“ Address: Funtington / West Sussex / PO18 9LL „
Being forced into temporary rental accommodation as a result of my house flooding when torrential rainfall hit West Sussex in the early part of June last year was somewhat of a trial to say the least. One of few bright spots of our new location was the chance to try some of the pubs in that area.
The Fox and Hounds in Funtington was literally a mile or so up the road from our temporary let, and was possibly the nearest we had to a "local". I looked the pub up online, and was quite frankly rather unimpressed with their menu - it all looked rather boring and generic - the sort of dishes you'd find in a million and one different pubs all over the UK. As a result we didn't feel in any tearing great hurry to try the place. However, the fact that the pub was always packed with the car parks bulging at the seams every single time we drove past it, no matter what day of the week or time of day it was, made me think twice. There seemed to be an awful lot of people passing through its doors and it dawned on me that they perhaps knew something I didn't.
After a trying day of arguing with loss adjustors and tracking down absent trades people, my partner looked and sounded like he was ready to blow a gasket. I decided that a pint (or six) and a hot warming pie may go some way to alleviating his stress over the never-ending renovations on our poor beleaguered house. We therefore hot-footed it to the Fox and Hounds, hoping and praying that they'd be able to squeeze us in with a small table for two.
~~~ THE PUB ~~~
The Fox and Hounds is a low slung period building with a row of outdoor tables and chairs under large brollies and a smallish car park fronting onto a busy main road (the B2146). Evidently the building has been a pub since the mid 19th century so it must be doing something right; so many village pubs in this part of the world have been converted into homes thereby rendering the locals without a waterhole. The car park outside the pub is small - I'd estimate there's room for about 20 cars at the most. However, just across the road is a much larger parking area.
The inside of the Fox and Hounds is all ancient beams and low ceilings. If ever the adage "Duck or Grouse" should be in display it would have to be in this pub! It was very warm and welcoming on the night we dined there. There were fires ablaze in two separate areas and lots of comfy looking tables and chairs grouped around the bar. The pub was absolutely packed to the rafters with most of the tables around the bar occupied. Nevertheless we were greeted warmly and without preamble and immediately offered a drink. We didn't want to buy any drinks if they couldn't fit us in for dinner so we straightaway inquired about the possibility of a table for two. To our surprise we were offered space in the restaurant without any hesitation, and seconds later we found ourselves on a spacious table for two overlooking the garden (which would have offered us a lovely view had it not been pitch black outside! We had a drink at the Fox and Hounds last summer and can vouch for the lovely views to the garden. It's extremely well cared for and has plenty of outside tables and chairs to sit at. Our dog was made quite welcome even though she kicked off and decided to bark at everyone trying to enjoy a quiet drink and some summer sun).
~~~ THE FOOD ~~~
As I said at the beginning of the review, the menu at the Fox and Hounds looked a little pedestrian on their website and I certainly wasn't expecting anything particularly impressive. The plan was to grab a quick pie and pint, de-stress a little and then grab an early night. However, the Fox and Hounds had other plans for us...and our proposed quick bar snack turned into a full three course meal and the early night went out the window...
There is a range of 7 or 8 starters on offer (prices ranging from £5.75 to £9.50) but many of those were run of the mill dishes such as Soup, Whitebait, Chicken Liver Parfait or Prawn Cocktail. They upted their ante a bit by offering a couple of more innovative choices such as "Sautéed Scallops, Chorizo and Fine Beans finished with Parsley and Citrus Butter" and "Minted Pea and Meat Ravioli with Shallot, Lemon and Chive Dressing", but to be honest neither dish particularly appealed to us. However, their blackboard specials seemed a little more appealing and that night offered a "Garlic and Marinated Feta Roasted Walnut Salad" or "Curried Beef and Peanut Spring Rolls with Honey Soy Dip". My top tip would be to look at the blackboard specials first, as the dishes on offer were markedly more interesting than the printed menu.
Main courses range in price from £10 to £23, and include all your perennial pub favourites as well as a few surprises. Dishes like "Scampi and Chips", "Fish and Chips", "Burger and Chips" and "Sausage and Mash" are all covered at the Fox and Hounds, but they do of course have gastro-pub flourishes. For example, Bangers and Mash is described here as "Grilled Toulouse Sausage with Chive Mash and Creamed Cabbage with Chorizo" and the Fish and Chips is equally as descriptive. However, once again, the specials blackboard seemed to offer the most tempting of choices to me. I was tempted by the "Duo of Seabass and Scallops served with Spring Onion Mash, Roasted Squash and a Shellfish Cream Sauce", but plumped for another blackboard special of pork in the end.
