Sussex isn’t short of great places for a Sunday lunch, although getting into one of the better venues without some forethought and pre-booking may prove a challenge. On a tip-off from a friend, Nick Mosley heads to The Sportsman Pub…
Back in early Spring, I ventured to The Sportsman Pub in Goddards Green, just off the A23 at Hickstead. This is not to be confused with The Jolly Sportsman near Lewes nor The Sportsman Inn at Amberley. Although I’d like to believe that at some point in the past beer-quaffing athletes were ten-to-the-dozen sprinting between the ale-houses of Sussex, however the names derive from the ‘sport’ of horse and hound hunting which for many of us is somewhat less of an amusing mental picture.
The Sportsman is your typical mid-to-late Georgian period solid red brick country coaching inn. The pub is divided over two buildings; the rustic ground floor of the main house and also a single storey annex with more of a lounge feel. Presumably as a result of the pandemic, the four wooden ‘dining pods’ are relatively new additions and – as I peered through the steamy windows – they looked mighty cosy and very popular with families dining together. I can easily see why the Sportsman is popular with families as across the lane there’s a huge pub garden packed with benches and plenty of space for kids to burn off some steam.
Whilst waiting for my parents to arrive, I stoked my internal fire with a pint of Silly Moo cider from Trenchmore Farm in Cowfold. Although the selection of beers on tap wasn’t extensive there’s enough styles there for an okay choice. But pleasingly the pub has really embraced the local gin trend with Brighton Gin, Tom Cat and Silent Pool all featuring heavily on the drinks list alongside Sussex wines from Poynings Grange, Rathfinny and Wiston estates.
We were seated on an impressive oval table alongside a crackling fireplace that set the scene for what was to become a quintessential Sunday lunch. On first sight, the menu is somewhat overwhelming and is surely testament to the confidence of the kitchen to be able to deliver such a selection of starters and mains alongside traditional roast options. In the interests of research, I’d had a prior sneaky peek at Tripadvisor and even the amateur photos looked tasty so clearly presentation and plating are an important part of the kitchen’s delivery.
Anyway, we were here for some hunks of meat so the choice of beef braised in red wine, Sussex pork loin, slow-roasted leg of lamb and roast chicken were the focus of initial discussion.
As I currently spread my time between Brighton and Amsterdam, the prospect of lamb was too good an opportunity to miss. Lamb just isn’t a thing in the Netherlands unless you head to the Turkish or Moroccan butchers. Thankfully when my groaning plate arrived, the star of the show sat centre-stage in all its pink, juicy splendour.
The Sportsman’s roasts are humongous but there is no compromise on quality. Clearly the chef has carefully selected ingredients that shine and knows how to cook them to perfection. You know its good when slow-roast meat is moist and falls apart with a mere prod of the fork. The only fault in the entire meal was my own gluttony by stuffing down the last couple of roast potatoes that I really didn’t need by I very much wanted.
Dessert was definitely off-the-cards for us but for reference there’s a good choice including crumble and steamed pudding. Incidentally, my parents next door neighbour was dining with her friend on the next table and – whilst watching out of the corner of my eye – I was pretty impressed with what two pensioners can polish off when they try as they squeezed in pudding too and didn’t appear to be on the verge of a food coma when they departed.
The Sportsman serves up an impressive traditional Sunday lunch that is incredibly well priced at £14-17. The staff are friendly and attentive, for example, its nice to be offered more gravy rather than have to plead for it. For a perfect roast in an unfussy country pub setting, you’d have to run a long distance to beat The Sportsman.
The Sportsman Pub, Cuckfield Road, Goddards Green, Hassocks BN6 9LQ
01444 233 460 | www.thesportsmanpub.com