“ Cot Lane / Chidham PO18 8SU / Tel: 01243 572 477 „
With the sporadic sunshine we had earlier this year, we decided to make the most of the warmth and dine alfresco one sunny day last June. We fancied a nice quiet pub in the countryside, preferably with a sunny garden, so we could take our dog along and eat our dinner in relative peace without disturbing fellow dinners with any barking, drooling or general whining (...and that's not just the dog...). By the time the evening arrived, the sun had well and truly hidden itself behind the clouds, and al fresco dining was decidedly off the cards. We left the dog at home with a good supply of biscuits, and decided not to venture too far afield. We ended up at The Old House at Home, a pub in the small village of Chidham - somewhere that had long been on our list of places to visit.
You've probably never heard of Chidham, and who could blame you, as it's very tiny. It can be found near Chichester in West Sussex, and is situated on a coastal peninsular with wonderful far reaching views over the water towards Chichester Harbour. The area has been designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty and there are some lovely countryside and coastal walks, with The Old House at Home proving a popular stopping off point not to mention watering hole.
~~~THE PUB ~~~
The rather charmingly named Old House at Home pub dates back to the 17th century, and retains much of its original character. Inside the walls are rough painted in white and the ceilings literally criss-crossed with old dark wooden beams. It's still very much a village pub and offers you a good warm welcome. There's nothing at all pretentious about The Old House at Home; it has a warm, lived in feel to it. The flooring may be scuffed and the pine tables well scrubbed, but that's all part of its charm.
There is a delightful lawned garden to the rear of the pub, with plenty of tables and chairs housing parasols. The flowerbeds were a riot of colour, with a wonderful flowering clematis climbing the fence and a fragrant rosemary bush underneath. To the front of the pub is flagstone terraced area with a row of tables and chairs under cream brollies - lovely for al fresco dining or simply enjoying a drink and a packet of crisps.
Finally, there is a reasonably sized car park to the rear of the pub. However, the lane its located in is fairly quiet traffic-wise, so you're quite safe leaving your car on the verge to the front of the pub as we did.
~~~ FOOD FOR THOUGHT ~~~
The Old House at Home is most definitely a pub-pub. By that I mean there's none of this all-too-popular gastro-pub silliness here. It knows it's a pub, and it's happy for its clientele to treat it as such. No one is going to turn their nose up and treat you as a second class citizen if you just want to pop in for a shandy and a packet of pork scratchings. Equally, if you're looking for a good plate of well cooked grub, you'll not go far wrong here also.
On the evening we visited, the pub was doing a very nice brisk trade with both drinkers and diners, and that's not half bad for a pub in the middle of the nowhere on a mid-week evening. The restaurant area is not massive - I'd say it can seat about 30 people at the most. However, there are additional seating areas in the main bar, front terrace and garden - all of which they're happy to serve food at.
One thing worth noting is that The Old House at Home did not appear to be particularly child-friendly. There was no evidence of special menus or high chairs, so it might be worth calling beforehand if the weather is inclement and the garden is not an option.
The Old House at Home serves food every day and has a full menu to cater for every appetite, be it large or small. They make much of the fact that they serve home cooked food on the premises using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. I must say that to their credit this was evidenced on their daily specials blackboard which offered Pork Steaks from nearby a nearby pig farm in Funtington, and Beef Steaks from a local farmer in Adsdean. Similarly, all bread products seemed to come from nearby Westbourne Bakery in Hampshire.
Light lunches and snacks are available in the form of a good range of sandwiches, filled jacket potatoes, baguettes and ploughman's platters - as you'd expect in all good pubs. However, if you fancy something a little more substantial, the menu also offers a good range of more filling fodder.
Starters range from a simple portion of Garlic Bread, Soup of the day or a dish of Marinated Olives through to deep-fried Brie in Breadcrumbs or Whitebait - with prices ranging from £2.50 to upwards of £6.00.
