Review by Fiona Duncan, published 2nd December 2007.
It was late afternoon at Sidlesham Quay and we were standing on a flat expanse of grass, once occupied by a tidal mill, admiring the view: salt marsh and woodland interlaced with watery creeks stretching across Pagham Harbour to the distant sea.
The Crab and Lobster makes great use of its location, serving top quality seafood
"What are you doing?" Our inquisitor was a little girl, one of two who were each clutching the hand of an even smaller boy. "We're trying to see the sea," we replied. "What are you doing?" "Well, we're taking Tommy for a walk, but we think we might be lost and going to have an adventure," announced the curly-haired girl, straight from the pages of Richmal Crompton. "But we probably aren't lost," interjected the other, neatly puncturing her friend's fantasy, "because our mums are in the Crab and Lobster, and it's just over there. We've got a new kitten you see."
Children can be wonderfully puzzling. "That's where we're headed too," we told them, "let's go together." And so we arrived at our destination with our new companions, who did indeed have a kitten, because the ex-pub, now "stylish waterside hideaway" was being used as a rendezvous for a feline handover.
We checked in and were shown to our room, but not before the girls had carefully written down our phone number, informing us that they would let us know how the kitten was getting on.
Things were looking hopeful for a friendly, cosy, even romantic stay. The location, with its old houses and marvellous natural harbour, was enchanting, and this restaurant with rooms was sending out all the right signals. Had it been old fashioned it would have fitted my ideal perfectly, but despite its spanking new interior, the 350-year-old building offered, with its slate floors, cream-painted or bare brick walls and open fire, enough charm, albeit of the modern and sophisticated variety.
There are four bedrooms. Ours was under the eaves and smartly decorated, with white walls and black beams, but too small and awkward a space, we felt, to justify its £140 price. The telescope was a thoughtful touch, although we could have done without the business-like, wall-mounted plasma TV that all but ruined the hideaway feel, and we could have definitely done with a door into the bathroom instead of an empty frame. The management should sleep here themselves, to know that there was not enough shelf space in the elegant bathroom with its languorous green velvet chaise longue and not enough chairs in the bedroom; our clothes had to stay on the floor.
But these are niggles. The Crab and Lobster is indeed a stylish waterside hideaway and, what's more, the food is excellent. Dinner was a great success, once a kindly waiter had guided our lost friends Tiggy and Rob to their destination over the phone: local crab and lobster, superbly dressed, plus sea bass that had been brought to the door that day by a local fisherman, a fine mushroom risotto with wild ceps and a couple of bottles of Sancerre - perfect.
Back in our eyrie, the night was tiring, but in the nicest way: kept awake by the howl of wind and the lash of rain during a deliciously cosy-making gale. Storybook stuff.
Mill Lane, Sidlesham, West Sussex (01243 641233; www.crab-lobster.co.uk). Doubles £120 or £140 per night, including breakfast.