- Food & Drink
The Gin and Crumpets family is a family devoted to gin, crumpets and walking. Since the first walk appeared in our local newspaper, Sundays have been spent getting lost in the countryside. My parents have extended this to getting lost on walking holidays, while I have shared my passion for not being able to read maps with my friends and we can regularly be found getting lost on walks within easy reach of London.
This week I am on holiday at the family home and Thursday was declared Walking Day. Ma G&C, Sister Number 2 and I put on our sensible-ish shoes and set off on an 8 mile tramp around West Sussex. 4 miles in – during which I only got us lost twice – we scrambled over the stile into Lurgashall and honed in on lunch.
Lurgashall is the sort of the village that cries out for outlandish murders, decorous adultery and John Nettles solving it all after a quarter of the population has been offed. We cooed and ahhed our way to the pub, admiring the local shop, cricket pavilion and the rambling houses. And then we fell on The Noah’s Ark Inn like wolves.
“You can tell it’s a nice pub when they have L’Occitane in the loos,” Sister Number 2 said. And she’s right. You can tell it’s a nice place when they have fancy hand wash and hand lotion in the loos. I could also tell it was a nice place from the first item on the menu: pan-fried pigeon breasts on Secretts leaves with girolles (£5.75). Pigeon breasts. Secretts leaves. Girolles. Cor.
But we were walkers and the second half of our walk was uphill, so a starter and a main was out. And pigeon breasts are not the satisfying lunch that a walker needs. We all opted for the Noah’s Ark Platter – a selection of cheeses, sausage, ham and pork pie, fruit, house chutney and crusty bread (£8.00).
God, it was good. Obviously I went straight for the sausage – just cooked, meaty and herby; it’s the element that has been missing from ploughman’s for centuries. Add a sausage to your lunch and make your life better was the message here.
The pork pie was heaven – 3 slices, which is enough to enjoy but not so much that the fat and jelly begin to worry you and the weight of it drag your stomach down towards your feet. Pickled onions that were tangy rather than vinegary, thick cut ham, my first apricot of the year (shame on me), creamy Stilton, warm granary bread with butter that was served at a spreadable temperature rather than rock hard or melted, I loved it all.
There are a lot of pubs out there handing out sub standard, pre-prepared, industrial pap – I’ve worked in several where, in spite of my lack of training, I was left in charge of the deep fat fryer and microwave. And some pubs go too far in the opposite direction. I have full sympathy for a friend who, looking at a menu of smoked mackerel pâté, crab tart and risotto, said miserably: “I just want a burger to soak up the booze.”
The Noah’s Ark does a burger and chips. And fish and chips, bangers and mash and ham and eggs, as well as belly of pork with calvados sauce and steak with gratin dauphinois (it also offers child portions of most things on the menu). Combine that menu with the real ales, nice wine list and hand lotion in the loos and I think I’ve found my spiritual home.