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Being on Ciao nowadays is a bit like watching the slow and painful death of a friend you used to be incredibly fond of :o(

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since 20/09/2003


The Black Rabbit, Arundel 22/05/2016

Hop on in

The Black Rabbit, Arundel Having spent an enjoyable morning visiting Arundel Castle Gardens in order to view their Tulip Festival, we were in need of some refreshments and a sit down. It was a little too early in the day for a cream tea so we decided to have a light lunch instead. There are plenty of pubs in Arundel, some good and some average, but parking is always a problem in the town centre as it’s always thronged with tourists. Arundel is home to a plenty of attractions such as a cathedral, a castle and a plethora of antique shops so it’s always busy no matter what time of year you go there. With this in mind we decided to head out of town and find a pub where we knew there’d be plenty of parking. The Black Rabbit is about 1½ miles outside of the town centre and the route to get there is a picturesque and pretty drive alongside the River Arun. The pub is in the tiny hamlet of Offham and is renowned for its pretty riverside views. THE VENUE The Black Rabbit has changed hands many times over the years and has had a fluctuating reputation depending on its ownership at the time. It’s currently part of the Hall and Woodhouse chain which is a large stable of around 250 pubs in the south of England. Hall and Woodhouse is a British brewery founded in 1777 by Charles Hall in Blandford Forum in Dorset and they’re mostly known for their Badger Beers. The pub is situated right beside the River Arun and they’ve made the most of their location by installing some 150 metres of riverside seating just ...

Pierre Victoire, Oxford 12/05/2016

The jewel of Jericho

Pierre Victoire, Oxford We spent a most pleasant week in Oxford during the Easter break this year and rented accommodation within fairly reasonable walking distance of the city centre. The owners of our property produced a very handy guide with lots of things to do in Oxford as well as a list of their recommended restaurants and pubs in the area. With this in mind we set off for dinner at a pretty waterside pub on the evening of Easter Monday. The Trout Inn at Wolvercote was our intended destination as the menu looked good, it has riverside views of the Thames and if it was good enough for John Thaw in Inspector Morse then it was good enough for us. However when we arrived the pub was heaving and all the staff were running about like headless chickens. We asked about a table but were told to stand by the door and wait for someone to deal with us. With this inauspicious start we decided we couldn’t be bothered to hang around and wait and see if we’d get a table, so we decided to head into Oxford itself and find somewhere more convivial. We approached Oxford on the Woodstock Road and spotted a Browns Restaurant by the side of the road. We didn’t want to go to all the hassle of parking, paying and displaying if they were full, so we just pulled over and popped in to enquire about a table. We were in luck so we duly parked just up the road in St Giles. The pay and display option was not cheap, even at night, and it cost us upwards of £3 just to park. Walking back towards Browns we spotted a small side ...

The Fishes, North Hinksey, Oxford 25/04/2016

Gone fishin'

The Fishes, North Hinksey, Oxford We spent the Easter break in Oxford this year and rented accommodation in the small village of South Hinksey. Upon our arrival we discovered that the pub in our village (the General Elliott) was inexplicably closed so our planned walk to grab a snack and a drink on our first night went right out the window. Instead we had to search further afield and lighted on the next village along, North Hinksey, where there is a pub called “The Fishes”. Although neighbours, the A34 effectively cuts through the villages of North and South Hinksey so you cannot take a safe and quiet amble through green fields to reach one or the other. The A34 is very noisy, extremely busy and not very pleasant to walk or cycle alongside. Therefore it was a case of getting the car out to travel from South to North Hinksey despite them only being 3½ miles apart. The Fishes is just off the Botley Interchange on the A34. THE PUB “There's a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot“ - Steven Wright The pub is rather off the beaten track and not the sort of pub that gets much passing traffic. Therefore their popularity is to be commended. They’ve built what could be a very quiet country pub into a place that’s well-liked and sought out. The contrast between the Fishes in North Hinksey and the defunct General Elliott in South Hinksey where we were staying did not go unnoticed. Both pubs are in small villages which due to the A34 are effectively cul-de-sacs as ...

