course of old Roman Stane Street. Chichester is less than 4 miles in one direction and Petworth 11 miles in the other. Halnaker is famous for its disused windmill which sits high on the hill over the village and is thought to date from the 1740's. It's a fairly steep and robust climb, but it's definitely worth a walk up the hill to view up close...and reward yourself with a pint afterwards. As well as the windmill, Halnaker is a hop skip and a jump from Boxgrove which is home to Boxgrove Priory (dating from the early 12th century) and the famous Boxgrove archaeological site where Boxgrove Man was found in 1993 (a 500,000 year-old shin bone belonging to a rather robust man believed to be over 1.8m tall).
The Anglesey Arms
Telephone No: 01243 773474
Whilst Cassons has a sound reputation locally, they're also known for their artistic presentation of their food, and my partner is not all that keen on overly complicated food. He passed on a Groupon deal at Cassons a couple of years ago after I'd printed their menu off for him. One hint of the words "foam", "deconstructed" or "air" and he tends to go off a menu! He doesn't mind the odd coulis or reduction, but adding too many unusual and fancy ingredients just to make the dish appear more exotic than it actually is doesn't go down too well with him (and neither do overly small portions!). Having trained and worked as a chef in his youth, he does know what he's talking about with preparing food so I tend to bow to his superior judgment. However, I still wanted to try Cassons, so I reprinted their menu (which thankfully this time around had no mention of any foam), and managed to "persuade" him to give the place a chance. I must admit that I was aided by good old Spirit FM (our local radio station) who were offering a £25 voucher entitling the holder to a £50 discount off food and drink at Cassons. In a weak moment I pounced and got him to agree to try the place out at last. Was I going to live to regret it?
~~~ CASSONS - THE VENUE ~~~
Cassons are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year so they're well established and well known in these parts. We used to frequent the building they're housed in very frequently in the 1990's as it used to be a fantastic Thai restaurant called The River Kwai. However, we hadn't been back since the River Kwai closed down.
I made the reservation via email and had a charming acknowledgement back within the hour. I then had to call and cancel our booking on the day as I had a stinking headache. The lady I spoke to was most gracious when I apologised for having to cancel at such short notice, and allowed me to rebook the table for a week ahead. I also made the venue aware I had a Spirit FM voucher in case they got sniffy on the night.
Despite being by the side of the busy A27 road (which runs between Arundel and Chichester), Cassons is an oasis of quiet once you turn off into their car park. You certainly wouldn't know that you are sitting beside a very busy main road, and the noise of the traffic thundering past is minimal once you're inside the place. The restaurant is housed in a period looking brick built building, with a cream painted wall emblazoned with a navy blue Cassons logo.
Inside, the building is divided into a spacious bar area with seating so one can enjoy a pre-dinner aperitif, and then an elongated dining area split into two sections. I have to say that the décor at Cassons is rather fusty and dated. It's all dark wooden beams to the ceilings and dark wood around the bar with matching tables and chairs. Despite cream painted walls and ceilings, the overall feel of the place is rather gloomy as all that dark wood creates a bit of a shadowy feel to the place. The nick-knacks decorating the place all look a little tired and give the impression of your Granny's front room rather than anything you'd envy and want to take home with you given half a chance. However, each to their own, and their clientele obviously don't mind the dated décor as Cassons seems to be extremely popular. We dined there on a Tuesday night and they were at least 75% to 80% full, which is pretty good by anyone's standards in these difficult times.
~~~ À LA CARTE? MORE LIKE TABLE D'HÔTE.... ~~~
Cassons offer one seasonal menu which is changed regularly. However, despite them describing their menu as à la carte, to be honest I'd say it's more of a table d'hôte menu, as there's very limited choice here. It's not like a normal à la carte menu where you get a choice of 8 to 10 starters and then 15 to 20 main courses. Here the menu offers a limited selection of starters, mains and desserts and it's all at a fixed price. So, no Cassons - I don't think you should be describing your menu as à la carte, it should definitely be called a prix fixe or a table d'hôte one. The price depends on when you eat there and how many courses you choose. For example on Tuesday to Thursday two courses will cost you £24.00 and three courses £31.00. However that same menu on a Friday or Saturday night will cost you a lot more - two courses at £31.00 and three courses at a whopping £39.00. In addition to this some of the dishes on the menu have a supplement. As you can see it made a great deal of sense for us to eat there on a Tuesday night, as the menu is at least £8 cheaper per person for three courses and our Spirit FM voucher stretched the saving that little bit further still....
