The Cat Inn stands out among the current glut of ‘me-too’ gastro-pubs thanks to the owner Andrew Russell, previous general manager of Gravetye Manor. His country inn has plenty of admirers including our series editor Fiona Duncan who says, ‘it’s her new favourite pub in Britain.’
Timber framed and lovingly refurbished with a wood-burning stove in the corner, it’s always filled with friendly locals with an emphasis on craft ales from local breweries. Combining a traditional public bar with more formal dining areas has worked here because (except for the Snug) dining and drinking areas are well separated. Of the dining areas, we especially like the Well Room, with a (deep) original well in the floor, protected by a glass lid. The Snug is an alcove just off the bar area for those who want to be close to the action in the bar. If you don’t want to eat from the three-course menu in the restaurant, then you can have one dish (generous helpings) in the bar area. Head chef Max Leonard, produces simple English pub-grub at its best and the extensive wine list features interesting English wines.
Upstairs, the four bedrooms are instantly comfortable and unpretentious, decorated in tune with an English country inn: warm tones and thick curtains, unflashy but pretty. A balance of form and content, with charming views and comfy beds.
West Hoathly is a quiet, historic village and well worth exploring the sites, if only to build an appetite for round two of Max’s food.