The White Horse, Chilgrove 16/04/2016

Chilling out in Chilgrove

The White Horse, Chilgrove Back in 2010 I had a wonderful surprise birthday visit to a restaurant called the Fish House and had a superb meal. Sadly the Fish House went into administration in 2011 and was put on the market for £3m by the receivers. The venue was purchased and reopened in 2013 and it was re-christened the White Horse…..which is what is always used to be called before the owners of the sadly defunct Fish House bought it, spent £4m on it, renamed it and then promptly went belly up. The old White Horse used be very “up itself” - all fine dining, superior staff and expensive vintage wines. I much preferred the transformation to the Fish House as it was a lot more welcoming. I was rather hoping that the new White Horse would take a leaf out of the Fish House’s book and keep the laid back and welcoming attitude and knock the superiority complex of the old White Horse on the head. I therefore booked a table for my partner’s birthday with a degree of trepidation, not knowing which way the new White Horse had chosen to go. Were they going to be warm and welcoming or supercilious and superior? THE WHITE HORSE REBORN The White Horse is located in the most wonderful setting imaginable - right in the middle of the countryside at the foot of the South Downs. There are views of endless rolling green ...

Pallant Restaurant, Chichester 22/03/2016

Palatable but paltry portions

Pallant Restaurant, Chichester Pallant House Gallery is a modern art museum operating from a rather stunning Grade I listed Queen Anne Townhouse in Chichester. It opened its doors in 2006 and houses a permanent display of modern British Art from the late 19th century to the present day with exhibits from Sickert, Eduardo Paolozzi, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson and Peter Blake. The gallery also displays a collection of European modern art with works from Picasso, Derain, Klee and Severini. At this point I must hasten to add that I’m not a fan of modern art in any shape or form so I’ve never actually been around the art gallery. As they say I was “only here for the beer”… I was dining at the Pallant Restaurant. Pallant House Gallery has a restaurant tacked onto the back of the museum which has had several operators over the years trying to make a success of it. The present incumbents are the Sussex Pub Group who run four rather successful and popular gastro pubs in various villages surrounding Chichester. I do hope that this group find more success than their predecessors as they are the third operator in the last ten years with all the previous occupants seeming to fail and pull out. Perhaps Pallant Art Gallery are charging too high a premium / concession fee from their caterers and it’s not commercially viable for a restaurateur? THE VENUE The restaurant is tucked right at the back of the Pallant Art Gallery but has its own separate entrance on East Pallant. Therefore you don’t need to visit ...

The Lamb Inn, West Wittering 03/03/2016

I won't mince my words here…

The Lamb Inn, West Wittering Having enjoyed a superb meal at a restaurant in East Wittering called Samphire English Kitchen last year, I was interested to learn that the owners also ran a pub in West Wittering and vowed to visit it when the opportunity arose. Although the Lamb Inn is part of the Hall and Woodhouse brewery chain, it appears independent enough to do its own thing food wise and the menu certainly looked very good when I checked it out online. I also spotted that they run a Locals Night at the Lamb every Tuesday and although I live ten miles or so from West Wittering I reckoned I could still meet the definition of a local if challenged. After all this wasn’t going to be Royston Vasey from the League of Gentlemen….at least I hoped not. Locals Night offers a two course dinner for £11 or three courses for £14 with a choice of three different dishes for each course. Their website suggested it was best to book a table so I duly used their online booking system to request a table. As it stated on their website “No booking is finalised until phone confirmation is given by us” I then sat back and waited for some kind of affirmation. One week later I’d heard nothing so I fired off an email and finally got a response clarifying my booking. As this was not an auspicious start I only hoped things would be better on the night. THE VENUE - MUTTON DRESSED AS LAMB I vaguely remember visiting the Lamb sometime in the 1990s for either a drink or dinner but the details were rather hazy and I could ...

