Muddy Eats: The Sussex Ox, near Polegate
When I suggested for my mother-in-law’s birthday we went to The Sussex Ox just 15 minutes from where she lives I was surprised she didn’t know this foodie pub. When we arrived it made more sense; though it’s just off the A27 near Alfriston and Polegate (watch out for the brown sign), it’s tucked down a country lane and you’re unlikely to discover it unless you’re looking.
I had found it myself through social media. It popped up as having won a regional award and further investigation revealed it had its own organic farm raising beef, lamb and pork and growing potatoes. It has also been owned by the same family for 70 years (check out the 1940s pics of their thatched Austin Seven) so plenty of enticing credentials there.
The interior is traditional and I particularly liked the cosy patchwork curtains. There are vintage pictures on the walls, many relating to beef farming. Had we not been there after dark we’d have had a lovely view of the Cuckmere Valley from the garden room which has French windows which can open onto a deck.
I can’t actually report on the home-raised meat because none of us had it, heading instead down a fishy route. The shrimp croquettes I started with were too potatoey to taste much of the shellfish but came with an interesting truffle mayonnaise and red cabbage. My husband fared better with his big slab of cheese tart, while father-in-law was happy with breads and olive oil.
Our mains were fish and chips with pea puree, curried mullet with roast new potatoes, artichoke-stuffed gnocchi and my own fillet of trout, which came nicely presented, with crushed new potatoes, pimento pepper sauce and samphire.
The battered pollock was considerably more generous size-wise than the other fish portions but father-in-law’s curried affair was the winner for most interesting. My vegetarian husband was happy to have something a little different and non cheese-reliant and we both liked (because naturally, I nicked some) the detail of the artichoke stuffed inside his gnocchi.
We rounded off with cheesecakes and an interesting rasberry-fool-with-sponge mess.
The menu changes regularly but other options that I’ve seen on the website for a while include a Sussex smokie and a battered halloumi and red pepper burger and – featuring the pub’s own organic meat – the Ox Beef burger, a chargrilled 28-day aged rump steak and a slow-braised beef stew. Sunday lunches currently include roast leg of lamb, roast stuffed loin of pork and lamb neck Goan-style curry and they recently started serving a whole locally reared roast chicken you carve yourself for Sunday evenings. Ploughman’s are available at lunchtimes with the nice cold weather option of chips or a mug of soup on the side.
There’s plenty of space here for when it gets busy. I had a peek in the other room (about half of it shown below), which was empty on the Friday evening we visited but had the nice addition of a wood-fired stove.
The bar was a cosy little space approached through an old beam archway so I grabbed this pic when the drinkers had left. It stocks very local Longman Brewery real ales, plus Harveys and South Downs cider and a rotating range of craft beers. There is also a counter round the corner with a proper coffee machine.
For warmer months there’s a deck and garden with plenty of seating and gorgeous uninterrupted downs views – check out the website pics. The pub also puts on regular music nights and has a quiz the first Monday of the month.
The Sussex Ox is surrounded by countryside and is just to the north of the South Downs Way and not far from the Old Man of Wilmington so could be a nice reward on a walking route. It’s also near pretty Alfriston.
On a freezing February night though, I was happy not to have to go further than the car park.
Good for: Relaxed traditional-slanted dining; meat-lovers; walkers; families making use of the outdoor space in warmer months or calling in after a day with the animals in nearby Drusillas.
Not so good for: Big drinkers – unless you’re hiking or within affordable taxi range, one of your party is going to have to drive.
££ Starters are around £6.25-£6.95, mains £10.25 up to £18.95 for the steak, puds £5.95
The Sussex Ox, Milton Street, East Sussex, BN26 5RL, 01323 870840 / 07532 305909 thesussexox.co.uk