Apparently “Bugger Bognor” is what George V said when he found out he might have to go back to Bognor Regis to recuperate from an illness. I am not sure about the authenticity of that quote (it is on Wikipedia, so surely that makes it true?!) but I can believe it, even though I do have a special place in my heart for Bognor, as it’s where I lived when I attended Chichester University (a mere Institute of Higher Education when I started in 1994, but my ‘uni’ of choice thanks to its proximity to the sea, and more to the point thanks to my unexceptional A level grades).
A few of us nostalgic folks who remember our time in Bognor fondly decided to meet up last weekend for a mini reunion (the big one – 20 years since we joined – will take place next year). Andrew and I chose to make a weekend of it, and we arrived on Friday afternoon after a detour via the Cowdray Farm Shop in Midhurst, where I purchased a few locally produced goodies. We also had a quick lunch of sandwiches (local beef for Andrew and cheese for me) and I managed to squeeze in a rather large lump of coffee and walnut cake before we headed back on the road. It’s worth a visit if you are ever in that neck of the wood (and Midhurst is certainly a beautiful little village to find yourself in, along with nearby Petworth), but the shop is more of an artisan deli than a local farm shop, so you won’t find masses of local produce in amongst the imported Spanish sardines and Italian cured meats.
We checked into our B&B and walked along the seafront from Aldwick (where we lived for most of our years in Bognor) to the town centre. It was a perfect day to be walking along the seafront with the sea breeze blowing in our hair, and the sun shining in our eyes, and was ideal for building up an appetite for dinner that night with my mum and her boyfriend at The Walnut Tree pub, just outside Chichester.
My mum picked the venue for dinner as our last experiences of eating out in Bognor were anniversary dinners at Pizza Hut on the dual carriageway (we were students!) and for special occasions (when parents were paying) dinners at the Hatters (Weatherspoons) pub in town. As soon as we pulled into the car park and the smells of food hit us I was optimistic for a good meal, and wasn’t disappointed.
You have to choose your menu at the entrance to the pub from a range of chalk boards, which I was not fond of – a menu at the table would be easier, especially if you are the person nominated to remember everyone’s orders and request them at the bar. Lucky I hadn’t had much to drink at that point and could remember what they all wanted …
I had walnut tree salad to start – goats cheese, bacon, olives, walnuts and pesto on a bed of mixed leaves; followed by pork belly from locally reared pigs with pommes boulangere (potatoes and onions layered together and baked in stock). I finished off with treacle sponge with clotted cream ice cream. Everything was cooked beautifully and the portions were very generous. The staff were friendly and table service was available for ordering drinks and desserts.
The Walnut Tree had plenty of local fish on the menu as well as meat, and they also perfectly cooked a small but beautiful steak medium-rare, which impressed Andrew. He was also very impressed by the excellent choice of homemade ice cream and his after dinner ‘cigar’.
The restaurant did seem to have rather a glut of shortbread as whopping great chunks of it appeared on both mum and Geoff’s desserts, but I am not one to complain about too much food (especially not biscuits!) and I selflessly helped them out to finish their puddings. The only dud course was Geoff’s espresso creme brulee, which was lacking creaminess – I suspect it was made with milk instead of cream. Otherwise, a fabulous meal.
The next day, on mum’s recommendation, we took a morning walk to Turners Pies just up the road from our B&B in Bognor. Apparently their pies have won many awards and they are made fresh each morning and usually sold out well before lunch. We arrived at 10am and took the last steak and stilton pie, and there were no more medium chicken and ham pies so we had to take a large one (first world problems, people). My excuse for buying out half the shop was that, realistically, we won’t be back in Bognor until the next reunion, and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. So we also bought a steak and kidney pie, a minced beef an onion pie, an apple and blackberry pie and a cherry pie (the last one because the owner sensed pure greed seeping from my pores and said “oh, the cherry pies are quite popular with our customers as well” when I ordered the apple pie, and so I could not resist taking one of them as well). Lucky they freeze well.
As it turns out, I needn’t have been quite so eager to buy one of each pie, as just last week they announced that they are now supplying Harrods with their pies.
Whilst the rest of the pies are languishing in my freezer for future consumption, I couldn’t resist eating the chicken and ham pie when we got back to London. It’s one of the best pies I have eaten – packed full of juicy chicken and chunks of flavoursome ham. Unfortunately they don’t have corned beef pie – a Welsh classic – on the menu, so I include my recipe for it below in case you are struck by the desire for a quick and simple pie. Otherwise, get yourself down to Bognor, or Harrods, and buy yourself a Turners pie.
I’m struggling to think of another place in Bognor where you would want to go out of your way to eat there. The Waverley pub is nice enough, and our B&B, the Aldwick rooms was very nice – and the breakfasts were generous and included high quality sausages and bacon. The mr whippies on the seafront were very nice, and the Dolphin cafe (always “Maggies” in our hearts) is great for fry ups. Other than that, you might be better off to bugger Bognor, and nip down to Chichester for a bite to eat.
1 large tin of corned beef cubed, 1 slab of shortcrust pastry, 1 chopped onion, 1 large parboiled potato, eggwash, a teaspoon of vegetable oil
Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan and lightly sautee the onions until then are soft. Mix in the potato and cubed corned beef but don’t mash it all together – you want to retain the different textures of the meat and vegetables. Allow to cool slightly while you roll out the pastry. I split the block into 1/3 and 2/3. The 2/3 part rolls out to fill the base of the pastry tin (I use a loose bottomed cake tin which I have lightly greased with vegetable oil), and the 1/3 part can cover the pie once you have put the filling in. Use eggwash to stick the lid of the pie to the base, then also use eggwash to glaze the top of the pie. Make a hole in the top for the air to escape, and bake in the oven at 170 degrees for around 40 minutes until the pastry is cooked.
I prefer to serve the pie cold as a snack, but back in Treorchy I have had it warm with baked beans which is very tasty! Variations of corned beef pie are sold in most butchers and bakers in the South Wales valleys.