Words: Rach Smith | Photos: Mike Smith, Rach Smith.
For a long time Haywards Heath has just been another Sussex town, along the train track, that serves as another delay between me getting to Brighton and the wealth of quality drinking establishments the seaside city offers. However, with Heath Ball (owner of the Red Lion & Sun in Highgate and head of pubs for Dark Star) at the helm, the Sussex-based brewery may well have just changed that opinion with the team’s second pub opening in just nine months; The Lockhart Tavern Alehouse & Dining Room.
As November struck, and autumn well-and-truly declared itself here, I saw in the new month by heading to a preview of the latest addition to the Dark Star portfolio. Like I said, Haywards Heath isn’t a town I’m all that familiar with, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw where the new pub was located, amidst other bars, restaurants and cafe’s, each with a good sized terrace to the front and the Lockhart Tavern is no exception. It’s a great feature and something that I’m sure will be a draw when we finally turn the corner and head towards spring. The air had a distinct chill though, so I stepped inside to a throng of folk enjoying the new space, made a beeline for the new bar and ordered a pint of the new Dark Star seasonal, Winter Solstice on cask. The beer is well worth sampling at this time of year, an amber brew lightly seasoned with Sichuan pepper and the zest of orange & lemon, balanced by the additions of Simcoe and Chinook hops.
To those of you familiar with the first opening of the new-wave of pubs by the outfit, The Anchor Tap in Horsham, you’ll be struck by the similarity of the decor. The walls are painted in the same blue-grey hues, the signage is of the same styling, mirrors are utilised to bounce light around and the same distinctive red, white & black floor tiles also feature. There are of course notable differences, this is a bigger space and after practically gutting the place and starting from scratch the building has been opened up. One of the first differing features to that of its Horsham sibling is the tall, marble-top tables that run the middle of the first room adjacent to the bar and the cast iron stools that accompany them. Moving through to the back of the space and down to a lower level you’ll find the dining room under the canopy of a stripped back roof, airing the beams above. The kitchen is open and almost gives off a stage-like vibe with the dining area almost acting as the viewing gallery; a spread of tables and chairs, with a long wooden pew running the length of the back wall; the other stand-out feature of the space. These wooden features immediately transport you off of the high-street of a mid-Sussex town and into a converted barn in the country.
The beer fridge is well stocked and joins ten keg taps and six cask pumps to deliver what is probably the most extensive beer selection to ever hit Haywards Heath. Dark Star beers are obviously a given, and it’s difficult to overlook those beers on cask, but the pub also supports other local breweries with Bedlam, Heathen and Top Notch all represented on the pub’s opening. The Keg taps offer a variety of different styles too, and Kirkstall’s Raspberry Framboise was a highlight. For those who prefer wine an extensive menu awaits, offering a range of styles that I’m sure, just as with the beer, will pair beautifully with the food; the full kitchen serving traditional pub grub, with classic dishes that include roasts on Sundays.
With Dark Star behind this, and judging by the popularity of the other pubs in the portfolio, the Lockhart Tavern is going to prove incredibly popular among the residents of Haywards Heath. If there’s one thing Dark Star do well, aside from brewing, it’s bringing together a medley of high quality food, drink and decor with a precision, passion and down-to-earth vibe to create a space with an atmosphere that you’ll easily and comfortably lose a few hours in. It’s still early days, and there are still finishing touches to complete but it seems that the team have once again provided many folk with a new favourite local, another foodie focal point of the community and for me at least, a watering hole between Brighton and home.
The Lockhart Tavern can be found at:
–41 The Broadway, Haywards Heath, Sussex-
Disclosure: I was invited to the press preview event in which I didn’t pay for any of the beer. However, I don’t believe that this has had a bearing on my opinions. Many thanks to Dark Star’s Steph Chitty for the invite and to the team for their hospitality on that evening.