The limited selection of choices proved no problem for us, but may be worth bearing in mind if someone in your party is a picky eater or they like plain food. Sometimes a fixed price/table d'hôte menu can be a little limiting and there may not be all that much choice. However, I'm happy to report that the dishes on offer at Cassons offer a reasonable amount of choice, but they are a little too overzealous on the supplements for some dishes. I really didn't want to pay £8 extra to have the beef or £3 more for the scallops. For starters there was a choice of five dishes, two of which are fish based and one a vegetarian option. Briefly the starters on this occasion were Pan-fried Quail Breast, Carpaccio of Beef, Goats' Cheese, Smoked Haddock or Seared Scallops, (which attracted that £3.00 supplement).
For main courses, the choice is limited to six options - two being of a vegetarian persuasion, leaving three meat based dishes and a fish of the day option. The choices here were Fillet of Beef (with its matching cheeky £8.00 supplement), Suckling Pig, Loin of Venison, Fish of the Day and the two vegetarian mains of Red Pepper and Lentil Mousse or Croustade of Sweet Potato and Pistachio Nuts.
Finally the desserts menu was the biggest selection of all with seven choices. These ranged from Homemade Ice Creams, Pain Perdu, Treacle Tart, Raspberry Crumble or a Selection of Fruit Sorbets in a Brandy Snap Basket or you can pay a supplement and have a Quartet of Desserts (a selection of miniature desserts) or a Selection of Cheese and Crackers both attracting a £3.00 supplement.
~~~ OUR MEAL ~~~
At Cassons you enter through a small glass enclosed porch/conservatory area on the back of the building into the bar area. We were greeted immediately and they seemed to know who we were without having to give our name. They asked for our Spirit FM voucher straight away and then asked us if we'd like to have a drink in the bar or go straight through to our table. We chose the latter and were shown to a nice table for two near the entrance to the dining area. We were left with three large plastic booklets which were a menu each and an extensive wine list. Considering the menu is rather limited at Cassons I have no idea why they feel the need to hand out such massive plastic backed menu booklets. The menu was limited to two pages at the front and the rest of the folder was advertising their special themed dining nights throughout the year. That was fair enough as it's a good way to let your customers know about them. What it didn't need was the plug to write them good reviews on Trip Advisor and to avoid the Good Food Guide as it really wasn't all that good anymore. All that told me was that their last review in the Good Food Guide wasn't complimentary, but that Trip Advisor was still doing them favours! This was totally unnecessary - I don't like that sort of bias. Customers should be able to judge for themselves on the food they've eaten and not be subjected to a "rant" from the owners.
Although the bar area at Cassons is nice and spacious, the dining areas are quite long, thin and narrow. Although we had our own table for two, there wasn't all that much space between us and another table of two. Luckily this party were quiet and left fairly shortly after we arrived. However we weren't so lucky with our other neighbours, which consisted of a party of four - a couple, their son and his girlfriend. The mother insisted on shrieking with laughter at her own unfunny "jokes" every three minutes and it really spoiled the ambience of the room. She was loud and didn't care who knew her business. We were so relieved when they left just after we'd finished our starters, as she was really winding us up with her selfish lack of concern for those wishing to chat amongst themselves. The room visibly relaxed and everyone breathed a sigh of relief to see her leaving.....only for her to walk back in and reclaim her coat in a loud, shouty manner as she'd left it behind. We were tempted to put it over her head to muffle her!
