CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 4 Chichester Pubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - August 7, 2000

guinness eileen

The Hope Inn, Spitalfield Lane, Chichester, West Sussex

guinness eileen

The Woolpack, 71 Fishbourne Road West, Chichester, West Sussex

guinness eileen

The Bulls Head, 99 Fishbourne Road West, Chichester, West Sussex

A few months ago my American friend Mistah Rick met me and another friend in Kent. Since he wanted to see some castles and Roman ruins as well as try a few pints of real ale, the three of us headed to West Sussex for a couple of days.

Our first stop was Arundel, where the 11th-century Arundel Castle overlooks the River Arun. I'd been to Arundel years ago but the castle grounds were closed for the season; so this was my first chance to see the keep and the chapel.

We drove on to Chichester where we planned to spend the night. According to Rick's Rough Guide every other building in Chichester is a B&B -- you stub your toes on the things wherever you go. For some reason we were having a great deal of difficulty finding anything remotely resembling a hotel or guest house, and if we did stumble upon one there were no vacancies or nobody would answer the door. In desperation, and desperately thirsty as well, we stopped at the appropriately named Hope Inn to use the phone. As we went through the phone book we sipped half pints of London Pride (4.1% ABV, Fuller, Smith and Turner, London), which weren't brilliant but quite tolerable considering we were desperate and taking complete pot luck. As far as the Hope Inn itself is concerned, it did change our luck: we located an available B&B right away.

Our guest house was on the west side of town, not far from the Fishbourne Roman Palace, a treasure of an archaeological find discovered in 1960 during the construction of a water main trench. Some locals recommended two nearby pubs as well, saying both had good food and good real ales but one featured a somewhat nasty landlord.

We walked down to the first pub, the Woolpack. This is a pleasant pub serving four real ales. We had pints of Adnams Broadside (4.7% ABV, Adnams and Co., Southwold, Suffolk), which were drinkable but by far not the best Broadsides we've had. Our meals were decent as well, although the breading on my scampi was so uninspired I found myself diving in and fishing out the scampi with my fork. I suppose I'm more of a sauteed scampi person anyway, but that's another issue. I've been to several pubs called the Woolpack, but this is the first one with an actual sheep motif. There are sheep everywhere -- on the hearth, on the bar, even on the menu -- of all different styles, from realistic to sickeningly cute to roasted with mint sauce. It made me feel a bit, well...sheepish.

Just down the road was the other pub, the Bulls Head. Surprisingly this one turned out to be the more enjoyable of the two, even though we were warned the landlord isn't terribly pleasant. Behind the bar was a friendly young bloke who served us our pints. Although referred to as a "dive" in another review I read, this pub seemed comfortable and pleasant enough -- and this was a Saturday night as well. We sat in the little table nook at the front that called out my name when we'd first walked in and sipped our pints of Gales HSB (4.8% ABV, George Gale & Co., Horndean, Hampshire). And these pints were spot on, the best pints we'd had all day -- truly tasty and well-balanced, a welcome reward for a long day of driving and room-hunting.

The next morning we visited the 11th-century Chichester Cathedral, a lovely building which features a stained glass window by Marc Chagall. In the central yard was an impressive exhibition of life-sized sculptures by Philip Jackson. And then it was on toward home to rest up for the next pub excursion...