REVIEW: Petworth's angel is a heavenly treat
A row of books artistically arrayed above the fireplace included such heady titles as 'The History of Chair Making in High Wycombe'.
Apart from aficionados of this particular form of parochial furniture manufacture, it might be supposed the slender volume was designed to help guests in Room 3 at Petworth's Angel Inn secure a good night's sleep.
But our visit proved that no such soporific reading device was required.
The rooms have been stunningly refurbished by Augustus Brandt - who is also based in Petworth - and they are as tranquil as they are comfortable.
The decor also neatly combines contemporary simplicity with the hostelry's extraordinary heritage.
The Angel has been welcoming visitors for hundreds of years. Indeed, as Miles Costello's 'No Passing Trade' reveals, a deed of 1721 described the property as a 'publik house' even then.
Today it's much more than that.
The signage outside might modestly state 'good food, drinks and rooms' and the interior of stripped pine and oak in the public areas downstairs might shrug off any sense of pretension.
But the significant investment in this old building, packed with beams and inglenooks makes this more than just a stop off point in the heart of the South Downs.
It's a destination in its own right.
We were welcomed by manager Will and checked into our room before enjoying dinner - where Josh and Sam proved great hosts.
On a damp November evening, a log fire roared reassuringly.
We knew the food would be good. We had called in a number of times for lunch and have never been disappointed.
The pan fried scallops, butternut puree, Goodwood lardons and maple syrup proved a great combination for starter (£9.50).
Although the roast leg of South Downs lamb had sold out by the time we ate, the roast Goodwood organic striploin of beef with giant Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings (£16.50) more than made up for it.
As someone who normally resists sugar and desserts, I had intended to sample just one spoonful of the treacle tart with granola, honey and clotted cream (£6.50). Sadly I failed miserably in my resolve - cleaning the plate.
Unlike some treacle tarts this avoided gratuitous sweetness.
Petworth is a terrific place to visit. Squashed by time and circumstance alongside the walls of the National Trust's splendid Petworth House, the community boasts antique shops and galleries galore.
If only a way could be found to exclude the relentless churn of the traffic through the narrow streets it would be perfect.
But in terms of food offering, it has never been better. Alongside the Angel are The Leconfield and the Hungry Guest - all bringing a sense of the chic as well as great local quality.
Petworth has always been proud of its history. Beside the book on chair making in our room were some more welcome volumes - not least local historian Peter Jerrome's 'Petworth - most of the time'.
There's little doubt that the Angel is a crucial part not just of the town's past - but its future too.
We were invited to stay and review the hotel. Although we were guests of the establishment our review is independent.