We were offered a choice of home baked white or onion bread from a basket which we greedily gobbled up, but no offer of further supplies was forthcoming, and one slice apiece is your lot here. More impressive was the small selection of hors d'oeuvres that you receive whilst you're perusing the menu. We hadn't been expecting these at all, and it was a lovely touch to have a nice little plate of superior snacks to take the edge off our appetites. The waitress brought them to the table and gave us a brief explanation as to what each one was. First up was a shot glass filled with Tomato Velouté topped with a Sea Salt Foam. How we kept a straight face I do not know! I had scoured the menu before we went there to uncover any lurking foam and found none....yet that pesky stuff had snuck onto our table when we least expected it. As it happened it was violently unpleasant and needed to doused in a cup of cold water. The tomato velouté tasted watery and it was tepid. The sea salt foam was just deeply horrible and best spat out. However the other hors d'oeuvres were rather nice - we had a Stilton and Poppy Seed Biscuit apiece which was strong and flavoursome enough to take away the revolting taste of the salty foam. The third hors d'oeuvre was a Tempura Battered Lollipop shaped Fritter filled with a Prawn and Saffron flavoured sauce, which was also very nice. As these were unexpected freebies we were delighted with them....sea salt foam obviously excluded here.
For my starter I had Carpaccio of Beef, Slow Cooked Duck Egg Yolk, Black Pudding, Pancetta, pickled Mushrooms, Horseradish Cream, Leaves. I must say that this was a beautifully presented plate of food and consisted of a large slice of beef decorated with chunks of black pudding, pickled mushrooms and pancetta. To the centre was a large egg yolk which was still slightly warm and deliciously runny when you cut into it. To either side of the plate was a smear of the horseradish cream but it was rather orange and didn't taste much of anything. Horseradish should have a bit of a bite to it and this was far too mild and creamy. Whilst this dish was a work of art on a plate, it did lack flavour. I'm afraid that the Carpaccio of Beef just tasted of nothing and it should have been singing out loud with marinated flavours. In case you're not familiar with the dish the term "Carpaccio" describes thinly sliced raw meat (or fish) usually seasoned or marinated with lemon, vinegar, olive oil, salt and grounded pepper. The egg yolk was tasty and so were the chunks of black pudding and pancetta, but the main attraction of the beef just sat there quietly and didn't say a lot for itself. I hoped for better things with my main course as I found the starter more than a little disappointing. However this was nothing compared to the starter that my partner received which came in a huge bowl with a tiny, tiny portion in the middle of it. He went for Smoked Haddock, Cauliflower, Spinach, Quails' Egg, Spiced Velouté, Rice Crisp. What there was of it was tasty enough, but my goodness, the portion was ridiculously small. He managed to finish it in about two mouthfuls so he was rather unimpressed.
To be honest I rather struggled with my main course choice as I wasn't prepared to pay £8 more for beef, I try to avoid pork and I'm no great lover of fish unless it's salmon. The Fish of the Day cooked at the whim of the Chef (pretentious hey?) turned out to be Hake with a King Prawn Sauce / Filling which I didn't fancy, so in the end I had Loin of Venison, Celeriac Purée, Sweet Potato Fondants, Girolles Tenderstem Broccoli, Game Reduction. I was more impressed with my main course than the starter I'd had, but did find it slightly odd that I wasn't asked how I would like my meat cooked. The venison was served in meaty chunks and was nicely browned on the outside and very pink and tender when you cut into it. I would imagine some diners would find this dish cooked a little too rare for their tastes, but it suited me fine. The meat was served with a lovely rich gravy...sorry game reduction, which really complimented the rich meaty flavour of the venison. I can take or leave celeriac at the best of times so the purée was not something I really enjoyed. The meat was served on a bed of broccoli and that was cooked deliciously al dente and full of flavour. The sweet potato fondants looked just like carrots and it wasn't until I bit into one I realised it was potato and not a crunchy carrot. This dish was once again beautifully presented and I enjoyed the venison and broccoli elements of it whilst thinking the potato and celeriac were rather average. All in all it was miles better in depth of flavour compared to the starter I'd had, but the portion was still on the small side.
