Brighton's stand-out Indian gaff, the Chilli Pickle has a real buzz and a menu that offers an authentic flavour from street food to full-on tandoori platters. Be sure to book ahead.
The Ram Inn Firle, East Sussex, BN8 6NS
The personal touch
A pub for a good 500 years or so, the Ram Inn Firle is very much a vital part of this small community. The bricks and mortar (and flint and hanging tiles) are owned by the posh folk up at Firle Place (Viscount Gage number eight being the current incumbent), but licensee Hayley Bayes has embraced village life. The pub is free of tie, and Hayley only has eyes for Sussex brews and regional produce, with the estate providing beef and game prepared by a family butcher in nearby Eastbourne, and residents chipping in with fresh veg from their allotments. The building’s long history includes the role of court room, with the cellar acting as the holding cells, and today the Court Room is one of the three main areas of the pub along with the main bar and snug (the oldest part of the building). Real log fires warm the whole place – three in total – and there’s plenty of character in its wooden floors, fashionably moody colour scheme and old photos of local life (not to mention images of rams in various forms). It’s the kind of place where you can eat what you want, where you want, with no standing on ceremony, but table service is an option to relieve any pressure on the diminutive bar. The outside space affords views of Firle Beacon, especially if you’re out front, where, when open, the Farmers’ Bar in the stable/coach house block creates even more of a buzz. The area has close links to the Bloomsbury Group, with Charleston farmhouse just down the road and Virginia Woolf a former resident of the village.
The bespoke children’s menu can cater for most appetites with its choice including local sausages, organic salmon and Cheddar and coleslaw sandwich, and there’s even a hummus board with toast (from Flint Owl Bakery bread – no skimping here) and crudités.
Dogs are very welcome throughout the pub, including the bedrooms.
The flint-walled garden has mature trees and loads of bench tables which fill up with families in the alfresco season (there’s a children’s play area in one corner, complete with a slide and swings). The area out front of the pub is called ‘The Beach’, for a reason lost in time, and it is a summer hot spot popular with drinkers from the Farmers’ Bar (part of the coach house and stable, which also contains a private dining room).
The pub doesn’t organise any events as such, but they do fully participate in village life. The village fete in August has its very own sheep race. The Firle bonfire doesn’t quite match nearby Lewes, but it impressive all the same, and over several weekends in August and September the village is part of Lewes’s Artwave Festival, where local art is displayed in private homes. The pub has a toad in the hole team (an old pub game which seemingly only exists in East Sussex these days).
The Ram Inn Firle, East Sussex, BN8 6NS
Do not disturb
What’s for Breakfast?
The Ram Inn Firle, East Sussex, BN8 6NS
Mastering the menu
On the menu
Time to Eat
Local, local, local
Behind the bar
Time at the bar
Take it back home
Tour the brewery that brewed your favourite pint, visit the shop on the farm that reared your delicious Sunday roast beef, and seek out the roadside stalls selling the local crab and samphire on the inn’s menu, the Food Trail features the local artisan producers and suppliers where you can buy to enjoy at home.
Change of scenery
Looking for a pub for lunch following a country walk, a different venue for dinner, or a good café for coffee, light lunch or afternoon tea, then the best in the area are listed below. If you find a new and exciting eatery in the area that’s worthy of a mention on the Food Trail, then please to do let us know – firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Inn Location - The Ram Inn
Stock up on Sussex produce, including lamb and free-range pork reared on the farm itself.
Charming and quirky cafe and bistro open all week during the day and Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. It can sort you out for a coffee and cake, simple lunch, and even a cocktail or two.
35-day aged steaks and fresh seafood cooked over charcoal. When it comes to the prime protein, choose your cut, pick a weight and select a sauce, or go for the catch of the day cooked on the bone.
Explore the vineyard where Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes grow in the Sussex sun, tour the state-of-the-art winery and, most importantly of all, sample their latest wines in the tasting room.
A hive of activity, Middle Farm is a genuine working farm where you can watch the cows being milked, but there are also children's play areas, an impressive farm shop and a cider centre stocking over 100 draught and bottled ciders and perries.
Part of a group based in Brighton, this thatched country pub is more of a dining destination than a boozer, so expect some posh modern stuff. There's a garden with views of the South Downs and it is possible to pop in for a pint and a (classy) ploughman's lunch.
Brighton's ground-breaking veggie joint that won't have nut roast on the menu! Expect instead something creative and downright exciting.
Take a brewery tour and get a thorough understanding of the brewing process, but tours must be booked in advance. There's a shop, too, stocking bottled beers, wines and gifts.
Outstanding breads, croissants and pastries made on-site and available to take-away or eat in the cafe. The bakery itself is located in Glynde.
