I visit this part of the UK quite a lot as my family lives there and The Cowdray Arms is a convenient meeting point so I have eaten there on quite a few occasions. When the new (at that time) owners took over the place seemed to be “the” place to be adjacent to Crawley and a walk-in was just not possible on weekend nights. Since then it seems that the place is much less sought-after and on my last couple of visits the dining room has been pretty empty. From the outside the building is a typical nice “country pub” looking place and the bar is in keeping with that feeling. The restaurant area however is pretty devoid of charm in my view. Maybe the initial idea was to create some sort of trendy minimalist atmosphere but that is not in keeping with the building and now, a few years on, it seems that no redecoration has taken place and the dining area really seems a bit uncared for and in serious need of a facelift. The Cowdray prides itself on using local meats and produce and I will say that I have always enjoyed my food, particularly the slow cooked belly of pork which is a “must try”. On my last visit however I started with the garlic tiger prawns which were decidedly bland and really not close to worth the GBP 8.25 price tag. The “Sussex Cheeseboard” is consistently excellent and easily big enough for sharing either as an appetizer or as an after dinner course. Service has always been cheerful but not exactly prompt and often I have had the feeling they are economizing on staff so it can take a little while to raise somebody’s attention as it seems the staff are always busy doing something that doesn’t involve attending to paying customers (don’t you hate that). Overall The Cowdray is definitely on the right side of “OK” but the ambiance, service and décor don’t currently support the (predominantly) good food and relatively high prices. It could be a great “gastro-pub” but right now it falls short of the mark with so many other options available in the area.
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