top of page

Review of The Horse Guards Inn, Tillington

South coast halibut with butterbeans, mussels and wild garlic at The Horse Guards Inn, Tillington

I’ve wined and dined around Sussex for decades, but its a very rare day that I can say was absolutely perfect, writes Nick Mosley.

If you’re an avid reader of The Argus Taste section on Fridays, you may recall that a couple of weeks ago I reviewed a tasting and tour of the wonderful Roebuck Estate vineyard just outside of Petworth.

I have to reflect it’s one of the most beautiful – and magical – places I’ve ever visited, quite literally anywhere: vines as far as the eye can see with the sun-dappled South Downs creating a truly spectacular background that is a sight to behold. There is no wonder their wines taste as good as they do as this a bucolic paradise, not only for vines – and wildlife – but also wine enjoyers and lovers of all the good things in life. Being in the very same place where Roebuck's grapes are grown whilst savouring their award-winning sparkling wines is a golden experience.

However, after a late-morning of delightful quaffing, it was definitely time to put some sustenance in my tummy so – on the recommendation of Roebuck’s Dani and Pip – we headed over the brow of the hill to the Horse Guards Inn in the picture-perfect West Sussex village of Tillington.

Now, despite my many munchings around our county, I have to say I hadn’t ever been to this particular neck of the woods in West Sussex before. It will be a regret that I’ll take to the grave because the Horse Guards Inn has it all.

The Horse Guards Inn, Tillington

Outwardly, a quaint and slightly wonky Georgian coaching inn, it has everything you’d want from a traditional pub. Family Mosley – aka my sister, the Olds and I – settled onto our table in the bay window with it’s higgledy-piggledy furniture and views to the South Downs and – across lane the All Hallows church with its unique ‘Scots Crown’ steeple that – apparently – features in paintings by Turner and Constable. I didn’t know that but I do pride myself on research.

The welcome at the pub was exceptional. I often criticise rural pubs not because of their food and drink offering, which is usually acceptable if not earth-shattering, but their rather lacklustre staff – much of the time kids from the locality – who are a necessary evil for pubs but lack the basic skills of hospitality and more often than not basic common sense. There was none of that here; the bar and floor teams were friendly, polite and accommodating from the get-go. Their knowledge of both the drinks and food menu was superb, including dietaries. This is informal professionalism with a genuine smile.

The menu is a comprehensive offering of starters, mains – including specials –, and desserts that have locality and seasonality at their heart. Now obviously this is something we all tend to expect nowadays, but what takes the Horse Guards Inn to another level is the evident talent in the kitchen. It doesn’t particularly matter using said ingredients if you don’t have a brigade in the kitchen that can create culinary perfection, and a head chef with skill and taste.

Gammon and duck egg at The Horse Guards Inn, Tillington

We skipped starters, but I enviously eyed our neighbouring table – complete with a curled up, snoozing terrier – as they devoured lentil samosas and soup of the day. That said, I had a bottle of house wine – Ciello Blanco from Sicily – placed before me and I wasn’t driving back to Hove so life wasn’t too bad.

I ordered south coast halibut with mussels, butterbeans and wild garlic. Piping hot, fleshy fish that could have literally jumped from the sea to the pan, in a gently creamy sauce made only better by the richness and body of the beans. There is a level of simplicity to this dish but it was so well balanced – in terms of taste and build on the plate – I would say it was perfectly faultless.

My sister and mother ordered hearty venison burgers, which were more than a mouthful. Personally, I’m not a burger fan as I get a bit queasy with the texture of mince when its either too dry or too fatty, but these were hearty, juicy affairs with more fries than you could possibly eat.

The pièce de résistance however was my dad’s gammon, duck egg and proper fat chips from the daily menu. The meat was from the pub’s local smallholding and spectacular. It really does go to show that a happy animal that has enjoyed good husbandry creates fantastic meat. It was an absolute steal at £15.

On this occasion, we also skipped dessert but its reassuring to read a pub menu where there are as many pudding courses as starters and mains. Desserts often seem like an afterthought on many menus but a good pastry section is reflective of a kitchen that knows what its doing.

For two courses, factor in around £3-35 with a glass of house wine or local beer adding another £5-6. Do keep an eye on their daily specials board and I would very much recommend calling ahead to make a reservation.

The garden at The Horse Guards Inn, Tillington

On the way back to our table following a tinkle in the little boys room, I had a mosey around the rear courtyard and rear garden. Much like the rooms within the pub, a lot of thought has been put into demarcating spaces so there is an air of bonhomie without drinkers and diners being on top of each other.

The Horse Guards Inn also has three bed and breakfast rooms. On my next visit, I’ll be booking that experience – including a visit to Roebuck – as I’ve no doubt their full English will make me cry with delight.

I won’t call the Horse Guards Inn a gastropub because I don’t think it has those pretensions and I think its so much better than that. Its simply a hostelry with amazing food, passionate service and perfect ambiance. Book now before the secret is out.

Nick Mosley

The Horse Guards Inn, Upperton Road, Tillington, West Sussex GU28 9AF

01798 342 332 •


bottom of page