16th Century country manor hotel with numerous acres of home-grown produce serving modern, Michelin starred dishes in a traditional setting
A beautiful location no question and one of the gems of Southern England for special meals or highly comfortable get aways. Visually, the food was strong in its Michelin star family and notable efforts within the design, but a humble amount of joy experienced in the overall flavours on this visit. The setting is lovely; beyond the obvious classic oak interior, the restaurant feels as though the furniture has been moved in from the garden giving a light touch and the bars / lounges are grand indeed with a reassuringly abundance of log fires. Service was a little serious at times on the restaurant floor and I was surprised at a couple of basic slips. £47.50 per head for the set Sunday lunch with coffee and petit fours represented a reasonable equation but for the grandeur of the venue and capability of the kitchen I thought there could have been easily been an amuse bouche to make the meal even fairer. No fireworks, but a lovely place to visit for lunch nonetheless. A return in the Summer when the garden is in full bloom I feel a must at some stage.
I tried the salad of crown prince pumpkin with cow’s curd, cheese sablê, pumpkin seed and black truffle as I wanted to see their forte ability with such an expansive garden. The only problem is that regrettably my timing wasn’t brilliant being in the worst season for vegetable growth however, it’s always good to see how a renowned Michelin starred venue combats this. I would say that with the ingredients available this was done just about as good as anyone could do with plump pumkin chunks, creamy cheese curd and truffle shavings to jazz things up and held together with the garnish. The seeds worked well for texture and basically it wasn’t a full scale opera but not a bad thing at the same time.
Breads were warmed and presented very well and again, although plain in the majority, they were done well with good springiness all round. Also tried was the starter of foie gras parfait with verjus, glazed walnut, orange and chicory. This was somehow sent to the table without the brioche which had been forgotten and caused a wait in the proceedings. Although these things happen and is not the end of the world, especially if both starters are cold, it was a surprise for this basic error to occur (at a Michelin starred restaurant) however, all was rectified with one baked and brought to the table as quickly as possible. The parfait itself was set hard and quite tough to handle and although I liked the crunchy exterior, the flavour of the parfait just wasn’t to the same standard as that experienced at Dinner, The Cross or La Trompette for example.
Mains of lamb and selections of Newhaven fish fillets were more enjoyble. The lamb had depth of flavour, both parts being utterly tender with a rather lovely potato terrine and supporting sauce / puree elements. The selection of fish in bouillabaisse sauce was nicely done, the fish pieces being succulent and seared to good effect. No negatives really, but similarly, no high fives caused at the same time.
Desserts however, were a very welcome notch upwards. The mango crème brûlée was beautfully judged, with just the right sweetness and eggy consistency. This had a superb ginger beer sorbet and was one of the nicest sorbets had. Equally enjoyable was the white chocolate mousse with variations of apple, treacle and cinnamon crumb – these flavours were superb altogether and was the definition of harmony. Tea and peitit fours were enjoyed in one of the lounges opposite the fire place with a seemingly long wait for the bill.
So all in all a surprising mix of results but thankfully with some good moments and all being presented in a refined way. I suppose I was simply hoping for a bit more ‘X’ factor. The venue will serve as a wonderful haven for anyone needing to conduct a regain or gain points with their other half but for the more advanced diners there were easily areas to raise. Very glad to have done it though and a tasting menu in the warmer months is the only way to be sure.
Food Grade: 76%
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