The Five Bells ~ A ringing Sussex success
Hooray, Gastro Pubs have finally reached Sussex! What’s a Gastro Pub I hear you asking, Dear Readers. It’s a pub that serves good food, made with fresh ingredients.
Local lad Andy Wiles, aged 31, studied in Thanet as a Chef (where Gary Rhodes went) and worked for other Companies, building up his experience and knowledge. But his dream was to run his own business in the area where he was brought up. Just under a year ago, the leasehold of the Five Bells came up, and Andy and his partner Catherine went for it.
It was a bold move. Although it’s built on a main road which was originally a busy stagecoach route, The Five Bells is nevertheless pretty isolated from residential areas. It’s not a pub where Locals can just stroll along the road for a quick pint. Most of the customers have to drive there. So they need a good reason to do it!
Could Andy give them a good reason? He works seven days a week and he’s the only one in the kitchen. He prepares everything himself – and I mean everything! Not only does he make his own burgers, he makes the buns too, plus a selection of breads, including Foccacio.
Most of the vegetables, meat, cheese and other ingredients are from local producers. It costs him more, but the flavours are worth it!
I met Webitor Mel there for a lunchtime catch-up on the magazine.
When we arrived, I asked Limahl the barman/manager if they had any non-alcoholic cocktails, and with a grin, Limahl said, ‘Yes. Try my Special. It doesn’t have a name yet.’
He mixed pineapple juice with a dash of lime and Grenadine, and topped it up with lemonade. It was delicious, and very pretty too!
Any suggestions for a name would be gratefully received by the pub!
For starters, Mel ordered the Crabcakes and I had Serrano Ham with a toasted peach and local goats’ cheese, served with a rocket salad.
Apart from the menu, Andy manages the time to have a daily choice of Specials!
Mel chose Stuffed Guinea Fowl from the Specials, and, on Andy’s recommendation, I had an aged T-Bone Steak from the menu, which I could have cut with a spoon, it was so tender!
It was served with a jacket potato with the potato scooped out, mashed with butter, and stuffed back in again.
Finally, Mel had a dream of a Cheesecake, and I had the Plum Tart.
Of course we both sampled each other’s food, every course!
Alexandra the Hungarian waitress/barmaid was perfect, never interrupting our conversation with my pet hate, ‘Everything awlriiiiiiiiiiight?’ But she was within eyeshot all the time, even while serving other customers.
Mel had to rush back to work, and I stayed a bit longer to talk to Andy.
Part of the pub was originally a yeoman’s cottage in the 14th Century.
In 1752, the pub was called The Five Bells, although it had been a pub long before that. It had been extended. The bar end was originally an adjacent Coach House.
Apart from that, there’s not much known about the pub’s history. Most local people would have been illiterate.
If any of you, Dear Readers, can find anything out, or have any old photos, Andy would be very grateful. You might even be treated to one of Limahl’s unnamed cocktails!
The Five Bells holds an Open Mic Night every other Thursday, which has proved very popular.
Open Mic Nights are when local musicians come along and play or sing live.
I was amazed at the local talent, often hidden away, unseen or heard!
There is live music on the last Friday of every month.
For a wedding or special event, the dining room, separate from the main bar/restaurant, is ideal, with room for 50 people. And there’s a marquee outside, with almost limitless space!
So is The Five Bells worth driving to?
A big YES! It ticks nearly all the boxes.
But as you know, Dear Regular Readers, I like to add a Negative so you don’t think that I’ve been bribed with free unnamed cocktails, etc!
I think the big dining room, (which is at the other end of the pub, separate to the pub restaurant,) needs some changes. I do love the old, uneven brick floor though. That must stay the same, except maybe with a rug or two on it.
Of course, Andy’s finances are limited and these things take time. But it shouldn’t have the tables laid up. It puts the drinkers off from using it. And it needs revamping, with new, or new old furniture in it.
It will look better in the Winter, when the big fireplace has a nice log fire crackling a welcome!
The Five Bells
East Grinstead Road,
Tel 01825 722259