The Dorset Arms in Withyham is part of the Buckhurst Estate. The building itself was built in 1595 and became a pub in 1735. The Buckhurst Estate is owned by Earl De La Warr and has been in the same family for 900 years.
If the name De La Warr seems familiar, it’s not surprising, as the family has been an important presence in Sussex for centuries. Just think “De La Warr Pavillion in Bexhill” (named after the 9th Earl De La Warr, who was the driving force in its creation). Situated near Hartfield and on the edge of Ashdown Forest, I arrived at the Dorset arms following an invitation to see the pub’s new lodges.
I expect they had seen how much I eat on social media and wanted to help out and they certainly laid on quite a feast.
County Garden Lodges
In the grounds of the pub, are three beautifully decorated lodges which you can hire to eat in (either individually or all together).
The smaller two can seat eight to 10 and the larger can seat 24, and I just loved the cottage country garden theme. Lots of florals, but also quiet corners in which to sit and digest, or listen to music, and room to spill out on to the grass or up to the external bar. You can book the smaller lodges mid-week for £25, or £50 at the weekend and I thought this was a rather lovely idea for groups and families who wanted to enjoy alfresco dining but not the unpredictability of the English weather.
Get stuck in
Of course, what I was really interested in was the food, and there is a veritable smorgasbord of choice. You can order one of two set menus or go for the Tapas with a choice of jugs of beer, cocktails, or Prosecco.
They laid on some tasters to try which included half a lobster, dressed crab, and Tournedos Rossini from the main menu, with desserts of a trio of cheesecake, a cheese board with at least two Sussex cheeses, and lime and ginger torte.
The main menus start at £27.50 for two courses and they also have a pizza oven in the gardens. The wine menu includes two Sussex sparkling wines (from Bluebell Vineyard Sussex) but I’d like to see more Sussex wines!
Time for Tapas
Eating is a serious business and so I moved on to the Tapas. While I was munching on Tempura prawns, samosa, manchego and chorizo croquettes, and Arancini balls, I chatted with some locals who said this is one of the best local pubs both in terms of quality, service and value for money. Good to know. The Tapas menu is £15 per person or £20 with drinks, and they also have a mocktail menu.
I really enjoyed my time spent at The Dorset Arms. The service was great, everyone was friendly and the food was delicious. It’s a really pretty corner of Sussex here, and great for either a pit stop or for a long, lingering, family event.
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