If you're looking for a spot to lay your head in West Sussex, The Halfway Bridge Inn seems a tempting and brilliantly located spot between Midhurst and Petworth. Octavia Pollock paid a visit.
‘Have the venison,’ exhorted the exuberant manager of the Halfway Bridge Inn, Nick Dobson. I did — and was immediately delighted I had taken his advice. Tender, succulent and full of flavour, it was the perfect middle to a meal that began with hearty, rich beef-cheek ballotine and ended with the lightest, most delicate deconstructed white-chocolate and elderflower cheesecake. Chef Tony Bale, who has been here an impressive six years, cooks classic dishes — the potted shrimp for lunch was a taste of childhood seaside holidays – with clever touches, perfect for a special dinner or a post-walk feast.
Set halfway between Midhurst and Petworth on the A272, the main artery across West Sussex, the Halfway Bridge looks across to the South Downs, a stone’s throw from the polo fields of Cowdray and the parkland of Petworth House. Walks, therefore, abound, not least from the back door of the pub, up a grassy track to the village of Lodsworth and pretty St Peter’s Church. Amazingly, considering this is the so-called crowded south-east and it was a hot, sunny Sunday afternoon, my miniature-poodle puppy, Tiffin, and I saw only one other couple in nearly two hours. Away from the honeypots, West Sussex is blissfully empty and all the more beautiful for that.
Comfortably hot and tired, I curled up on the amazingly comfortable sofa in my quietly elegant room within one of the eight converted Cowdray Barns, as Tiffin lay on the bathroom floor — the coolest spot. With floor-to-ceiling windows, the rooms are well equipped and well thought out, with the usual accoutrements, soft woollen blankets and cushions and huge baths. A couple of gin and tonics on the lawn, followed by the aforementioned feast, proved just the ticket to ensure a good night’s sleep and the breakfast afterwards was copious and delicious.
Whether you need a base for Gold Cup polo or Glorious Goodwood, Petworth Antiques and Fine Art Fair or simply a refreshing night away, the Halfway Bridge Inn is ideal. There is a romantic Shepherd’s Hut available, too, and guests even have the opportunity to book a beach hut on West Wittering Beach for a proper summer’s day. The several spaces of the bar and restaurant are full of character and pretty touches, whether you’re looking for a cosy supper or a boisterous dinner. Just remember, order the venison.
Halfway Bridge, between Petworth and Midhurst, West Sussex. Overnight stays for standard rooms at the Halfway Bridge and the Shepherd’s Hut start from £150 per room per night including a full English breakfast — see www.halfwaybridge.co.uk or call 01798 861281 for more information.