Country pubs don’t come any more authentic than The Dorset Arms in Withyham. Built in 1595 and run as a public house since 1735, it is named after the Earls and Dukes of Dorset. Today it is owned by their descendant, the 11th Earl De La Warr and his wife, as part of the historic Buckhurst Estate.
Manager Charlie Blundell works closely with the owners to create a perfect mix of old and new, where the thick wooden ceiling beams and ancient Sussex oak floor become the backdrop for a modern high-end dining experience. Charlie’s attention to detail can be found in every aspect of the wonderful establishment’s charm and appeal. The care and expertise that go into the menu are matched by the way that the pub continues to play an important role as a traditional hub for the local community.
The kitchen really comes up with the goods, as a perfectly balanced starter of chicken liver parfait with plum chutney showed right away. However, the real star of the starters was a Scotch egg with mustard mayonnaise, made to the Earl’s own sausage meat recipe. It’s one of the most popular dishes on the menu and when you taste it, you understand why. A main of pheasant breast with wild mushrooms, potato and celeriac rosti was finished off with Madeira jus and had all the flavours of a countryside classic. Coq au vin featured tender chicken on the bone paired with colcannon potato, a delightful mix of creamy mash and cabbage.
With the bar set so high, desserts were sure to be irresistible, and a deconstructed apple crumble with berries proved the point beyond doubt. The chocolate and hazelnut brownie with hot fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream went far beyond any usual expectations, and was a true taste sensation. It’s rare to find a pub that does everything so well and carries it off in as relaxed yet professional a manner as The Dorset Arms.