DISH DETECTIVE: Stand-out starter and dessert save pub’s lacklustre mains at The Fox and Hounds, Funtington

The Fox and Hounds, Funtington
The Fox and Hounds, Funtington
Fresh figs with yoghurt parfait by Fat Olives' Lawrence Murphy

LAWRENCE MURPHY: Jammy figs for a simple dessert

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As autumn makes its presence felt by hammering at the door with gales and rain, and summer scuttles quickly off, what better way to settle into the new season than with a roaring log fire and some comfort food?

It was good meaty fare we were after, and that, as everyone knows, is to be found in the countryside.

There was the perfect amount of bread to finish off all the oozing cheese

The Dish Detective and friends have popped into the Fox and Hounds in Funtington, West Sussex, plenty of times for a pint of cider and a burger after a walk.

They’re not the best burgers we’ve ever had but certainly not the worst.

They just hit the spot when we’re hungry after all that fresh air.

We’d always promised ourselves we’d sit-in and have a proper meal in the ‘fine dining’ restaurant.

The Fox and Hounds is in a great spot, sitting conveniently between Emsworth and Chichester.

A blast of warm air from that log fire we were after greeted us as we rushed in out of the wet Wednesday night.

There were a good few people in the pub and the restaurant was about a quarter full. Regulars sat at the bar, chatting to staff and the place had a lovely atmosphere.

The building is beautiful, dating from the 1800s, and still retains its period features.

There’s a deep ancient well covered in toughened glass you walk over on the way to the restaurant.

In short, it is a really lovely pub.

And we were so looking forward to dinner. A mid-week treat.

Although keen to try different things, the only starter to leap out at both of us was the whole pesto-baked Camembert with toasted onion bread and spiced tomato chutney (£11.50) which was big enough for two.

The Camembert was baked beautifully, with lashings of homemade pesto, and a wonderful twist of nigella seeds in what turned out to be onion chutney, rather than tomato.

And, much to my companion’s delight, there was the perfect amount of bread to finish off all the oozing cheese.

How often does that happen? You almost always need more bread but are too afraid of looking like a greedy pig to ask for some.

I was torn between roast monkfish and pie of the day.

But we were there for comfort, so steak and ale pie served with buttered vegetables, gravy and mash (£14) it was.

Apart from beetroot and peas, the other vegetables were unidentifiable. Perhaps celeriac? They were unseasoned and decidedly un-buttery.

I would have expected creamy mash, perhaps with a dash of mustard, but it was more of a hard lump.

Which would have been fine if the pie was rich and tasty, but it wasn’t.

I was looking forward to the short crust top and bottom but the pastry was too thick and dry. It could have been any meat and there was hardly any gravy inside the crust. A real disappointment.

I wish I’d gone for the fish.

My companion felt just as deflated after finishing their choice from the specials board – pork loin (£16).

It looked fantastic, wrapped in Serrano ham, but was unfortunately quite dry and lacked flavour. They found everything on the plate tasted the same, which was perhaps the influence of the paprika jus.

Fortunately, the apple tarte tatin (£6), which we shared, was wonderful. Not a soggy pastry bottom or under-cooked apple in sight. The sweet sticky caramel was perfectly complemented by ginger ice cream.

Being so close to Goodwood, I’d have thought they could get away with a much more exciting and flavourful menu.

We couldn’t fault the service though. The staff were excellent – warm and welcoming. But we’ll probably just stick to cider and burgers in future though.