The Bull pub in Ditchling, East Sussex, serves splendid food in idyllic village surroundings.
When in Rome, tuck into the porchetta. When in Ditchling, slam in the lamb. Better still, savour every mouthful, pausing occasionally for a gulp of the ideal accompaniment: Harveys Sussex Best Bitter, brewed in nearby Lewes.
Ditchling is an idyllic village in the foothills of the South Downs and The Bull is right at its heart. “The farmer who supplies our lamb comes in here for a pint,” says licensee Dominic Worrall, “and brings the meat with him.”
Whereupon chef Greg Palmer sets about cooking it with due care: pink in the middle and crispy on the outside. Pan-roasted rump with new potatoes, green beans and braised red cabbage is yours for £ 13.50.
The Harveys, a mere £ 2.60, is also in prime condition. On offer as well are Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, a once rare northern visitor at this latitude, and a couple of regularly changing guest ales.
The Bull serves splendid food, including a range of intriguing snacks, such as Camembert “roasted in its own box with tomato and apricot chutney”. But it’s not the sort of pub where drinkers are made to feel like social lepers.
Sitting at the bar are the local postman and long-time gardener Lennie Beard, his calloused hands wrapped around a pint of Kronenbourg 1664.
Lennie comes from a long line of Beards. His family has been in Ditchling for generations, quite possibly since 1664, or even 1563, when The Bull was built.
Dark beams slope gently away from the bar area towards a fine open fireplace with much exposed brickwork. Music issues almost apologetically from a speaker in the corner at a volume that’s no impediment to conversation.
Some well-known voices have resounded around the bar. Radio presenter Jamie Theakston lives around the corner and Dame Vera Lynn’s house is just up the road. Although she has never been prevailed upon to sing, Dame Vera once enjoyed a lengthy lunch here with Sir Donald Sinden. It’s pure speculation to suggest that, when they parted, the dame said to the knight: “We’ll meet again.”
D The Bull, 2 High Street, Ditchling,
East Sussex (01273 843147)