Murrays, Chichester 21/02/2016

Too good to hurry

Murrays, Chichester Murrays Restaurant and Bar is located on the ground floor of the Ship Hotel in Chichester. For anyone who knows Chichester you may remember it used to be called Brooks Brasserie. Brooks Brasserie was refurbished and renamed Murrays in late 2013 and despite hearing good things about both the food and new décor it took me a while to get around to trying it for myself. I’d eaten at Brooks Brasserie quite a few times over the years - usually at a works Christmas do or a team lunch, but I’d yet to try it in its new guise as Murrays. When a colleague at work forwarded me an email advertising a post Xmas meal deal there I knew it was time to pay that well overdue visit. The deal was entitled “Two Dine for Thirty Nine” and offered two courses and a glass of wine for two for £39. ~~ LOCATION ~~ The Ship is an independent boutique hotel housed in an 18th century Grade II listed building which still has a wealth of its original Georgian features. The Ship Hotel is the former home of Admiral Sir George Murray who fought alongside Admiral Sir John Jervis and Admiral Lord Nelson. Sir George Murray was nominated for the Kings Cross for bravery in 1815. The Ship Hotel and Murrays are located in North Street which is three minute walk from the Cross and Chichester Cathedral, which are both generally regarded as the very heart of Chichester. North Street has some good shops and a few nice pubs. Murrays is literally a stone’s throw from Priory Park which is one of my ...

Wildwood Restaurant, Chichester 04/02/2016

A Walk on the Wild Side

Wildwood Restaurant, Chichester Wildwood in Chichester is part of a small chain of Italian themed restaurants. It’s housed in a period looking building which used to be home to Café Rouge. Café Rouge closed down sometime last year as it just couldn’t handle the competition from Cote Brasserie just up the road and Brasserie Blanc over the other side of town, both of whom offer a better French accented dining experience which is miles more authentic and tastier Café Rouge ever knew how to be. Café Rouge’s downfall was Wildwood’s gain and they snapped up the site and set about removing anything French and replacing it with all that is Italian. I was given a £40 gift voucher to spend at Wildwood as a birthday present from my colleagues at work and I booked a table for two for a Monday evening in January. Wildwood were offering a 50% discount off any food items on their menu for any Monday night in January so it made sense to book the table when we’d get maximum value out of my vouchers. ~~~ THE VENUE ~~~ Wildwood can be found right in the bottom of South Street in Chichester and has a Zizzi to one side of it and a Slug and Lettuce opposite. South Street is home to many different restaurants and it’s become the street to head for if you’re looking for lunch and dinner in town. At last count South Street has at least 6 independent coffee shops and at least ...

The Jolly Sailors, Brancaster Staithe 24/01/2016

Not such a jolly good show from the sailors

The Jolly Sailors, Brancaster Staithe During a recent break to Norfolk we stayed in the small village of Brancaster Staithe which is about 25 miles from the better known town of King’s Lynn. We were lucky enough to have two pubs within walking distance of our holiday rental cottage and on the second night of our holiday we decided to make a visit to the Jolly Sailors. Although the Jolly Sailors was a comfortable ten minute walk from us, the village of Brancaster Staithe has no street lighting at all at night and we’d forgotten to take a torch with us on our trip. Therefore we elected to drive there rather than risk fumbling around in the dark trying to find our bearings. The Jolly Sailors is right beside the main road A149 coast road which runs between Hunstanton and Wells-next-the Sea. The pub has a large car park to the side. THE PUB The Jolly Sailors is a traditional 18th century free house pub with its very own brewery next door. The pub is painted in a rather jaunty white and nautical blue theme and from a distance it looks rather eye-catching. However up close the paintwork looks a little tired and the pub appears a little bit tatty and unkempt. Inside the pub is very definition of “spit and sawdust” as I wouldn’t imagine it looks very much different to how it appeared some 25, 50 or even 100 years ago. The furniture is all very well lived in and the chairs area mish-mash of several different styles and sets. However, sometimes it’s nice to find a genuine old fashioned boozer that ...

