The New Cat In Town
by Sasha Kanal
A perennial favourite with the foodie crowd of Sussex, The Cat Inn welcomes their new Head Chef with his fresh flavours and perfected classics.
Alex Jacquemin, Head Chef at The Cat Inn, West Hoathly has cooking in his blood. “My greatgrandfather won the first ever UK National Chef of the Year competition and my grandad was a pastry chef at The Dorchester,” he says proudly. At just 27 years old, Alex has headed up the team at this beautiful 16th century Sussex gastro-pub since November 2014, and is thriving in the new role.
Sussex born and bred, Alex was raised in Lindfield and cut his culinary teeth primarily in Michelin-starred kitchens in and around the county and alongside renowned chefs such as Michael Chapman and Andrew Scott. “My own culinary style is classic with some modern techniques thrown in. I’m always looking to refine a dish and make it more elegant,” he smiles. “Here at The Cat Inn, it’s the classic dishes that people come for and I want to elevate these as well as introduce something a little different.”
Lunch begins with a wonderfully creamy cauliflower soup topped with earthy truffle oil from the specials board. It comes with a generous side of warm sourdough bread and salted butter, giving you plenty of opportunity to soak up this glorious soup. Then onto a Cat Inn classic – a prime aged Hereford beef burger with Emmental, bacon and confit onion housed inside a brioche bun. It is dripping with meat juices and like all great burgers, is indecently hard to eat, at least without a napkin handy.
My mother has garlic prawns and salad leaves to begin and comments on their freshness and the intense taste from the herbs – a testament to the fact that all produce at the award winning pub is sourced locally and is organic where possible. She follows with braised ox cheek, mash and thinly sliced onion rings and is enthralled by the meat’s succulence, fondly remembering the slow-cooked dish from her childhood.
Caramelised calamansi tart, now a firm fixture on the dessert menu, is our final dish and is a perfect example of Alex’s bid to introduce something different to the mix.
A cross between a lime and an orange, the citrus fruit works beautifully in place of traditional lemons in this patisserie. The tart is zingy and fresh with a brilliantly limey aftertaste, offset by a thin, crisp, baked pastry base and accompanying blueberry sorbet.
The Cat Inn excels at keenly priced fine dining within a warm and homely atmosphere and with superbly professional service from the friendly and knowledgeable staff. This is the crux of Alex’s vision for The Cat. “I want my team to be happy and work to their very best potential under my watch. A happy team means happy food and happy guests!” What more could you ask for?
The Cat Inn
Queens Square, West Hoathly, West Sussex RH19 4PP
Tel: 01342 810369