The menu also features steaks, but I thought these were terribly expensive. I've been disappointed far too many times in the past by chewy and rubbery cuts of meat to risk paying out nearly £20 to receive another indifferent plate of meat. To be fair, all that the Fox and Hounds offered on their menu was good, so I rather suspect their steaks would be in the same league. Even so, at £19 for 10oz Entrecote, £22 for an 8oz Fillet or £23 for a 16oz T-Bone you really would expect something out of this world.
If you're looking for just a lunchtime or evening snack, there is a full range of sandwiches on offer from £6.75 to £10, but they're fairly upmarket and expensive it has to be said. Anyone for "Poached Lobster and Crab on a Toasted Muffin with a Poached Egg and Cheese Sauce"? The menu is also well labelled with a big V against any dishes suitable for vegetarians and a bit G if the dish is Gluten Free.
~~~ OUR MEAL ~~~
Himself was extremely stressed after his day of irritating insurers and bungling builders so I therefore encouraged him to have a starter as well as a main course. His mood improved marginally halfway down his first pint of Peroni and he was positively beaming by the time he'd necked his second.
We both chose a starter off the specials blackboard as it sounded rather good "Glazed Crispy Pork" at £6.75. The dish was absolutely delicious and we both wolfed it down in record time. Each plate consisted of five or six chunks of pork belly which was deliciously crispy to the outside but almost melted in the middle it was so tender. The chunks of pork had been marinated in honey, soy sauce and sweet chilli which made for an extremely flavoursome dish. The pork was presented on three chicory leaves, some grated carrot and shredded leaves, all of which were ideal to mop up the juices from the marinated pork. Both of us thought this was a wonderful starter and it's one himself plans to recreate at home soon.
After such a wonderful starter we were looking forward to seeing what our main courses would be like. I had chosen another pork dish from the specials blackboard - this time it was "Breaded Pork Escalope with Lyonnaise Potatoes, Braised Red Cabbage and Creamy Mushroom Sauce" at £13.00. Sadly this dish did not really hit the mark with me. There were two bread-crumbed escalopes, and I'm afraid that they looked and tasted just like something you'd defrost from Captain Birdseye. There was no depth of flavour to the crumb and the pork inside didn't really taste of anything. I was more than a little disappointed as I do like a pork escalope or schnitzel when it's done well. If they had perhaps beaten the pork into thinner slices or added some herbs and spices to the breadcrumbs, then the dish may have been tastier. On the upside, the braised red cabbage, the lyonnaise potatoes and the mushroom sauce were all very good, but they couldn't make up for the flavourless pork element of the dish.
Himself chose "Hand Pressed Beef Burger served with a Floured Bap with Handcut Chips and Garnish" at £10.00. He added cheese and bacon to his burger for an extra £1.50 (or you can have egg and bacon or blue cheese for the same charge). Despite a rather obscene looking gherkin garnishing the plate, this burger was a triumph. It really was hand pressed with some obviously quality minced beef and it had a really nice depth of flavour to it. It tasted more like a steak than a burger so we were mightily impressed. The chips were extremely chunky and were almost a meal in themselves. All in all this burger was a triumph and most tasty.
Despite feeling more than a little full, we were tempted into a further course when we saw the list of desserts available that evening. I asked the waitress about one of the desserts - "Hot Chocolate Fondant with Peanut Butter Ice-cream" - as I wasn't quite sure what it was and it sounded intriguing. Unfortunately her explanation did not make me any of the wiser, so I played it safe and stuck to something I already know and love - "Banoffee Tart with Chocolate Sticks" at £5.00. This dish was served in a pasty case filled with a rich mix of bananas, toffee and cream and topped with a couple of wafer thin chocolate sticks. It was so good I could have eaten it twice over.
Himself was tempted by a couple of his favourites he spied on the menu - "Raspberry and Vanilla Crème Brûlée" or "Tiramisu with Brandy Snap", but was lulled away by the thought of a "Sticky Toffee Pudding served with Toffee Sauce and Stem Ginger Ice-cream". The pudding was served hot with an oozing toffee sauce perfectly accompanied by a slightly melting mound of stem ginger ice-cream.