The White Horse, Brancaster Staithe 07/01/2016

Nice nosh in Norfolk

The White Horse, Brancaster Staithe We recently enjoyed a short break in Norfolk, staying in the small village of Brancaster Staithe, which is right beside the sea. As per usual we rented pet friendly self-catering accommodation and took our dog with us. We found ourselves checking into a small but delightfully refurbished period cottage which made a lovely base for walks beside the sea. We were also lucky enough to have not one but two pubs within walking distance of our cottage, and on our first night in our temporary new home we decided to walk to the nearest one for dinner. The White Horse is located on the main road which runs through the village of Brancaster Staithe and is midway between Hunstanton and Wells-next-the Sea on the A149 coast road. The pub has a large car park to the side of it and appears to be very popular with both locals and tourists. THE VENUE The first thing we noticed about the White Horse was the sheer size of it. This really is a rather large pub. There’s a spacious bar and dining area at the front, a massive glass fronted restaurant at the side and back, a huge outdoor seating area and 15 ensuite rooms as well. At the entrance to the pub is the Locals Bar which was well lit and welcoming. The room is dominated by a large bar with every conceivable alcoholic beverage you could ever dream of. Stocktaking there must take forever! Dotted around the bar are loads of scrubbed pine tables where you are welcome to either eat or drink. ...

The Jubilee Inn, Pelynt 20/12/2015

Nothing much to celebrate here

The Jubilee Inn, Pelynt We were rather isolated from civilization when we holidayed in South Cornwall in September this year. As we were staying in self-catering accommodation and there was no on-site shop, a supermarket was rather essential. Unfortunately the nearest big store was a Morrisons some 12+ miles from our holiday let which meant popping out for some milk involved a 25 mile round trip. Luckily we discovered there was a mini mart in the village of Pelynt some 4 miles from our accommodation, so getting that forgotten pint of milk wasn’t such a bind. Whilst driving to the shop we spotted a pub on the brow of the hill as you enter Pelynt. The Jubilee Inn looked rather nice from the outside so we decided to pop back for a drink later that evening and take the opportunity to case the joint and peruse their menu for a potential dinner one night. We popped in for that drink but didn’t stay long as the welcome was rather luke-warm and the bar man was far too busy to chat. The menu looked reasonable enough though, so we decided to go back the following night for dinner. We hoped our second visit might prove more welcoming…. and we’d have the opportunity to find out how the blue blazes one pronounces “Pelynt” before we made a terrible faux pas and were drummed out of the village or burned at the stake. ~*~ THE PUB ~*~ The Jubilee Inn is at the top of the brow of the hill as you enter the village of Pelynt if you’re ...

The Crate and Apple, Chichester 01/12/2015

Crate Expectations

The Crate and Apple, Chichester The building housing the Crate and Apple has somewhat of a chequered past and its changed hands a few times in the last five years or so. Originally a rather grotty student infested pub called “The Swan”, it was transformed into rather stylish bar-cum-eaterie called No.12 in the late noughties. I had a rather nice meal at No.12 in 2011 courtesy of Groupon and I reviewed the venue on Ciao. Sadly No.12 went out of business and closed down, and the building was then rechristened Vintage and that too traded for a couple of years before closing in earlier this year. It’s now reopened as the Crate and Apple - its third guise in less than five years. I really do hope the new occupants have more success than their two predecessors and that this latest reincarnation as the Crate and Apple lasts longer than both No.12 and Vintage did. One does wonder if the building is slightly cursed….. The new occupants of the building had a very successful café / restaurant in a lovely rural setting called Wellies (which I reviewed on Ciao in 2013). Having sold Wellies they’ve now moved into Chichester and opened up the Crate and Apple. Wellies was renowned locally as being rather good but somewhat cut off from civilization due to its rural setting. One could only hope that the success of Wellies would work just as well in a city centre pub. The Crate and Apple opened in June this year and my work colleagues and I booked a table for dinner in August. Sadly we had to postpone due to business ...

