Muddy Stays: The Barn at Roundhurst
Remember that dramatic wedding scene at the end of The Graduate when Dustin Hoffman bangs on the glass at the top of the church? I had to fight the urge not to recreate it when I stayed over at The Barn at Roundhurst recently.
Just look at this epic lounge/restaurant space with a glass-fronted snug on the mezzanine. It looks like the sort of conversion that gets featured on Grand Designs.
The Barn is in a very rural setting at Lurgashall, about nine miles from Petworth. It offers B&B with evening meals but has just started also doing dinner for non-residents so you can make a night rather than an overnight of it. You can also have afternoon tea in the lounge or garden.
And it’s not only the relaxed setting that makes this an enticing prospect; the Barn has some serious foodie credentials. It’s part of a 250-acre organic farm so home-reared food is a speciality.
A set four-course dinner is offered on certain days of the week. This is real treat-yourself quality dining, perfect for special occasions. I have to say as I eat little meat the full repertoire was rather wasted on me as the farm’s own organic beef, lamb and pork are specialties so I’ll talk you though the more carnivorous options as well as what I ate.
I had a dense truffle omelette to start but others were tucking into pressed ham hock fritters with apple and cider puree, black pudding, blackened cauliflower and quail’s egg. Next up was potted crab, which I loved. It had an edible flower on top which I chewed up (it tasted spicy) before I realised it would have made a nice photo. Ooops. I even ate the delicate tempura anchovies on the side and I normally hate the things.
The set main was Roundhurst’s own lamp rump (I had a perfectly cooked free range chicken breast instead). It came with potato and fresh mint rosti and hispi cabbage and lovely colourful heritage carrots in yellows and oranges.
Portion sizes are generous, so by this point I was stuffed and I don’t have much of a sweet tooth (no, really) but the triple chocolate mousse that I managed to squeeze in was exceptionally good and super pretty.
And so to bed… converted outhouses containing six rooms are set around a courtyard, just a few metres from the big barn.
They’ve been finished to a high standard, with décor that’s traditional with a few more contemporary twists and you can still see the original beams and brickwork.The bathrooms are enormous with powerful walk-in showers.
When the other guests had checked out I had a peek into some of the other rooms and, being a keen traveller, I particularly liked some of the quirky objects like necklaces and spears that the owner had gathered from their travels and had framed for the walls. I didn’t try all the beds like Goldilocks but my own was wonderfully comfortable.
There’s a bit more gadgetry than your average B&B, with DVD players (you can borrow films from a little library in the central barn) and iPod docks. I was particularly taken with the remote control to open and close the skylight and its blind as at home I have to balance precariously on the banisters to close mine. At The Barn at sensor will even close the skylight for you if rain starts up while you’re out. Clever stuff.
Bathrobes and a yoga mat are also provided. (I had every intention of doing a few stretches but the food defeated me). The doors to each room are screened with plants and there’s an outdoor table and chairs alongside where you can sit with a bit of privacy.
The communal garden the other side of the central barn is rather lovely with enough pockets that you could get a slice to yourself. Afternoon tea can be romantically served in the gazebo here.
When you’re not eating in the central barn there’s plenty of space there for you to lounge and not be on top of other guests. There are leather settees and a fire.
That glass-fronted snug on the mezzanine is well stocked with books, DVDs, CDs, board games and more. There’s an honour bar in both the restaurant area and the snug for or use when there are no staff members on hand.
Cooked breakfasts again feature the farm’s free-range meat and eggs. I didn’t have the farm’s own bacon and pork sausages but had a whole vine of roasted tomatoes with eggs, mushroom and veggie sausages. There were also cereals, fruit, homemade bread and muffins and a good choice of tea, even decaf coffee or hot chocolate options. You can order a picnic lunch to further sustain you if you’re heading into the hills or to stroll round one of the lakes on the farm.
The Barn is all about getting way from it all. To find it you follow a driveway across the farm that seems to go on forever and when you arrive there’s little or no mobile phone signal – though the free wifi is fine, gadget fans.
You can walk up to Black Down, the South Downs’ highest point, from The Barn or drive to a nearby National Trust car park and head off from there. There are lots of handy maps in the snug along with leaflets for local attractions. If you the prefer sedate retail therapy kind of walking then head for Haslemere five miles way. Alternatively you can get into outdoor pursuits at Cowdray Park.
Under-12s aren’t allowed at The Barn as regular B&B guests so there’s quite a quiet, restful ambience. The whole place can be rented out at once however for family gatherings, wedding receptions and other parties (kids are allowed in these instances and cots, highchairs and foldaway beds are available).
I think group hire would work really well as there’s heaps of lounge space for everyone to gather and that staircase has real wow factor for photos. I can imagine everyone ranged down it for a group shot, or newlyweds making a dramatic entrance. And of course, there’s always my The Graduate idea…
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Foodies, whether staying over or not. Walkers. Couples or on a romantic or de-stressing break. Pairs of friends chilling out. Small groups of friends (double-dating rather than downing shots and laughing raucously). Parties renting out the whole place.
Not so good for: Young families, unless you’re renting the whole place, because of the over-12s rule. Those who have to feel connected 24/7. Though you don’t have to eat meat, hardened vegetarians may feel uncomfortable staying on a meat farm.
££ Double rooms with breakfast cost from £140 midweek (£170 at weekends) in low season and from £170 (£200 weekends) in high season. The four course dinner costs £40.
The Barn At Roundhurst, Lower Roundhurst Farm, Jobson’s Lane, Lurgashall, West Sussex GU27 3BY, 01428 642535, thebarnatroundhurst.com Set menu meals for both guests and non-guests are available on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (call ahead with any dietary requirements). Guests can get light suppers (£10.50) on other days. Call about afternoon teas.