* Prices may differ from that shown
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