For this month’s review, SBT’s Jess Saunders and Amy Watson took to the East Sussex countryside to enjoy a lunch at Rose Cottage Inn, Alciston

The Rose Cottage Inn is a traditional ivy-covered, 17th Century inn located in amongst the picturesque cul-de-sac village of Alciston, in the heart of the East Sussex countryside and granted access by a country lane just off of the A27. Situated approximately 1.5 miles from Drusillas Park and around 10 miles North-West of the coastal town of Eastbourne, while the villages of Selmeston and Berwick sit either side, this Sussex country pub poses the perfect setting for a summer – or winter – pit stop.

Alfriston and Firle are equidistant and offer the opportunity for great walks through the villages and the unspoilt countryside that surrounds them, and throughout the year the pub-come-restaurant sees events at Charleston Manor, (home to the Bloomsbury Group), which is some 5 miles distant, and Firle Place – approximately 3 miles away and open to visitors during the summer months for various events. Glyndebourne Opera House is also situated some 5/6 miles away, and so from this alone, it’s clear to see that Rose Cottage Inn is in a prime location.

Now run by Keith Medhurst and his wife, Rose Cottage Inn comprises of four public rooms; three with tables and chairs as dining areas and one as a bar area, offering a very relaxing and homely atmosphere. With a well-furnished front garden with views towards the Downs also, I couldn’t picture a better place for a lunchtime bite.

Upon arriving, it was obvious to see that Rose Cottage Inn lives up to its name; small and intimate, featuring beamed ceilings and outdoor seating, with intertwined branches and beautiful ivy surrounding the main entrance. The interior boasted a large log fire, numerous wooden tables (all of which set up neatly with cutlery, napkins and salt and pepper), carpeted floors and curtains drapes from each window. Guests will find a large patio with seating to the front of the property for al fresco dining – weather permitted, of course – and the possibility of accommodation in their two self-catering apartments located to the rear of the property with uninterrupted views of the surrounding settings. Of course, a stay at Rose Cottage Inn is subject to availability and comprises of a minimum of a two-night stay.

While serving real ales and locally sourced, modern British fare, Rose Cottage Inn offers award-winning local beer in Harveys Best, brewed for generations in the local town of Lewes. Premium lagers and ciders can be found on draught, with various bottled beers and ciders, and an extensive wine list ranging in price from £18.00 to £35.00 per bottle. Rose Cottage Inn also offers a range of house wines by the glass, all usual spirits, soft drinks and a range of teas and coffee.

Upon walking in, we were greeted with a friendly smile from one member of the front of house staff and the owner, Keith, himself. After being offered a drink almost immediately, we were shown to our table, and we were pleasantly surprised to see how busy the restaurant was; full of conversation and happy customers, but not too loud, therefore creating the perfect ambiance. We were then presented with menus and informed of everything on the specials board, providing us with plenty of options.

After sizing up the generous meals that passed us, we opted to share a starter; Toasted Ciabatta Garlic Bread, which arrived very soon after. The bread was perfectly toasted, moist with oil and full of flavour, yet not too overpowering.

For my main I opted for the Home-cooked Gammon, Two Eggs and Chips, served with Piccalilli, while Amy decided on the Harveys Beer Battered Cod with Chips and Mushy Peas, served with Tartar Sauce. Both meals arrived at our table promptly, piping hot right to the centre, which in my eyes, is a clear sign of a well-cooked meal. With no exaggeration necessary, the Gammon was among the best I have ever had the pleasure of tasting, thickly sliced and deliciously salty. The Eggs were deliciously runny and chips light and fluffy, while Amy’s Cod Fillet came surrounded in a crunchy but creamy Batter. While both mains tasted and looked amazing, my only comment would be with regards to the portion sizes, which would have been slightly too large for anyone hoping to devour three courses, but could you really justify complaining about something like that? Definitely not.

While neither of us actually ordered anything from the sweet menu – subsequent to plentiful main courses we devoured earlier on – on numerous occasions we overheard other customers asking which desserts were available. While a number of the desserts on the menu were not available or had recently run out, to me that suggests that everything is freshly made. We also got witness a few of the desserts as they arrived at nearby tables, and all of them looked spectacular.

Taking everything into consideration – from the setting and service to the quality of food and location – Rose Cottage Inn really is the perfect venue for a lunchtime bite all year round, with excellent outdoor seating or a cosy fire for the colder months. My only critique would be the lack of parking, but of course this is to be expected when dining in the heart of the countryside. Rose Cottage Inn gets five stars from SBT, and we’ll be sure to return soon!

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