The Old Sail Loft, Looe 22/11/2015

Come sail away with me

The Old Sail Loft, Looe We only ate out three times during our last holiday in Cornwall as the house we rented had such a good kitchen and comfy lounge that eating in was no hardship at all. Our first two meals out in this part of the world were both rather unimpressive, so we were hoping it was going to be a case of third time lucky with our trip into Looe. Looe was one of the nearest towns to where we were staying, but we didn’t bother to visit it until halfway through our holiday as the place was mobbed when we drove through it upon arrival. We hadn’t realised when we’d booked our holiday that Looe was playing host to the Looe Music Festival on the weekend we arrived and the place was covered in various marquees, stages and accompanying hordes. Once the festival wrapped up and the marquees had been dismantled we popped into Looe during the day to find somewhere suitable to eat that evening. We were rather gobsmacked to find not one but two eateries, the Ancient Mariner Bistro and Papa Nino, both with tatty signs outside saying “cash only - no cards or cheques accepted”. We don’t carry that much cash with us ever, so that ruled them out. Maybe it was a policy put in place just for the Looe Music Festival as they’d been ripped off in past, but the festival had finished and signs remained in situ. This must be rather off-putting for many potential diners and not just us. Methinks they’re rather shooting themselves in the proverbial here as what sort of halfway decent establishment doesn’t accept ...

36 On The Quay (Emsworth, Hampshire) 11/11/2015

Quaffing on the Quay

36 On The Quay (Emsworth, Hampshire) 36 on the Quay is a bit of an institution in my area due to its Michelin star. It’s as renowned for its quirky cuisine and horrendously expensive prices as it is for its Michelin accolade, but it was well out of my budget. However, last year saw 36 on the Quay losing that Michelin star (which they’d held since 1997), and they’ve obviously gone back to the drawing board and had a long and hard think about their venue and their menu. The prices are still fairly expensive, but the place didn’t seem to be as “up themselves” as it used to be. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I spotted 36 on the Quay as one of daily Groupon deals in my inbox though. It really was a case of how the mighty have fallen! That said, for a Groupon deal it was still rather pricey and I hesitated before I dived in to get me one. I then kept quiet about my purchase for several weeks as I knew my partner might not be so keen to dine there as he’s not fond the sort of nouvelle cuisine type portions and general one upmanship these type of restaurants usually serve up. However, with my birthday approaching I informed him I’d booked a table at 36 on the Quay to celebrate and he therefore had no option but to go along with my decision. The persuasion was further sweetened by the fact that the Groupon deal may have cost us £82 but at full price it would have been £150. ~*~*~ 36 ON THE QUAY ~*~*~ 36 on the Quay is, ...

The Buccaneer, Polperro 01/11/2015

Avast Ye!

The Buccaneer, Polperro The last couple of years have seen me holidaying in either Devon or Cornwall as they’re both counties I love to visit. The whole region is remarkably pretty, they have some stunning coast and there’s always plenty to see and do. In the process of conducting various online searches looking for different places to stay, I came across the village of Polperro and immediately wanted to visit it. Polperro is a very pretty village in south Cornwall about 20 or so miles west of Plymouth. The entire village is built around a steep cliff ravine with pretty pastel coloured fisherman’s cottages clinging precariously to the rocks. Although remarkably picturesque, the streets are very narrow, some little wider than a footpath. This means it’s almost impossible to get to using a car, and the whole village is closed to traffic during the daytime from the April to September. Thus the village remains largely traffic free and you can wander through the narrow streets unmolested. As I fell in love with the place online, renting a cottage in Polperro itself seemed like a great idea…until we did our research and discovered that 9 times out of 10 the cottages are very small, lack gardens and more importantly have no parking or vehicular access whatsoever. Your only option is to leave your car in a pay and display car park at the entrance to the village and buy a parking permit for the week at £8 per day. As the property rental prices in Polperro are very high due to its popularity, buying a ...
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