My partner plumped for Suckling Pig; Loin, Belly and Confit Leg, Crackling, Potato Millefeuilles, Parsnip Velouté, Wilted Greens, Cider Reduction as I wasn't all that keen on our paying £8 extra for him to have Fillet of Beef, seared Foie Gras, Shallots, Parmentier Potatoes, Green Beans, Truffle Jus. This dish was truly a work of art on a plate, and he thoroughly enjoyed what there was of it. Sadly, yet again the portion was rather mean. I had a mouthful of the suckling pig and it was melt in the mouth delicious. He loved the long stick of crackling that decorated the dish and pronounced the whole thing extremely tasty.
As the portions at Cassons were not exactly huge, we had plenty of room left to have a dessert apiece to round things off. We both chose Layers of White Chocolate and Passion Fruit and Milk Chocolate Ice Creams, Dark Chocolate Sorbet, Passion Tuile, Chocolate Tumbleweed. We had no idea what Pain Perdu or Raspberries, Crumble, Milk Chocolate Aero were and there was no one around to ask at the time. I was quite tempted to try the Treacle Tart, Banana and Caramel Soda, Lime Sorbet Mandarin Sorbet filled with Lemon Curd Ice Cream but decided to play it safe and stick to ice-cream. Our dessert was a small cylindrical tower of white and milk chocolate ice-creams with a layer of passion fruit ice-cream in the middle. To the side was an extremely rich and dark chocolate sorbet and it was absolutely gorgeous - bitter and opulent. The dish was decorated with a passion tuile which was gooey to the inside and crunchy on the outside. Chocolate tumbleweed turned out to be a small piped "cage" of chocolate and was a pretty addition to the dish. All in all, this was another beautifully presented dish and it almost seemed a shame to eat it and ruin the pretty presentation.
We decided against coffees and instead asked for the bill. Two three course dinners, a bottle of water and three bottles of beer came to £75.25, which is rather expensive considering the smallness of the portions. Yes, the food was beautifully presented, but there just wasn't very much of it. Once our £50 discount had been applied we paid £25.25 plus we left a £7.50 tip.
~~~ ANYTHING ELSE? ~~~
The service was very attentive throughout the evening. We had a lovely young girl serving most of our food and she was very good at explaining what the hors d'oeuvres were. However, I did find it most odd that at no stage were we asked if everything was satisfactory. Most restaurants nowadays pounce on you almost before you've taken your first mouthful of main course and ask if you need anything else or if there are any problems. No such enquiry was forthcoming here. Similarly at the end of the meal when we paid and left, no feedback was asked for, it was just a "cheerio, and hope to see you again soon". I found it a little odd that no one asked us if we'd enjoyed our meal. Either they just don't care (because we were on a cheapie deal) or perhaps they're arrogant enough to think that there couldn't possibly be anything wrong with our meal. As it stands, we mostly enjoyed our meal, but we thought it was over-priced for what it was. If we hadn't had a discount voucher we would have felt royally ripped off as the portions were so tiny.
The wine list at Cassons is extensive and rather on the expensive side. Himself had a brief look through it, but decided to succumb to his plebian tastes and stick to San Miguel lager (£3.75 per bottle) all evening. Perhaps this sealed our fate as lager louts and not worthy of checking to see if all was well with the meal...who knows? After all we had a discount voucher and one of us drank lager all evening, so we obviously weren't to be encouraged to visit again! I was driving to I stuck to a bottle of sparkling mineral water (£2.00). However if you are less plebian than us, you might like the full range of wines on offer. Half bottles start at £15.25, full bottles at £20 or you can just have a small glass of house wine for £6.25.
I visited the toilets briefly before we left, and although clean and well stocked the décor was a little tired and rather shabby. Some of the wallpaper and matching borders needed to be glued back into place. The same could be said of the outside dining area too. We noticed several large teak looking tables and chairs on an outside patio area on our way in, and I would imagine they're a lovely place to have a pre or post dinner drink in the summer. However, the whole area looked a little wind-swept and shabby on the April evening we visited. Perhaps they are waiting for kinder weather before they do a post winter spruce up of the area, as there has certainly been no occasion to dine or drink alfresco so far in 2013.