The Bull, Ditchling BN6 8TA--foodtrail-----0.11433--50.92091
Classic old pub with real ales, live music and a menu which focuses on local free-range meats.
English wines grown in counties such as Sussex and Herefordshire, showing the diversity of the UK's production, with everything from sparkling rose to dessert wine.
Ginger Pig, 3 Hove Street, HoveBN3 2TR
Part of Ben Mckellar's group, which includes a restaurant and a couple of foodie pubs in the city, plus a country pub in Albourne, this lively pub (it's usually busy) is a short walk from the Hove seafront.
Tuck into Champagne, oysters and more in a lively spot in the historic Lanes or the second branch on the seafront.
1 Inn Location - The Ram Inn
The South Downs Way is not restricted to walkers, horse riders can trot or canter along the trail. You can plan a ride here to fit your schedule, enjoying a half-or full-day's hack.
Learn to fly in the skies above Sussex with seasoned experts at premier sites in the depths of the South Downs National Park. Airworks Paragliding Centre is based at Glynde railway station, just a short drive from Firle.
Specialising in children's and illustrated books, this Lewes bookshop also has shelves of books on a whole range of subjects - including historical fiction, gardening, architecture and theatre.
Leadbetter & Good, Cliffe High Street, Lewes BN7 2AN
Offering a wide range of books, ceramics, prints, textiles and occasional items of furniture, this unusual store can be found in Cliffe High Street. In fact, all across the town there are scores of independent retailers, quaint streets and hidden alleyways to seek out.
Situated in Lewes, the Chalk Gallery is run by artists and devoted to promoting artists and their individual styles and subjects. The work of a featured artist is showcased every three weeks.
A traditional blacksmith's forge in the heart of Lewes where Ben Autie accepts commissions for sculptures and decorative items, architectural ironwork, gates and fences.
Stylish shopping emporium with Asian furniture, gifts and designer goods, plus a café, wine merchant and live music events.
This corner of Brighton represents a tightly packed network of narrow lanes and twisting alleyways where you’ll find countless independent shops, boutiques and jewellers. The accent here is on the quirky and eclectic.
Expect an impressive stock of good quality antique clocks from the early 17th century to the 19th century at this Lewes business. However, these are clocks with a difference – stylish and often rare and unusual. In addition, you’ll often find various long case clocks made by Sussex clockmakers.
Places to visit
Virginia Woolf spotted this remote settlement on the South Downs while out walking one day in 1916 and Charleston became the home and country meeting place for the writers and artists of the Bloomsbury group. The Bloomsbury artists painted furniture, ceramics, and murals, which can be seen at the house from March to November, along with a collection of paintings by Picasso, Derain, Sickert and Delacroix.
Surrounded by parkland, this 500-year-old house includes a significant collection of Old Masters, with works by Reynolds, Van Dyck, Gainsborough and Rubens. Items of English and French furniture are also on display.
Lewes Castle and Museum BN7 1YE
Climb to the top of this historic 1000-year-old castle for a breathtaking view of Sussex and the South Downs. The adjacent Barbican House is home to the Museum of Sussex Archaeology, which explains the story of Lewes from the prehistoric era to the medieval period.
Near the church in pretty Alfriston is the charming oak-framed Clergy House, built around 1350 to provide shelter for parish priests following the Black Death. It was the first property to be acquired by the National Trust.
The glorious garden at Clinton Lodge in Fletching is a riot of colour. Covering about six acres, the garden includes hedges, an Elizabethan herb garden, a wild flower meadow and many other horticultural features and flourishes.
Firle Cricket Club dates from the mid-18th century and is thought to be one of the oldest clubs in the world. In a very English setting, just 50 metres from the front door of the Ram Inn, enjoy one of the UK’s great sporting traditions.
Cuckmere Haven, Firle Beacon, the River Ouse and the chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters are just some of the cherished South Downs landmarks popular with ramblers and walkers. The South Downs Way runs a short distance from the Ram and is a spectacular way to take in this fine landscape.
There are numerous cycle routes right on the Ram’s doorstep, while around Lewes there is a great network of country lanes and some of the best off-road cycling in the south of England. Another option is to combine a pleasant half-or-full day’s cycling with a trip by train, getting on or off at any of the stops on the nearby Brighton/Hastings line.
There are numerous festivals and events around the South Downs and along the Sussex coast throughout the year. The Eastbourne Festival in April and May delivers a programme of music, visual arts and dance; Shoreham’s Summer Food and Drink Festival is in June; and in June and July there is the chance to catch a movie at Brighton’s Big Screen at the Beach.
Location, Location, Location
By Road: Firle is signposted off the A27 midway between Polegate and Alfriston.
The Street,, Firle, East Sussex, BN8 6NS