Wheelers restaurant, Fernhurst, West Sussex

There can be little better than driving home from London through the glorious countryside of West Sussex on a beautifully warm and sunlit evening. Approaching Midhurst, you round a sharp bend and on the right is an outpost of Marco Pierre White’s empire, called Wheelers. It has a long addendum after the name trying to connect the London restaurant with this country inn in Sussex … but Wheelers will do!

The car-park was a mass of expensive cars and so felt a little ashamed as I parked my somewhat clapped out MGF in amongst them and went in .. the place was packed, but on this beautifully warm, sunny evening, everyone was sitting inside in the rather dark interior. Amazing.

I was greeted by the delightful lady Maitre D‘ who said it would be ‘no trouble’ for me to sit in the garden and yes, I could even take my filthy black labrador who not 1/2 hr before had been rolling in a muddy puddle in with me!

The garden here is lovely. Lots of wooden tables, full of flowers and a lawn which leads down to a wooden fence, beyond which is a beautiful field with woods beyond and which had recently been harvested. A huge sky with a setting sun made the setting just perfect.

I chose from the set-price menu (£15 for 2 courses … no more expensive than most other pubs, and a lot less than many!) First course was pea and ham soup, which despite having been trundled quite a distance to my lonely table at the end of the garden, came in a mini-tureen, was piping hot, wonderfully fresh and of a very generous size.  Twice the waitress took the trouble to come out and ask me if it was OK. It certainly was.

I asked to be put inside for the main course, having rather dilly-dallied over my soup and it was getting cool. Again, no trouble … dog was chucked in the car,  a table was set and my Shepherds Pie and peas were brought quickly.

I’d had the Shepherds Pie once in the St James restaurant and still regard that as the best I have ever had (I was told the secret is to fry off the lamb mince til it is very well browned!)  This came pretty close with only the piped mash on the top being slightly less firm than the London offering!  The mince was just the right consistency, with plenty of gravy and chopped vegetables. It really couldn’t have been better. The huge portion of peas were cooked perfectly … just the other side of crunchy. I passed on a dessert, but the Espresso I had was excellent and s t r o n g!

My only critique is that the inside really is a little too dark, especially on a summer’s evening. Otherwise a most enjoyable evening, with attentive and super-friendly staff.  The best was being presented with a bill for £27, including wine, water and service which I thought staggeringly good value for money.

Wheelers will now become a mandatory stop on my drives from London back home to the Isle of Wight!

Previous dinner posts from Peter