We asked for a couple of cappuccinos to be served with our desserts and these arrived shortly after we'd started on our puddings. Each cup came with a piece of homemade shortbread which was a pleasant surprise. Once we asked for the bill it came swiftly and promptly and with two chocolates that we weren't expecting. These were simply delicious - a melange of plain and white chocolate with a chilled dark mousse filling - the perfect ending to a wonderful meal :o)
Our bill came to £63.25, which we rounded up to £70 so as to tip the staff for such attentive service. I think that £70 for a pub meal for two is rather on the expensive side, and I wouldn't normally expect to pay that much for dinner at my local. However, we did push the boat out and have three courses plus coffees so we knew it was going to rather expensive. On the whole, I do think that our meal was good value for money as nearly all of the dishes were generous in portion, beautifully presented and extremely tasty (and the one or two surprises of shortbread and chocolate were lovely unexpected bonuses). One just needs to bear in mind that dining at the Fox and Hounds isn't going to be the cheapest night out, but you do get value for money in terms of food quality and ambiance.
~~~ DRINKS AND SERVICE ~~~
The Fox and Hounds is a free house and offers a full range of all the usual beverages. Lagers brands here are Carling, Stella Artois, Peroni or Grolsch (cheapest pint = £3.25). There are also plenty of real ales with pumps offering Harvey's Sussex Best, Timothy Taylor's Landlord, HSB London Pride, WJ King's Red River as well as guest ales (prices from £3.20 a pint). There is also a rather extensive wine list on offer with house wine prices starting at £3 per glass or £14.75 per bottle. We stuck to common or garden lager with our meal - himself necked down two pints of Peroni lager (£4.35 per pint!) and I stuck to half a Carling lager shandy.
On the evening we visited the pub was absolutely heaving and there was only standing room only at the bar. The restaurant was slightly quieter, but I estimate it was at least 75% full. The clientele were very mixed. The bar was packed with younger drinkers, but they were young farmer types rather than tattooed yobs. The sort you'd see at the local hunt ball (if there is still such a thing?) rather than drinking White Lightning in a bus shelter. The restaurant was filled with a mix of families with youngish children and "mature" groups of friends.
The service throughout the evening was exemplary and we were well looked after from start to finish, with nothing appearing to be too much trouble. We were offered and brought drinks from the bar without a murmur when far too many pubs expect you to fend for yourself if your glass runs dry.
The only jarring note of the whole evening was the state of the toilets. They were clean and tidy, but definitely not in keeping with the rest of the venue. The décor was tired and dated in comparison to the shininess of the rest of the pub. However, there was a wet paint sign on the wall of the ladies so I suspect a refurbishment programme to improve the standard of décor so it matches the rest of the pub is underway. Hopefully they will throw out the hideous plastic floral display behind the sink along with the stained blind in the window! Himself reported that the Gents was none too good either :o(
~~~ RECOMMENDATION? OH YES - FANTASTIC MR FOX! ~~~
We weren't expecting anything special from the Fox and Hounds, and came away more than a little pleasantly surprised. This pub was a definite "find" and will be one we will be returning to. The food was wonderful (my main course aside), the service friendly and welcoming and the portions generous. Yes, it is rather expensive for pub grub, but it's so well done you really don't mind paying that bit extra.
The Fox and Hounds gets four and a half stars from me - they lose half a star for the rather grotty toilets. However, as these appear to be in the process of being refurbished and DooYoo do not let us award half stars, I'll have to round the Fox and Hounds up to five stars.
~~~ FURTHER DETAILS ~~~
The Fox and Hounds is a part of The Sussex Pub Group (http://www.thesussexpub.co.uk), which includes Trents of Chichester, The Real Burger Kitchen of Chichester, The Halfway Bridge at Petworth and the renowned Crab & Lobster at Sidlesham.
The pub is very easy to find as it's on the B2146 between Chichester and Havant and it's just on the outskirts of the tiny village of Funtington. The pub has car parking just outside the pub and another bigger car park just over the main road (but do look out for fast moving cars as well as tractors and other farm machinery!)
The Fox and Hounds
* The restaurant is open Monday to Saturday from 8am to 11am for breakfasts and morning coffees. Lunch is served from 12pm to 2.30pm and dinner is served from 6pm to 9.30pm.
* The pub also sells a full range of daily newspapers to enjoy with your breakfast or lunch
* On Sundays the pub serves a carvery menu from 12pm to 8pm (adults = £11 and children = £5)
* The pub offers free wi-fi internet access which we tested and it worked rather well