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■ advertising feature Enchanted by The Cat by Nicole Tata J


udging by the busy car park and dining room, I am not the only one. For a Wednesday lunchtime, it is packed. “Last Tuesday, we had 90 in for lunch and 90 for dinner – it’s been so busy,” smiles owner Andrew Russell, greeting me and my


partner Jon like old friends, “especially after our recent two-week shutdown to have the new kitchen put in. People are flocking back; it’s been crazy.” Without a doubt, the kitchen is one of The Cat’s magic ingredients. But it’s more than that. This is a pub for the locals, for visitors, walkers, City bankers, the ‘wax jacket brigade’ – everyone is given a warm embrace, metaphorically speaking, in the busy buzz at the bar and in the dining areas. With its many nooks and crannies, oak beams and inglenook fireplaces, this beautiful, 500-year-old inn is full of character and irresistible charm. Andrew presents the menu, pointing out daily specials and recommending this dish and that, safe in the knowledge that there are no bad choices. Jon’s Rye Scallops and Tiger Prawns with a Sweet


To say that I was looking forward to having lunch at The Cat Inn at West Hoathly would be an understatement. Previous visits to this magical country inn had left me in no doubt: I am a Cat lover.


“Without a doubt, the kitchen is one of The Cat’s magic ingredients.”


Corn Puree are soft and yielding on a bed of sweetness and light – a beautiful combination and fabulous starter. My Beetroot Salad is a revelation: gossamer thin slivers of beetroot, dreamy whipped goats cheese and a hazelnut dressing so pure I could taste every nut in it. We are hooked, even before main course. “The Onglet is very good,” suggests Andrew, perhaps guessing (correctly!) that I’m a big steak fan. Perfect, succulent, flavour bursting steak pieces with aioli, chips and salad – I can’t remember ever tasting steak like it. Jon’s Spiced Chicken Brochettes with Couscous, Yogurt Dressing, Harissa and Tomato Salad is another winner, a fresh summer dish packed with “massive tastes,” as he puts it. And that’s the thing, you


see. You really can taste EVERY ingredient, from the hint of mint in the tomato salad to the depth of flavour in the hanger steak. And it’s not simply a riot of flavours on the plate – more


like a carefully orchestrated symphony playing on your palate. Pure magic. Max Leonard, Head Chef for nearly two years now, is the maestro in the kitchen. It is his insistence on using very local, top quality ingredients, coupled with his obvious creative talents in the kitchen – while using every fine dining trick in the book – that makes his dishes so spectacular. Now, with a new £100k Charvet kitchen, Max and his team of four chefs finally have the platform they deserve. “It’s the Lamborghini of kitchens,” says Max, grinning, “and it’s wonderful to work in.” Having recently bought a house in the village and bringing up a young family, Max is not planning on going anywhere. Lucky for us – because that boy can’t half cook! ■


This picture:Max Leonard, Head Chef, in his new kitchen. Below: Dining Room at The Cat Inn. Below left: Seared Fillet of Hake, Courtlands Summer Vegetables and Pistou.


THE CAT INN Queens Square, West Hoathly RH19 4PP Tel. 01342 810369 | www.catinn.co.uk


SUSSEX LIVING October 2011


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