~~~ RECOMMENDED? ~~~
I'm glad we tried Cassons despite my partner's resistance to the place, but I rather fear he was right all along. Had we had to pay the full price for our meal, I would have been most disappointed as it was simply not worth £75+. Yes the food is beautifully presented, but it doesn't always work and they would do well to not just up the portions but improve on the flavours. Carpaccio of beef should have a delicious moreish depth of flavour to it, and Cassons version tasted of nothing at all.
Although the service was very attentive, it lacked any warmth and was strangely impersonal. The lack of concern over whether our meal was satisfactory and no enquiry at the end of the night as to our enjoyment of our first visit to Cassons was a rather jarring note.
To quote their website "Cassons is becoming known as the best Restaurant in the area". I don't know who decided that, but it's just not true. They're good, yes, but they're not that good. If the food tasted as good as it looked at Cassons they'd be on a sure fire streak to winning that accolade, but for now the jury is most definitely out.
~~~ FURTHER INFORMATION ~~~
Cassons is located just outside the village of Tangmere which is about 2½ miles to the east of the city of Chichester in West Sussex.
* There is an ample sized car park belonging to the restaurant
* All major cards accepted
* Good disabled access
Lunch: Wednesday to Sunday from 12.00pm
Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday from 7.00pm
Earlier this year my mother celebrated her 74th birthday, and announced that she didn't want a great deal of fuss made about the fact she was getting so old. We therefore decided to pander to her request, and keep things low key. My local radio station, Spirit FM, runs a weekly promotion called "Half Price Dining" where they feature a local restaurant or pub and offer you a chance to buy a limited number of discount vouchers. The White Hart was featured very recently, and we decided it was low key and laid back enough to qualify as a suitable venue for the birthday celebrations. For £15 we were able to buy a voucher from Spirit FM giving us £30 off the bill.
It had been more years than I can remember since I'd last been to the White Hart at Stopham, but it had been somewhere I'd visited fairly regularly in my youth. The pub is situated in delightful location on the banks of the River Arun and beside the rather picturesque and ancient stone built Stopham Bridge, which is now closed to traffic **. The pub garden in particular is a very popular place for a summer time drink beside the river. Indeed the last time I visited the White Hart was on a blazing hot summer day, and the garden was absolutely packed. I can remember being forced to hide at the bottom of the garden in embarrassment. Why? Unfortunately the local Morris Men were visiting the pub and looking for volunteers to join their merry band for a dance. My mother shows no shame in joining in with that sort of capper and duly stepped forward....hence our fleeing to the bottom of the pub garden in an attempt to disown her.
As last week's visit was on a dark night in mid February, the garden was out of bounds (and there were no lurking Morris Men in sight this time either thank goodness!). Sadly it was also too dark to see anything much of the bridge or the river below, so we headed straight inside the pub.
~~~ THE VENUE - HART OF HARTS ~~~
The pub dates from the 17th century and it was once obviously several riverside dwellings which have been knocked through to form one long low slung building. The pub is all on different levels so you climb up several steps to reach the front door and then once inside step down into the restaurant. Inside it's all quite cosy with a cheerful warming and welcoming fireplace. The ceiling is studded throughout with ancient beams, but the décor is a little tired to be honest. The carpet is a rather lurid swirly pattern - the sort you see in your granny's bungalow. It's not so much shabby chic here, but more tired and lived in. Nonetheless the place does have a certain charm, and the welcome we received upon entering was excellent.
