The Haywaggon, Hartfield, Sussex
What a bizarre liquid link!
Neighbour Helen and I went to visit the small Sussex town, and we decided to have lunch in the 16th Century Haywaggon, which we easily spotted on the High Street on the opposite side of the road to the Pooh Corner shop.
More about that in another article.
The Haywaggon was built in 1540 as a coaching inn on the then main road from East Grinstead to Tunbridge Wells.
It was originally called the Dorset Arms as all the land belonged to the Duke of Dorset. Then in 1976 the Buckhurst Estate sold it.
Mike Whitehead has worked in the pub for 11 years, and he finally bought it last year.
The pub retains many of its original features, including the oak beams, a bread oven and welcoming inglenook fires.
The two ladies behind the bar were very friendly and welcoming, and although everyone else was sitting in the bar area, we decided to go in the dining-room, so Debbie showed us through.
Everything, and I mean everything, is freshly-made by the six (soon to be seven) chefs, including their bread, brioche, sausages and ice-cream!
The menu changes every day. I asked Mike if that was really necessary, and he said yes it is as they get regular diners several times a week.
(Believe me, that is very unusual for a Sussex country pub. It’s often almost impossible to get the locals to regularly walk across the road even for a drink, and then they’re surprised when these lovely old buildings become boarded up, derelict and replaced by a block of flats!)
Helen, who is a vegetarian, had deep-fried breaded Brie with cranberry sauce and a rocket salad, and I had chicken liver pate, red onion jam and toasted slices of brioche – home-made of course!
The onion jam really lifted the pate’s flavour.
I asked Helen what she thought of her starter and she said that the brie’s crust was lovely and crunchy, and the brie was creamy inside.
For my main course, I chose lamb rump with Dauphinoise potatoes, vegetables and a rosemary & redcurrant jus.
All the vegetables, cauliflower, carrots & courgettes, were cut into a sort of pyramid shape. They were al dente, which I do like as long as they’re not too crunchy. There’s a marginal difference between al dente and undercooked, but it does make a big difference!
The Dauphinoise potatoes were like a rectangular slice of cake, which I thought was a brilliant idea, well-worth copying!
Helen chose the olive, sun-blushed tomato & spinach tagliatelle, with cream sauce and garlic ciabatta.
She asked for a child’s portion, and she was glad that she did as it was still a huge plateful! But she said the sauce was light and creamy, and she would recommend the Haywaggon to veggies, especially if they were very hungry!
We were both bloated – or we thought we were, until we saw the sweets board!
I had sticky toffee pudding with ice-cream, and Helen had raspberry crème brulee.
Although she’d been reluctant to choose a pudding. Helen said she was glad that she had! And once again, it was light, and very easy to eat after a meal.
I asked Mike why people go to the Haywaggon.
Mike told me that they carefully source all the food locally, so that’s why it’s so fresh and flavoursome.
Although they have a printed menu, if someone wants to slightly change their order, that’s not a problem, and the chef won’t throw a Hissy Fit! And as everything is freshly-prepared, any alterations are easy to do.
As Mike said, that’s one of the reasons why the pub is so busy!
There’s a good choice of wines to accompany the food, plus a selection of locally-brewed ales, including Harveys in Lewes, Black Cat in Groombridge and Larkins of Chiddingstone. And the pub has a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, encouraging conversation with no taped music blaring out
Their live jazz evenings are popular though, on the 2nd Monday of every month.
They get dozens of people from Bromley, Beckenham, Redhill and Croydon, plus lots of Americans and Japanese who visit Hartfield to follow the Winnie the Pooh trail of course!
There are apparently two well-documented ghosts. One is a young boy in the orchard, eating an apple.
I asked if he was caught scrumping apples!
A middle-aged lady hanged herself in one of the opposite outhouses. Mike wasn’t sure of the dates. He’s busy enough coping with the living! And he’s just about to open another pub, the Dorset Arms, about a mile away in Withyham.
At the moment it’s in the process of being extensively renovated. The old ice-house is being turned into the restaurant. It’s due to be opened – or rather, re-opened –in a couple of weeks, so watch this space. With Mike in charge, I don’t doubt that it will be a popular venue and worth visiting!
Starters cost from£6-£8.
Main courses are from £12, up to £22 for a 10oz Sirloin steak.
Each meal is freshly-prepared and cooked to order.
There is also a bar menu.Phone: 01892 770 252
Website: www.haywaggon-inn.co.ukThe Haywaggon Inn