Venture off the beaten track in the beautiful South East and you are bound to stumble across a country pub where you will be richly rewarded

East End Arms

Not a hangout of diamond geezers but a tasteful, respectable New Forest pub owned by Dire Straits' bass player John Illsley. The ale-loving locals have the run of the bar, and the separate restaurant keeps diners out of their beer. Grub's good gear and prices a steal: beef platter; grilled fish with real chips; chocolate pot or apricot fool for afters. Bit of a gem, then, but polished with it.

East End, Hampshire (01590 626223)

The Net

With walls as azure as the summer sky and food (seabass with new potatoes and French beans) that's assured and eschews silly combinations, one of the Isle of Wight's hippest restaurants tacks an attractive course. A heap of moules for lunch, and room to swing a galley cat if the sailing types are all at sea when the tide is high. Around £20-£25 for dinner; lunch around a tenner without drink.

Bembridge, Isle of Wight (01983 875800)

Pauls

Book ahead if you're travelling to Folkestone and intend to eat at the buzziest, busiest joint in town. There's nothing else like it. This summer the converted coach house has a new outside terrace and conservatory; inside it's a touch tropical, too. Serious food, almost silly prices: three scallops on courgette noodles with vanilla jus for £4.65; lemon sole stuffed with lobster mousse, with beans, fennel cream and potatoes, £12.95.

2A Bouverie Road, Folkestone, Kent (01303 259697)

Tiger Inn

No frozen food supplier's van pulls up outside this tiny flower-garlanded village-green pub. It has a big reputation for great local raw materials: lobster, crab, meat from a neighbouring butcher. Twenty variations on ploughman's lunch include Sussex goats' cheeses. Harveys Best, brewed in nearby Lewes, is the standard-bearer beer. One bar and only nine tables inside but twice as many outside. Beachy Head's a short walk away.

East Dean, Sussex (01323 423209)

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