Delightful Dining At The Cat Inn
by Robert Veitch
Leaves are tumbling from the trees, temperatures are falling and the days are getting shorter. It means only one thing… It’s time to visit the Cat.
The 16th century Cat Inn nestles comfortably in the midriff of West Hoathly. My sister Sue and I entered to an autumnal open fire. On a drizzly day it warmed our cockles, the relaxed atmosphere setting the scene for a wonderful lunch.
We were there to meet Andrew Russell who has run The Cat for the past seven years. Passing the menu, Andrew pointed out it’s seasonal and locally sourced, with something for every palette. Every dish is cooked to order. The wine list contains five sparkling and three still wines from Sussex. All the ales are from Kent or Sussex.
We waited for our starter; port glazed chorizo with warm bread to the sound of happy chatter perfusing the atmosphere, and irresistible kitchen smells wafting temptingly across the tables.
Our starter arrived in a bowl; rustic fingers reaching to the heavens, protecting meaty gems at rest in the palm. The sweetness of the port tempered the salty punch of chorizo. It melts in the mouth and according to Sue, “like a tapas, there’s even a little oil left for dipping bread.”
Our mains arrived to a “wow” exhaled in unison. Sue opted for pork belly, black pudding bonbon, green beans, caramelised onion with creamed potato. She beamed, “the crispy skin grips just enough fat to keep the pork succulent, the potato is deliciously creamy. A dish that’s very well balanced.”
My courgette and halloumi fritters, spiced aubergine purée, artichoke, chilli roasted squash, lime and cardamom yoghurt, served with coriander looked stunning. A dish I had never tried, but one I would be quick to recommend. Flavours proliferate across the plate, some subtle, some mild, and some intense. In a word – fabulous.
Our enjoyment lasted all the longer, by dining at slower, more indulgent tempo. Our clean plates tell you all you need to know. It’s certainly worth making The Cat a destination meal, be it for the fine dining or classics like pies, burgers, or fish and chips.
For dessert, my toffee cheesecake with yoghurt sorbet can be summed up easily. It looked delicious and it tasted delicious. Sue’s spiced plum and blackberry crumble with crème Anglaise was a “scrumptious hearty autumnal dessert.”
We finished with coffee, overhearing the sounds of complimentary comments from other diners. Andrew returned to tell us head chef, Alex Jacquemin hails from Burgess Hill, via two Michelin starred establishments along the way.
Andrew revealed the Cat Inn has retained The Michelin Bib Gourmand accolade for the seventh consecutive year. It’s awarded for good food at a reasonable price (about £30 pp for three courses).
“We’re not a whispering gallery, we’re a pub” beamed Andrew as we bid each other farewell, and he is quite right… The Cat Inn is a gastronomic delight.
The Cat Inn
Address: North Lane, West Hoathly, West Sussex, RH19 4PP
Telephone: 01342 810369