Dining Perfection At The Cat Inn
by Robert Veitch
Temperatures are rising, and days are getting longer with the change of season, which must mean it’s time to visit the Cat Inn.
Visiting The Cat Inn is one of life’s little joys, whether it’s on the spur of the moment, or booked in advance. It’s a 16th century pub at the hub of West Hoathly, under the enthusiastic stewardship of Andrew Russell since 2010.
The warm welcome begins at the bar, as eagle-eyed attentive staff, make diners feel at home straight away. Our sense of anticipation increased as we were shown to our table and offered a bowl of curry popcorn while we browsed the menu. Curry popcorn might seem strange, but it’s a clever snack; a light hit of curry, preceding the natural flavour of popcorn.
Every Cat dish is cooked to order, yet our starters arrived in under ten minutes. My friend Joe opted for salt and pepper squid, which he revelled in. “Succulent and deliciously tasty, with a little kick from the sweet chilli sauce,” was his description. I chose ham hock nuggets which were delightful; tender and meaty, complemented by a deliciously tangy, piccalilli ketchup.
The ingredients at The Cat Inn are locally sourced, prepared and cooked under the watchful eye of head chef, Alex Jacquemin. The menu evolves throughout the year, so there’s always something fresh and new to contrast the permanent ‘Cat Classics.’
Joe selected one of those classics for his main, prime aged beef burger in a brioche bun. He summed it up succinctly, “aesthetically pleasing and really, really meaty. One of the best burgers I’ve ever had.” I opted for fillet of pork which, when placed in front of me, looked like a winning dish on Masterchef. It looked stunning and tasted as good as it looked, perfectly paired with creamed savoy and bacon cabbage, with a pork croquette.
Joe chose white chocolate and vanilla cheesecake with a blueberry sorbet for dessert, his face was a picture of pleasure as he devoured it slowly, “so I can enjoy it that bit longer.” My salted pineapple with coconut sorbet was a new experience, but one I would readily try again. Fabulous.
Andrew returned as we enjoyed cups of coffee, telling us The Cat’s wine list now contains six sparkling wines from Sussex and one sparkling apple from Kent, “which is more like Prosecco.” There are five Sussex beers on tap, plus four alcohol free beers. The non- alcoholic gin and tonic has been really popular since it was introduced.
Andrew proudly told us, “The Cat has retained The Michelin Bib Gourmand accolade for an eighth year.”
It’s awarded “for good food at a reasonable price.” We completely agreed; both Joe and I thought it to be fabulous food in a lovely atmosphere, with wonderful service for a very reasonable price. Purr-fect.