One of the things we had planned with the Madhouse grandparents on our recent visit was going out for a meal, so when we were invited along to the newly-refurbished Treacle Mine Whitbread Inn in Polegate near Eastbourne, we decided to bring them along too.
The Treacle Mine is located on the Polegate roundabout, just next to a Premier Inn and a McDonald's so there is plenty of free parking. Even before we'd got through the door, we were giggling at the cheeky sign that set the laid-back, family-friendly tone for the evening.
Everything, from the friendly staff and cosy bar area to the smile-inducing quotes painted on the walls, had us feeling at ease as soon as we stepped through the door. As we'd arrived early - it was only 5.30 and we were booked in for 6.30 but the rain had cut short our shopping trip to nearby Eastbourne - we decided to have a drink in the bar area first, although we could have gone straight to our table if we'd wanted. The kids were delighted to discover that they could have a Fruit Shoots or bottle of milkshake if they wanted, as well as the usual pub soft drinks.
Once we moved over to the restaurant, we were shown to our table - a lovely big round table that seated eight easily - and our bubbly, super-friendly waitress called Sophie explained the daily specials to us.
She dropped off the menus - a mixture of classic pub food like burgers, steaks and sausage and mash, along with some more original options including salads, quiche and curries - and we all perused the different choices. The kids' menu is brilliant - you can choose one main course and a dessert for £3.99 and there are loads of choices. The Mighty Mains include everything from burgers, sausages (even Quorn sausages), pasta, cottage pie and chargrilled chicken breast (it's nice to see it's not restricted to all the usual burgers and nuggets that most kids' menus offer) and you choose the two sides of your choice from mash, rice, beans, corn on the cob, veg sticks, salad, garlic bread, tortilla chips, jacket potato, peas , ... Even the fussiest eater is bound to find something that takes their fancy.
A few minutes later, Sophie was back with the Horrible Histories-themed activity booklets and wax crayons for the kids.
This kept them busy while the grown-ups ummed and aahed over what to eat and while we waited for the meal to arrive.
We'd told the Madhouse kids that they could choose whatever they wanted from the menu and they came up with some surprising combinations ! Pierre opted for hamburger, chips and tortilla chips - hmm a slight carb overload there ! One nice thing about the burger was that it came without ketchup - this was served separately which is great news if you're not a fan.
Juliette went for the pizza with mash and peas - not things I'd have put together either ! The Build Your Own Pizza is a great idea - you get a cheese and tomato pizza with two toppings of your choice from mushrooms, red pepper, bacon or pineapple. Juliette loves Hawaiian pizza so she went for pineapple and bacon without a second's hesitation.
The grown-ups were equally impressed with the choices and we weren't disappointed when our plates arrived (on an enormous tray complete with stand that our poor waitress had to manhandle over to our table !). I went for the Paprika Chicken & BBQ Ribs combo, served with chips, coleslaw and BBQ sauce (£11.49 for half a rack of ribs, which was plenty, but you can upgrade to a whole rack for a couple of pounds extra if you have a huge appetite).
Sophie (our Sophie, not the waitress !) went for Smithfield Sausage & Mash, served with green beans, fried red onions and gravy. (£8.99) (With a rogue pea that made us laugh - "oh look, Sophie had a pee on her plate", and it wasn't even the kids !)
The Hunter's Chicken was a popular choice at our table - freshly grilled chicken breast, topped with smoked streaky bacon and Cheddar cheese. With chips, or a jacket potato, smoky BBQ sauce and garden peas - £10.29
The Gourmet Burgers were lovely too, served with skinny chips and relish. Madhouse Nanny opted for the Double Stack Steak Burger - two 4oz steak burgers layered with melted Cheddar cheese and smoked streaky bacon, £10.99.
Everything was cooked to perfection, the portion sizes were generous and Sophie popped back to check everything was OK and ask if we needed extra ketchup or anything. Despite my sister being the world's fussiest eater, there were clean plates all round. After I took this photo, Pierre went back to nibbling on his burger and the only one to leave anything was Juliette, who had no room left in her tummy to finish off her pizza (but she scraped all the topping off to eat because it was too nice to leave !)
We decided to have a little wander around to make a bit of room before contemplating desserts ! After a quick toilet stop where the Madhouse kids were utterly fascinated by the vending machine selling chewable toothbrushes (and luckily not the condom one !), we popped our heads outside to see the outdoor seating area. It would be lovely on a sunny evening, but was a definite no-go with the torrential rain. There is a covered seating area where a couple of people were having drinks and enjoying a sneaky cigarette though.
So, to have dessert or not to have dessert ? That was the question ! Well, we all (except Madhouse Daddy who was far more reasonable) decided that, despite being full, it would be rude not to, so we all chose what we wanted - rocky road sundaes, banoffee pie, strawberry sensation sundae ... all priced about £4-5.
The grown-up sundaes were quite spectacular.
But even the scaled down kids' version was too much for Juliette who said she'd explode if she ate any more !
Pierre managed to scoff his way through his Scary Face Sundae though (with mini Smarties and strawberry bootlaces to get artistic). If I'd been eating from the kids' menu, I think I'd have gone for the Graveyard Horror - a deliciously ghoulish wafer coffin filled with chocolate mousse and chocolate flake "soil" complete with jelly body parts !
The whole meal for 8 (6 adults and 2 kids) came to just a tad over £100, which we thought was very reasonable, especially as we all came out feeling happily stuffed. We hadn't felt rushed but hadn't had to sit around for ages waiting either, and when we looked at our watches, it was 8.30 so the meal ended up lasting about 2 hours.
As I sat contemplating what to write for my review, I asked how many points out of 5 everyone at the table thought I should give it and what were the good and bad points. Well, the only bad thing is, we couldn't think of a bad point and I always like to give a balanced review, including things that could have been better, so that it doesn't just sound like an advert ! After really thinking hard, the only very slight niggle that we could think of is that they came and asked us three times if we wanted drinks, which felt a bit like they were pushing us into ordering some, but that was only becase we'd confused them by ordering in the bar area before heading over to our table to eat.
If you want to read another review for The Treacle Mine, Mummy From The Heart went there just a week before us (it would have been funny if we'd bumped into each other !) and I think they might have even been at the same table as us !
Disclosure : Part of our meal was paid for, in order to write an honest review.