It’s All To Play For At The Sportsman
by Robert Veitch
The Sportsman in Goddard’s Green has generated a reputation for well-priced locally sourced food and a wide range of drinks, topped with a convivial warm welcoming atmosphere.
In the early 19th century ‘The Magpie’ and ‘The Sportsman’ were coaching inns, positioned side by side on a busy junction in Goddard’s Green, close to the historic A23. At some unrecorded point in time two became one, coalescing as The Sportsman. Fast-forward another century or so and the busy junction has become a quiet backwater, making the pub a charming rural proposition.
Walk in through the back door as I did and you’ll cross the threshold between the two inns. At the door, I bumped into a couple of early diners who were just finishing their breakfast. The pub opens at 8:30am for breakfast, ideal for those on the move, business breakfasts and parents on the post-school run in need of a coffee, downtime and a chinwag before attacking the rest of the day. The Sportsman’s coffee comes from another local supplier, whose coffee blends are designed to match the mood of the coffee drinker.
The restaurant and bar can accommodate 70 covers, although busy summer lunches will see many more clean plates and smiling faces. Complimenting Sunday and breakfast offerings are lunch and evening menus, plus daily specials.
The Sportsman specialise in using local producers and products with food cooked to order and menus tweaked to individual requests wherever possible. There’s no conveyor belt of pre-prepared offerings here, it’s all worth waiting for. There’s no need to rush a meal or gulp down a drink. Just forget the time, soak up the ambience and relax in the surroundings.
I sampled a ‘Sussex Wagyu Beefburger’, which comes from Trenchmore Farm in Cowfold, who also supply the Angus Burgers and Silly Moo Cider. Cider at Trenchmore is made with apples from their own orchard as well as donated apples from places like The Sportsman. Cattle at Trenchmore graze the orchards as part of their diet.
My Wagyu burger was exquisite cuisine; lean, tender, textured and an absolute delight to eat. It was bookended with a freshly made rustic bun from Truffles, the local chain of bakers. The chorizo mayonnaise, fat chips and beetroot remoulade all brought something to the plate and made this a meal to savour, to enjoy slowly.
Seeing other guests eyeing your meal with envy as it’s brought to your table creates the feeling that they’ll be back another time to try it for themselves.
Licensee Matt revealed The Sportsman has farmed its’ own pigs in the past, to home produce the chorizo, ham and sausages. “We are delivering an experience” he said, “it’s good quality pub food that’s reasonably priced. People keep coming back time and time again.”
A ‘Honey & Thyme glazed boxed baked French Camembert’ was being devoured next to me, complimentary noises ebbing across the ether. The Camembert is supplied by Portslade based, The Cheese Man, who supply all the cheese here.
Unfortunate diners who might have to be clock watching can pre-order their food over the phone, then make use of the free Wi-Fi on site and still enjoy their time-limited lunch.
Being a ‘Cask Marque’ free house there’s a variety of drinks; Peroni on tap, wine from South Down Cellars the local specialists, craft ales, and a range of bespoke soft drinks from Brighton Soft Drinks.
The Sportsman is forward thinking on environmental issues. You won’t find a plastic straw in this establishment, bearing in mind they’re generally used once if at all and take over a century to breakdown. The Sportsman’s straws are made from paper: retro, cool, and recyclable.
For families with energetic children, the beer garden has a play area, plus plenty of picnic tables for eating al fresco. Inquisitive youngsters will enjoy ‘Bugingham Palace’ which is a regal insect hotel for all things creepy and crawly. Wild flowers complete the beer garden as a colourful spectacle.
The Sportsman is a dog friendly pub with half a barrel of alcohol free ‘dog beer’ outside the front door for any guest with four legged friends. Walkers, walking groups, cyclists and clubs are just as welcome, although they can get their drinks inside.
Though the days of the coach and horses and busy junction may be long gone, The Sportsman is just over a mile from the 21st century Mid Sussex super highway, the A23. It’s a great place to meet for those who plough their furrow driving up and down it. It’s a consoling thought to know that the monotony of the A23 can be replaced with the solitude and peacefulness of The Sportsman in under five minutes from the slip road to the bar.
With over 100 spaces in the car park there’s always a spare space waiting to be filled by another visitor. Members of the Brit Stops scheme are also welcome to use the car park for overnight parking.
Live music permeates the atmosphere on the first Friday of most months. Like the food, bands and singers are locally sourced and cover a range of styles from pop to rock to Elvis impersonators and beyond.
Once a coaching inn, now it has everything, a destination for the salivating, chilling out for relaxation, drinks for every occasion, too good to be true, that’s The Sportsman.
Address: Cuckfield Road, Goddards Green, BN6 9LQ
Telephone: 01444 233460
Trenchmore Farm: www.trenchmore.co.uk
The Cheese Man: www.thecheeseman.co.uk
Brighton Soft Drinks: www.benshawsbrighton.co.uk
South Downs Cellars: www.southdownscellars.co.uk