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Restaurant review

Published:  25 January, 2010

Has Claire Hu found the perfect English country pub?

Has Claire Hu found the perfect English country pub?

The Griffin Inn
East Sussex TN22 3SS
01852 722890

I had a vision for our weekend away in the country. It involved the perfect country pub in the perfect English village, muddy walks, a roaring fire, hearty fare and plenty of good quality liquid nourishment. On all counts, the 16th century Griffin Inn, in the idyllic village of Fletching, hit the mark.

Since being taken over by the ebullient Pullan family, the inn has gone from strength to strength and was crowded with locals and London escapees alike when we arrived.

The first thing that strikes you about The Griffin, which is divided into a cosy bar and white tablecloth dining area, is that it still feels like a proper pub rather than a restaurant in pubs' clothes.

There are bar and restaurant menus, and the food is modern British with European influences. The oft-repeated mantra of seasonal and local is put into practice here, with meat and veg supplied by local farmers. We even caught James Pullan talking on the phone to his fisherman in Rye.

Prices in the late teens for mains and around £8 for starters are certainly expensive for a pub restaurant, but the quality is comparable to a top London restaurant.

Potato and chive gnocchi with spinach and gorgonzola (£7.50) was rich, moreish and comforting, while the wood pigeon with parsnip puree (£8) was snaffled down. The whole-grilled Rye plaice with tomato and capers (£15) was straight off the boat while the fillet of Sussex beef (£24) was praised for the quality of the meat but bemoaned for its modest size by the hubbie (he is South African).

The real praise belongs to the wine list, which is a rare jewel among the often bland offer found in pubs. Real effort has been put into a list which is eclectic, interesting and well thought-out.

There are over 70 bins excluding desserts and fortifieds, as well as nearly 20 by the glass and a Connoisseur's List from £70 a bottle, mainly Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Our bottle of Langhe Arneis DOC, Ascheri 2007 (£28) was fantastic - herbal, spicy and refreshing. The Ebano 6, Ribera Del Duero 2007 (£25) was frankly a bit hot and heavy but this was a case of bad ordering. The only moan would be the lack of sub-£20 bottles.

The inn has 13 pretty bedrooms, perfect for rolling into after a restorative digestif in front of the fire.