Main courses offer the full gauntlet from steaks, salads, Cumberland sausages to fish and chips or scampi. Prices are a bit more hefty here - around the £9 mark up to £18. I must say that I thought their Sirloin Steak at £18 would have to be pretty special to justify that sort of price tag. I've been far too disappointed by pub steaks in the past, so I wasn't about to take that sort of expensive risk here. One thing of note is that the pub does serve a superb pie or two, and it's obviously a special feature of their repertoire. The barmaid made a particular point of telling us what the pie of the day was when she learned we were eating there. On the night we visited, there were two pies on offer - Chicken and Ham or Beef and Ale.
In addition to the printed menu and the daily pies, there are about 5 or 6 daily specials chalked up on a blackboard. On the evening we dined there, the choice varied from a meat-lovers paradise of a 16oz T-Bone Steak, Pork Steak or home made Beef Burger through to Lasagne, Chicken Breast in Pesto Sauce and tempting sounding Homemade Prawn and Salmon Fishcakes in Mornay Sauce.
After your meal, you'll be tempted to a dessert with a small blackboard left at your table with a chalked up range of gorgeous sounding desserts all priced at £5.60. On offer were a rib-coating Plum and Apple Crumble (with cream or custard), St Clements Cheesecake or Custard Tart made from free range eggs.
All in all I'd say that the menu offers more than enough choice for every type of appetite, not forgetting a most tempting small vegetarian selection as well.
~~~ A GOOD SQUARE MEAL ~~~
On the night we visited, we decided to forgo the starters. Although there is a good range on offer, there was nothing particularly innovative or intriguing about the selection. Added to which we'd spotted the size of the main course portions being served to other diners, and promptly decided that starters may be superfluous in this case.
Although I was tempted by the blackboard special of Homemade Prawn and Salmon Fishcakes, the addition of Mornay sauce put me off. I had visions of the Mornay sauce being liberally poured all over the fishcakes rendering them soggy :o( I guess I should of asked, as I later saw someone else eating them and they looked sublime - really chunky and thick with a nice crispy coating. Added to which, the offending Mornay sauce was served separately in a small sauce boat. No matter, I'll know what to have next time I visit :o) Instead, I went for another favourite of mine - Calamari and Goujons of Cod deep-fried in a crispy homemade batter (£12.95). This came served with herby Focaccia bread, a small side salad and a lovely pot of creamy garlic and herb mayonnaise. The Calamari was served in rings, and it was a more than generous portion. The Goujons of Cod were simply delicious - crispy to the outside with melt-in-the-mouth cod inside. You could really taste how fresh this cod was. The mayonnaise was a greeny, yellow colour, extremely garlicky and flecked with some kind of herb - probably parsley. I really enjoyed my choice of dinner. The only slight disappointment was the Focaccia Bread. This was served in long thick chunks on the side of the plate, and it was stone cold and rather stodgy. To my mind it would be better to warm the bread through before serving it, or offer a small pot of butter with it. The rosemary added to the bread was more than a little over-powering; rosemary is rather a pungent herb and needed a much lighter sprinkling on this occasion.
My partner was tempted by their homemade pie of the day. He wanted the Chicken and Ham one, but they had just sold the last slice, so he plumped for the Steak and Ale one instead. The pie was served with a choice of vegetables or chips and peas at a cost £11.95. The pie was huge square shape sitting in pool of rich, brown gravy, a goodly portion of peas and garnished with fennel. The pie was made with an extremely buttery shortcrust pastry and the steak and ale filling rich and delicious. A nice bowl of chunky chips accompanied the pie. Himself only had one criticism of the dish in that he could have done with a smidge more gravy. That aside, he thoroughly enjoyed the pie and pronounced the pastry as sublime. I snuck a piece off his plate and fully agreed with him - it was incredibly rich yet light as a feather.