Evidently the place has recently been taken over by a new couple, and they were as keen as mustard to ensure we enjoyed our evening with them. There are a variety of special deals on offer all of which are obviously to encourage local people out of their front rooms watching TV and into the White Hart for a pie and pint. Things like "Monday Blues" where you can have a pint of Carlsberg or a pint of Sharps Doom Bar for £2.50 on a Monday night. They also run regular live music nights, quiz nights and "open mic" evenings. Finally they offer a two-course menu for just £9.95 on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. All in all, they're doing a lot to encourage people to use their local boozer and I hope it takes off for them and their efforts pay off. We've all seen so many local pubs shut their doors in the last 10-15 years and it would be a shame to see this charming hostelry go the same way.
The pub has an unpretentious and relaxed air to it and it's definitely a place where you'd feel equally as welcome if you just wanted a drink rather than a meal. We visited on a Sunday evening and the pub was fairly quiet. There were a few drinkers in the bar and a few lone diners, but that was the extent of it. I would imagine they were quite grateful to have our reservation for a party of six as it made the place look a lot busier.
~~~ THE FOOD - EAT YOUR HART OUT? ~~~
The White Hart serves food all day every day and there is a good range of dishes to suit every budget. Indeed the most expensive main course on offer comes in at just under £15, which is rather reasonable in this part of the world. The White Hart is most definitely a pub-pub and has no gastro-pub pretensions. The food is mostly all good hearty pub fare and priced with a keen eye to attracting punters through the door. The lunch menu offers a range of Filled Baguettes (from £7), Pizzas (£7 to £12) and Ploughmans (£8.45) as well as heartier dishes in the form of perennial favourites such as Scampi, Macaroni Cheese, Lasagne, Fish and Chips or Burger and Fries (from around £7 up to the £11 mark).
The dinner menu is slightly more interesting and has matching prices. Starters are all around the £5 to £7 mark with dishes like Green Lip Mussels, Butterfly Breaded King Prawns or Asparagus Spears. Main courses start at £8 ( Ham, Egg and Chips, Homemade Fish Pie and Crab Bake) and go up to just under £15 (dishes such as Sirloin Steak, Roasted Pork Belly and Loin of Cod). Desserts are all homemade and cost a reasonable £4.50 each. In addition to the printed menu, there is a beautifully chalked up blackboard in the bar which lists the daily specials on offer. On the night we visited this comprised of two starters and about four main courses.
~~~ OUR MEAL - HAVE A HART ~~~
We rang up the day before to ask if they could accommodate a party of six on a Sunday night and if it would be acceptable to use a Spirit FM discount voucher. I didn't want to buy the voucher unless they were happy to accept it. However, they said it was fine provided we called them back with the voucher code, which I duly did.
Once we'd ordered drinks at the bar, we were shown through to our table in the restaurant. The table had plenty of A5 size laminated menus to peruse and we also had our attention drawn to the specials blackboard in the bar. Once we'd made up our minds, the landlady came and took our order.
We ordered four portions of Pan Seared Garlic Chicken Goujons at £5.95. However, our server came back almost straight away and informed us they only had enough for three portions, so my father decided to choose something else. The landlady was most apologetic and came up with several recommendations as to what he might prefer. In the end he had something that was not on the menu which was Carpaccio of Beef. Carpaccio is very thinly sliced and marinated raw beef and my father's beef was draped over a lovely fresh mixed salad and garnished finely grated parmesan. He thoroughly enjoyed it, and we were all quite envious of his dish as the chicken goujons weren't all that special. To my mind a goujon is a thin strip of meat coated in breadcrumbs and fried until crispy on the outside. The goujons at the White Hart were strips of chicken which had been lightly fried, but not pan seared, and had no breadcrumb topping. The chicken didn't much taste of anything and I was slightly disappointed with it. If there wasn't going to be any breadcrumb coating, I would expect the chicken to have been marinated in something to give it some depth of flavour. The chicken strips were garnished with a mixed salad, some kind of oily dressing and some lardons. A perfectly presented dish, but one that lacked flavour I'm afraid.
