Five years ago Greg Clark and Jane Goulding took on an historic icon, Southwick’s Golden Lion pub – famous for its meeting between Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery days before the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944.
The ancient pub has had a revamp since I last visited. When stripping down the interior due to rot, a glorious inglenook brick fireplace was uncovered, while floors have also been restored to their natural wood beauty.
War memorabilia is kept to a minimum, with only some Dig for Victory posters and the outside wall plaque recalling the famous meeting.
There’s an unspoilt bar with dartboard. The tiny dining room seats around 22 and is found through a splendidly comfortable hideaway lounge bar complete with squidgy seating. No music permeates.
Six years ago I found bog-standard macaroni cheese, lasagne and tuna pasta bake. Nice enough, but chefs were probably not much involved. Four chefs are these days, with a menu that is certainly more upmarket but also offers baguettes and snack food.
There’s a lunchtime menu with a smattering of dishes from the dinner one, the latter unsurprisingly reaching deeper into the recesses of the pocket. Start with goat’s cheese and toasted pinenuts; sirloin of beef salad with beetroot confit and a horseradish cream; sweet potato and pumpkin soup; cornfed chicken and duck confit terrine with orange salad; smoked haddock and spring onion fishcakes; Thatcher’s cider battered fish and chips; fillet of Cornish seabass with herb crushed potatoes and butternut squash purée or steaks or a pumpkin risotto with pea shoots. Dishes range from around the £5 mark to £14.50 for a major main course.
I had two dishes, a baked Isle of Wight brie with toasted rosemary bread and cranberries and those fishcakes with a rocket salad and garlic mayo. Each was beautifully yet simply presented on stylish long wood platters, the two fishcakes coming with a goodly wedge of lemon and an excellently-dressed rocket salad. The mayo contained lots of garlic, right up my street.
Moist, succulent and full of fish, those fishcakes were exemplary. Who knew that the Isle of Wight was capable of such a fine brie? Perfectly baked to oozing temperature, the tart cranberries added a needed acidic zest, warm rosemary bread a calming presence to the cheese.
Desserts – a sticky toffee pudding, a panna cotta, a ginger and clementine marmalade cake with sweet vanilla cream – turned up at a nearby table, but I settled for an okay espresso.
Service, by the two owners and another first-rate staff member, was just as it should be: they understand the art of hospitality. .
My bill came to just under £16 for two courses and a glass of wine, excluding any tip.
Golden Lion, High Street, Southwick (023) 9237 9134
Open: Noon-3pm and 5.30pm-11pm Mon-Fri, Noon-4pm and 6pm-11pm Sat and Noon-4pm and 6pm-10.30pm Sun
Food: Five (out of five)
Disabled access: Side entrance for wheelchair access.
How to get there: Follow the A3, then the B2177 to Portsdown Hill Road,then follow the signs to Southwick. The pub is on the right in the village, before the church. Car park. Smart loos outside in a courtyard.