Phil Sampson visits a traditional pub with an enviable location in one of the UK’s premier boating destinations...
Tucked away deep within Chichester Harbour in a spot where the average house costs in excess of £1.1m, Itchenor is a well-heeled place indeed. A stone’s throw from England’s oldest marina, Birdham Pool, the area claims another type of Stone as one of its own – long-time resident Keith Richards who, legend has it, has been known to frequent the village local, the Ship Inn.
So it was with great expectations of spotting Keef and the boys playing dominoes in the snug that we visited for a meal one fine evening.
To our great surprise, they weren’t there. Equally surprising – given the area’s uber-upmarket reputation – is that the Ship Inn is a very ordinary kind of pub. That’s not intended to be a disparaging comment, but with its mock Tudor façade and dark wood- panelled interior we could have been almost anywhere… except, perhaps, swanky Itchenor.
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Post-lockdown rules involved waiting to be seated by a masked server, apart from which the overall experience was pretty much as per any normal pub visit. Being a relatively quiet midweek evening, our orders were taken quickly. Unfortunately, the restaurant then dropped the ball by committing the cardinal sin of delivering one starter several minutes ahead of the other.
A bit like Mick turning up halfway through Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Keef, I am sure, would not have been amused and neither were we – there’s nothing worse than sitting watching one starter get cold while wondering if the other is ever going to arrive.
The Ship Inn offers two menus – Bar and Restaurant – which can be mixed and matched and feature tried and tested favourites rather than gastropub spectaculars. I opted for the restaurant menu throughout, with crab cake to start followed by a rib-eye steak with peppercorn sauce. My co-diner chose the restaurant’s smoked haddock and barley starter with a burger from the bar menu to follow.
While the crab cake was perfectly acceptable, I have to say I wouldn’t have known it contained crab had I not been told so. On the other hand, the smoked haddock starter was delicious and plentiful – a meal in itself. The main courses were also generously proportioned, tasty and good, ensuring we left happy and content – who says you can’t get no satisfaction…?
Getting there by boat
With entry to Chichester Harbour restricted by a bar, mariners are advised to enter between HW -0300 and HW +0100. It’s also a notoriously dangerous approach whenever a strong offshore wind pushes against the ebb tide. Aim for the Fishery south cardinal buoy before turning eastwards towards the Itchenor Reach.
If your luck’s in, you can tie up to one of the public mooring buoys by the Itchenor Sailing Club, and if you’re even luckier, the water taxi will be running. Alternatively, Birdham Pool and Chichester Marina are a stroll away along an attractive coastal path from where you can drool at some of the local residences.
Cost: £85-90 for two, based on a three-course restaurant meal with a bottle of house wine
Times: Food: Mon-Sat 12:00-14:30 and 18:00-21:00, Sun 12:00-20:00. Bar: Mon-Sat 12:00-22:00, Sun 12:00-21:00
Verdict: In a location where you might expect to have to dig deep into your wallet, the Ship Inn offers a square meal, good value for money and a traditional pub experience.
MBY rating: 3/5 (based on food, ambience and value for money)
Tel: 01243 512284 / theshipinnitchenor.co.uk