I can be extremely demanding, often. One one such occasion I wanted to have lunch in a country pub that had all of the following things: a log fire, beams, a display of friendly dogs, relaxed and amiable staff, proper ales, nice wooden tables and rustic charm in abundance. Not to mention a total absence of a TV blaring in the background, silly posh furniture and novelty ornaments. When it came to the food, I wanted delicious hearty home-cooked food NOT served on irritating square plates, and not heated up out of a sous-vide packet. Not much to ask is it??? Well I find that sometimes country pubs have all the charm of a Harvester, with those horrible over-long menus filled with flowery menu descriptions, that always have some strange kind of faux-Asian crispy duck pancakes in the starters menu, or something ‘drizzled in balsamic jus’. (Weird).
This pub happily ticked all of the boxes that I needed it to – no mean feat! Tucked away down a verdant country track, flanked on either side by tiny houses that look like fairytale woodcutter cottages, The Duke of Cumberland, near Midhurst in West Sussex, is a little jewel shining in a sea of lacklustre country taverns, serving wonderful food and ales in a blissful setting.
It looks like something out of a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale:
The homely interior, like a cosy front room:
On one afternoon in February, the friendly staff at the Duke accommodated 16 hungry adults and 3 energetic toddlers with such a chilled out friendly attitude I thought I’d died and gone to service heaven. They seated us in a lovely snug room with wooden trestle tables at the front of the pub, which we had all to ourselves. Even though we were chaotic, noisy and messy, the staff catered to all whims with wide smiles. It’s not easy finding a pub that will happily let kids run riot and make a mess. The Duke has pretty gardens and ornamental trout ponds which kept the kids captivated, and the adults didn’t feel they were having to compromise on having a grown-up style lunch. Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention a splendid wooden outdoor seating area inside which a log fire was kept roaring all day, so you could sit outside and have a ciggy while keeping warm and dry.
And now to the food…
Ham, egg and chips – mighty fodder:
Hare pappardalle: rich delicious sauce, light buttery noodles:
The Duke’s signature Cumberland sausage and mash – hearty:
A crab risotto, full of spring-like flavours:
Desserts were also good, although I was slightly mystified by the need for the sticky toffee pudding to be cut up into several ornamental pieces and presented on a swanky square (tsk tsk) plate – I would have preferred it wedged in a bowl drowned in custard. But it still tasted lovely:
The chocolate fondant was deliciously gooey:
I can’t wait to go back to the Duke of Cumberland for a lazy summer afternoon where we can all sit outside in the beautiful gardens and sip ales in the sunshine – followed by a light lunch of sausages and puddings!
The Duke of Cumberland Arms: website
Henley, nr Midhurst