For our main course several of our party quite fancied the Veal Escalope served on Bubble and Squeak with thinly sliced French Beans from the specials blackboard. However, almost as soon as we ordered it we were told they'd just sold the last portion. This was more than a little strange, as the landlady had just discussed the full range of specials with us and had not pointed out that the veal was running low. Added to which, the pub was more than a little quiet, and I didn't spot anyone else at the same stage of their meal as we were. Perhaps the kitchen had done a quick scratch and sniff and decided that the veal no longer passed muster, as there was no way anyone else had just ordered it! No matter, we swiftly returned the menu to choose alternative dishes.
In the end we all chose different things. I had Lamb Steak with Redcurrant Jus at £14.95. This was a nicely sized portion of lamb steak presented in a bowl of gravy. Despite a lack of garnish it was a flavoursome piece of meat, just a bit boring looking, and lacked any hint of redcurrant flavouring. It was altogether too brown and could have done with a sprig of green mint or a couple of red berries to make it more pleasing to the eye. It came accompanied by an individual dish of vegetable consisting of cauliflower, carrots and one of my favourites, braised red cabbage. The dish was supposed to have new potatoes with it, but I asked if I could have chips instead. These were simply delicious - crispy to the outside and fluffy inside.
My partner had Royal Windsor Pork Escalope at £12.95 which I was once again expecting to be coated in breadcrumbs. I always expect an escalope dish to be a flattened thin piece of meat coated in breadcrumbs, but they had other ideas at the White Hart. This was a fairly thick piece of pork which had been pan-fried and then served in a creamy mushroom sauce. It was a tasty enough dish, just not what either I or my partner expected, and he was also disappointed with the smallness of the meat portion. My mother chose her dish off the Specials Blackboard as this one was still available. She had Salmon and Prawn Linguine with Garlic Bread which was a goodly portion of linguine pasta flecked with lots of pieces of flaked salmon and small prawns. It was all bound together with a creamy sauce and garnished with grated parmesan and a huge piece of garlic bread. She enjoyed this dish but struggled to finish it as serving both pasta and bread with this dish was a bit too much for her. I suspect she would have preferred a small side salad as a side dish rather than the garlic bread.
My father and my brother both chose Barbecue Ribs with Mixed Salad and French Fries at £11.95. This was a fairly small portion it has to be said, and I think my brother was disappointed there were so few ribs on his plate. However, they both pronounced the barbecue sauce as delicious, and it certainly did look good. Finally, my sister-in-law went for a Baked Cod with Vegetables dish which was also off the Specials Blackboard, which she thoroughly enjoyed. I didn't get much of a look at this dish as she was at the opposite side of the table to me.
We had all spotted a rather tempting looking blackboard of desserts all priced at a reasonable £4.50. Again, the landlady was very good at running through the list and explaining what some of them were. My partner plumped for a dish described as Bonne Femme, which was basically chocolate mousse. He didn't really enjoy his choice all that much as he felt it was rather on the elderly side and had been hanging around in the kitchen rather too long :o( My mother and I both had Marbled Chocolate Pyramid which was a beautifully presented dessert. Thin tranches of marbled white and milk chocolate were stood up on the plate to form a pyramid shape and inside was a chocolate mousse filling. It was such a work of art it was a shame to eat it! My brother and sister-in-law shared a Winter Berry Trifle, which was so nice they wished they'd ordered one apiece rather than sharing. Other dishes on the dessert blackboard were Sticky Toffee Pudding, White Hart Cheesecake, Apple and Blackberry Crumble, Treacle Sponge Pudding and Melting Middle Chocolate Pudding.
~~~ SERVICE AND DRINKS - TAKE HART ~~~
The White Hart offers Fosters draught lager, Stowford Press cider and others. Real ale lovers can sup on Harveys Best, Sharps Doom Bar and various guest ales. My father and brother each enjoyed a pint of Sharps Doom Bar before moving onto a bottle of red wine, but my partner and I stuck to Fosters. I was designated driver for the evening so I made my half of lager shandy last all night (and it was a good job I had no more than a shandy as the drive back home over the South Downs was rather fraught with hazards....at two separate points groups of deer ran out onto the road in front the car causing me to swerve).