Later the waitress came back and asked if we'd like a dessert. She then returned with a small chalk blackboard, which she left on the table clearly knowing we'd be tempted into total submission. I ordered a Meringue Nest filled with whipped cream and summer fruits. Although the meringue wasn't baked on the premises, it was nicely filled with a generous portion of whipped cream and a mammoth scattering of summer fruits consisting of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. The raspberries in particular were melt in the mouth and simply massive. I can honestly say I've never eaten such large and plump raspberries before in my life.
My partner choose a Chocolate Fudge Brownie which was liberally stuffed with crunchy walnuts. This came served with drizzled chocolate sauce and two generous scoops of vanilla ice-cream. He particularly enjoyed the ice-cream which was very creamy and supplied by a Hampshire farm called Meadow Cottage Farm. All the desserts are priced at £5.60.
~~~ IN THE DRINK ~~~
The Old House at Home offers a full range of draught lagers (Fosters, Becks or Kronenbourg 1664) and cider (Strongbow). Real ale lovers may feel they're died and gone to heaven with a good selection of well known ales such as Timothy Taylor's Landlord, Langham's Best and Sharp's Doom. In keeping with their support of local suppliers, nearby brewers are in evidence with Tanglefoot from Badgers Brewery and Ringwood Brewery's Best. For wine lovers there is a small but good selection from all around the world sold by the bottle or glass. We were rather boring and stuck to lager - himself had two pints of Becks Vier at a cost of £3.65 per pint, and I stuck to a girly half a pint of lager shandy made with Fosters. Someone needed to keep a clear head to manoeuvre our way home through the narrow countryside lanes :o)
~~~ THE SERVICE ~~~
We'd never been to The Old House at Home before, and I'm always a bit apprehensive about going into a small village pub. Sometimes they can be terribly cliquey and unwelcoming to strangers, preferring the regulars or locals (think "An American Werewolf in London", and the pub scene....). No such awkward scenes here luckily. We were greeted warmly and served promptly. When we enquired about dining we were offered the option of sitting in either the bar or the restaurant, and the barmaid then informed us about the Pie of the Day, and pointed out the specials blackboard.
After we'd wandered through to the restaurant, we had a good look through the menu, and our orders were taken after about ten minutes. The service was very friendly and we didn't have to wait very long for our meals. Whilst we were eating our mains, a large party of local farmers (a huge testament to the quality of the food and drink in itself I must say!) arrived for dinner, and there was some delay between clearing our plates and offering us desserts. The lady that served us apologised, but it was clear to see they were under pressure as there were just two of them serving both food and drinks that evening. It wasn't a massive problem for us, as we were in no hurry.
~~~ RECOMMENDATION? ~~~
The Old House at Home is definitely recommended. It's a lovely traditional British pub in a delightful countryside setting. It's a bit of a "find" for us, and somewhere we'll definitely go back to again. The food and drink is probably not the cheapest you'll find in the area, but the quality and the portions definitely make it worthwhile in my book. A friendly welcome, comfortable surroundings, not to mention a really pretty garden, made this pub well worth a visit.
The Old House at Home gets four and half stars from me - I've rather meanly deducted half a star for the over-zealous pricing on their steaks. However, for the purposes of Ciao I'll round it back up to five stars; after all I didn't partake of the steak, and for all I know it could be worth every penny of it's £18 price-tag :o)
~~~ FURTHER DETAILS ~~~
The Old House at Home is rather off the beaten track, and you kind of have to know it's there; it's not the sort of pub you'll pass on your way to somewhere else.
Chidham is located almost halfway between Emsworth in Hampshire (4 miles to the west) and Bosham in West Sussex (3 miles to the east). The nearest big town is Chichester, which is about 7 miles to the east. To reach the pub from either Emsworth or Chichester, you need to turn south off the A259 (the old A27) into Cot Lane, and follow the signs to Chidham. After about 2 or 3 miles of glorious countryside, you'll find the pub on your right.
The Old House at Home
Telephone No: 01243-572477
* The ground floor toilets were nice and clean, but it was a very tiny room
* All major credit cards accepted
* Food is served everyday from 12.00pm to 2.30pm (3.00 pm on Sundays) and 6.30pm to 9.30pm