“ Address: The Grove / Singleton, Chichester / West Sussex PO18 0EY / United Kingdom „
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