The service at the White Hart was very friendly. I believe we were served by the new landlady herself and she couldn't do enough for us. She was most apologetic when they ran out of several specials from the blackboard and really helpful in suggesting alternative dishes. We were looked after most attentitively throughout the entire evening and nothing was too much trouble. The service was swift and drinks were fetched from the bar and brought to our table without a murmur, which was nice (far too many pubs can get a bit sniffy about fetching drinks to you and encourage diners to go up to the bar and get their own). All of our dishes - starters, main courses and puddings - arrived after a wait of only 10 to 15 minutes at the most.
Initially I did find the pub warm and welcoming due to the blazing fire in the bar, but when we moved through to the dining area, I found it a bit chilly. There was a wood burning stove in this room, but none of the heat from it was reaching me. However, I was seated at the end of the table nearest the door so I guess it was just bad luck on my part. Afterall no one felt the cold in there - it was just me :o(
One thing to note at this pub is that there are more than a few steps to manoeuvre. Being so near a river, one suspects that they have had more than their fair share of flooding problems over the centuries. Therefore there are a range of quite steep steps to climb to enter the pub itself. Once inside, the pub is split over several different levels, and to get to the toilets one needs to go up another couple of steps. Therefore, I suspect this is not the best of venues for the disabled or your elderly grandparents simply as it's rather bumpy terrain to manage. And talking of the toilets, they're clean and functional, but rather dated inside. Clipped tiles and rather ancient carpet are the order of the day here, so not a place to linger in really.
Our bill came to just shy of £150, but with our handy £30 discount voucher it landed up being £119. We all paid £44 apiece to include a tip. I think that £119 for 4 x starters, 6 x main courses, 4 x desserts, a bottle of red wine and a couple of rounds of drinks was fairly good value here considering the quality of the food and service.
~~~ RECOMMENDATION - HART TO HART ~~~
We all enjoyed our evening out at the White Hart, and my mother certainly enjoyed her low key birthday celebrations. The food was very good and the service superb. Although we were disappointed with their running out of several specials, the alternative suggestions were just as good and any regrets quickly forgotten.
I'd certainly like to return to the White Hart again as there was more than enough on their menu to tempt me to a return visit. The prices were reasonable and the food well cooked and presented. I think a return visit on a warm summer's evening could well be on the cards. The garden at the White Hart is truly delightful and there's nothing nicer than sipping a Pimm's beside the river on a hot day....providing those godamn Morris Men don't make an appearance of course....
~~~ FURTHER DETAILS - HART AND SOUL ~~~
Stopham is not really a village, just a collection of one or two houses, the pub, a garden centre, an ancient bridge and the new bridge which replaced the ancient one in 1986. The pub is just off the A283 which is the main road between the village of Pulborough and the town of Petworth. The pub has plenty of car parking opposite the pub.
** Even if you don't want to visit the pub, Stopham Bridge itself is a rather stunning Scheduled Ancient Monument, and well worth a visit. There has been a bridge on this site since the 1300's with the first stone version dating from 1442 (probably with a wooden drawbridge to allow boats to pass). Over the centuries the bridge has been extensively repaired and reconstructed with a central arch added in 1822 to provide the extra clearance needed for the more heavily laden barges of the industrial revolution. The bridge remained part of the main road until 1986 when it was finally decommissioned by a brand new metal construction just a little further upstream. I can well remember driving over the ancient bridge in my younger days as the traffic lights they installed used to take an age as the bridge was too narrow to allow vehicles to pass on it. Nowadays the bridge is closed to all traffic, but it's a super place to stop and admire the views, and enjoy a quiet pint in the lovely gardens at the White Hart which overlook the river and the bridge. It's also a good starting or stopping point for a super river side walk alongside the River Arun in the area. More details can be found at http://myriverarun.com/houghton_to_stoph​am.html
The White Hart
Telephone No: 01798-873321
* Food is served all day, every day
* Opening hours are 10am to 11pm with an 11.30pm closing on Friday and Saturday and 10.30pm closing on Sunday