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Muddy Eats: The Crab & Lobster, Sidlesham

The term ‘destination pub’ is made for the Crab and Lobster at Sidlesham and it’s no wonder it was one of our Muddy Awards finalists for that very category. It’s near Pagham Harbour and right beside the pub is wide open marshland with paths around…

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The pub is in the corner, top left

…yet it’s within easy reach of Petworth and Chichester and well worth making a day out for from further afield.

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The food is locally sourced where possible, particularly from the Selsey fishing fleet and dairy farmers. Maybe it was the power of suggestion in the pub’s name but when my friend and I visited for lunch we went on something of a crustracean bender.

I did forgo crab for my starter. My lightly smoked haddock and beetroot risotto had a cute baby food look and a lovely creamy taste and I’d have happily tucked into a main course of the same.

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My friend meanwhile had Thai-style crab cakes with mango and chilli jam – plumper than the usual kind and with noticeably fresh crab.

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She then doubled crabbed it with a main of crab gratin with Parmesan crust – presented in its shell with Mediterranean vegetables and olives on the side. It ended up defeating her – so I had a good tuck in too and it was divine.

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I had a crab and crayfish salad – a little hestitantly as those crayfish sandwiches in Pret always look so good but taste disappointing, here however it didn’t just look great, there was plenty of flavour.

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Fish is the speciality but there’s a large a la carte menu and other options include the likes of garlic butter glazed rib eye steak and hand cut chips, roasted rump of lamb, a duck with asparagus and pomegranate salad starter and few veggie dishes. Elsewhere on the fishy front you might choose a fascinating sounding lemonade tempura squid starter or a curry-roasted lion of monkfish main.

So, crab ice-cream for desert? No, we did stop the theme there. I went for a blood orange and pistachio deconstructured trifle – partly because I love pistachio and partly because I was intrigued to know what it would look like. Like this pallette of loveliness as it happens…

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It included candied peel and what I think were polenta crumbs. I particularly liked the flavourful orange jelly. My friend finished with had a solid yoghurt with figs.

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It’s a traditional looking, fairly low ceilinged pub but with coloured chairs and cushions giving it a nice contemporary lift. There’s also a lot of comfy banquette seating around the sides and there were some gorgeous flowers in vases too on my visit. If you’re on a date there’s a cosy snug area you could book.

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I liked the fact that it doesn’t just concentrate on the day tripper trade – our waitress told me about a regular locals’ night I’d seen a sign for – everyone sits sociably rounds communal tables and has a main and a glass of wine for £12. The pub also does takeaway fish and chips!

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There’s a modest patio and beer garden, though with such epic surrounds you’ll have plenty of room before or after for kids and dogs to let off steam (you might want to keep dogs on leads a while if they’re the diving into water sort or they’ll be covered in marsh mud before you know it!)

There are some fantastic walking opportunities in this area and I ended up frustrated that I’d got theatre tickets that night (and I’d spent too long stuffing my face) or I’d have been able to explore further. Back on the main road just down from the pub is a handy RSPB centre with maps and information. It also runs activities like pond dipping and astronomy walks.

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It’s also a short 15 minutes or so drive to Selsey with its shingle beach and famous lifeboat pier (check here for open days and forthcoming events like go-kart races). I actually interviewed a lifeboat woman once who joined the RNLI having been inspired by visits to Selsey as a child and I’m not surprised.

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If you want to make more than a day of it, consider staying over. The Crab & Lobster also has some lovely looking rooms above the pub and a separate cottage alongside – check out the pics on the website.

The Muddy Verdict

Good for: Days out with a great meal at the centre or end; celebrations (they also do gift vouchers online so perfect for presents too); fish and seafood fans.

Less good for: The meals are a bit special for the average day out with kids but with such great exploration opportunities for them in the surrounds a treat could be in order. You’ll most likely be arriving by road, so one of your party won’t be able to drink.

££ The set lunch deal Mon – Fri is two courses for £22.50, three for £26.50, otherwise expect to pay from around £8.25 for a starter, from £16.75 for a main. There are sample menus online.

The Crab & Lobster, Mill Lane, Sidlesham, West Sussex, PO20 7NB crab-lobster.co.uk 

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