So the summer holidays are almost upon us! Or, I should say, they’re almost upon those who have school-age children.
People like me, with tots, toddlers and pre-schoolers, are already enjoying long days in the heat of the moment. HOW PACKED WAS PELLS PADDLERS TODAY?!
Anyway, this weather is where the pub with a playground comes into play.
As you’ll all know, unless there’s something for children to do, a pub lunch can be quite hard work. It becomes a mammoth task in multi-tasking – eating, conversing, and amusing littlies. All at the same time. Hey! Just like at home then!
These days I’m a queen at the Always Be Prepared thing. I take colouring books. I take mini cars/tractors/diggers (as to Flint Owl). As a last resort, yes, I have some (mostly educational) apps on my phone.
But if the weather is fine, neither you nor your children want to be stuck indoors eating a roasting hot…well, roast.
Let me just say, we don’t go out for lunch very often – it’s a killer of an expense when you do it too regularly. But when the sun is out, we have friends or family staying, and we all want to have a properly relaxing Sunday, then BOY (pun intended) does a pub lunch with a side dish of child-wearying playground feel like a treat.
No, I correct myself. It’s more than a treat. When the weather is like this, it truly feels like being on holiday.
The first PWP post is about The Coach + Horses in Danehill.
Remember the Sunday before last? That absolute scorcher? My dad was visiting from Singapore, and we took him here.
Drive: 28 minutes
Address: School Lane, Danehill, RH17 7JF
Tel no.: 01825 740 369
Website: coachandhorses.co (note: the ‘.uk’ is not missing here. This is a bonkers URL, but it’s correct!)
Children’s meal: £7.50
Playground best for: Play equipment: for babies and children up to age six; Garden: older kids
TripAdvisor rating*: 88% recommend; pub is ranked #4 out of 45 restaurants in Haywards Heath
- The Coach + Horses is a free house. It concentrates on local breweries and quality real ales.
- The atmosphere inside is very cosy. The service is very good. The feeling is very convivial. The door to the ‘Adults-Only Terrace’ (which you don’t need to know about. You’ll never sit in it) is heavily stickered with awards. Think Square Meal, Good Pub Guide, Michelin Bib Gourmand, Sawday’s.
- Dishes are made with fresh, seasonal produce – local where possible. The pub give bios of their most-used suppliers on their website. I really like that.
- Every time we have been the food has been very good. Every time. And there are few pubs we can say the same about.
- On their site, the pub kindly outlines three walks to do nearby of different lengths.
- Heaven Farm is very close. We were going to walk their nature trail after lunch but the heat and baby’s hayfever prevented it. You also pass the Bluebell Railway and Sheffield Park and Garden on the way.
- If spending money on lunch has already blown your budget, the Ringwood Toll play trail at Sheffield Park is amazing and free. I’ve written a post on it.
- The Coach + Horses is on the edge of the Ashdown Forest, where there is loads to do. This also makes it a good place to meet if you know people in West Kent – Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, even Sevenoaks.
The pub’s garden is extremely verdant and beautiful. It’s the kind of English country pub garden that you can barely believe exists any longer.
Tables are parasoled (with Harveys logos, which is a shame) and well spaced out. The Coach + Horses cannot be accused of packing in the punters.
There are a couple of benches dotted about. One is under a huge tree at the point of a triangle-shaped area of the garden. Regular Little Lewes readers know I like a bench!
The pub is extremely popular in good weather. But you can’t book outside tables. We always always aim to get there for noon to have our pick. And a chance at the ones in the playground – see below.
One corner of the garden is boxed off by box hedges. A doorway/hole has been cut out of it, which gives it a sort of Secret Garden feel (for the children anyway!). This is where the playground is.
It’s nice that it’s cordoned off as the kids are contained. And you don’t have to worry about bothering others.
There are two tables through here. Both are in bad shape compared to the ones in the main garden.
But this is the only downside. If you have small children then sitting in here is a must for a semi-relaxing lunch.
The playground is one of the simpler of the ones we’ve seen at pubs. It’s a sunken sandpit and a swing set with the fastest (and hottest) slide ever. Watch your kids like hawks on that one.
The sandpit is sunken and large. So a doddle for toddlers – they can’t ‘fall’ into the sandpit from the grass as the sand level is fairly high.
But neither do you have to worry about them having to climb up and over the sandpit’s side. Easy access for them means more sitting-down-and-eating time for you. Really!
Even better is if you take some sandpit-relevant toys. I took two tractors and a variety of pots, cups and spades.
I love that there are two chestnut horses living in the field right next to the playground.
Below is the menu. Note it’s printed on paper and has the date on it.
So don’t go expecting the same things to be available. This pub’s watchword is ‘seasonal’.
We had between us:
- Me: Pan-roasted salmon fillet with baked polenta, scorched cherry tomato and chorizo compote with orange crème fraîche Very fresh-tasting, non-oily, lots of perfect firm polenta, and a bright, light, flavourful sauce (OK, compote. But it was a chunky sauce). My favourite bit was the zingy crème fraîche…
- Dad: Fletchling broad bean top, Roquefort and spinach risotto. Odd choice for a meat-loving, marathon-running health freak who doesn’t go in for cheese. I was a boiling day, so I honestly don’t know why this appealed. But my dad really went on (and ON) about how good it was.
- Husband: BLT. A classic in a soft brown seeded baguette with homemade coleslaw on the side. Verdict was ‘delicious but quite expensive considering the only accompaniment was a salad garnish and couple of spoons of coleslaw’. He had a side of chips that the kids raided.
- Son: Ditto husband’s choice. I’m not that into kids menus as I feel they can be limiting and a bit chip-heavy. But I’d actually have preferred him to have a children’s meal as the baguette (as in the actual bread) was too big for him to manage. He ended up eating it as an open sandwich. And eventually just picking out the bacon.
- Baby: Picked off all our plates. Everything went down well, particularly the bigger one’s castoff brown seeded baguette. And my husband’s chips. He’s a carb-loader, what can I say?
*At time of posting