Now I know my blog is supposedly called Forkofflondon, but occasionally it is nice to break off the shackles of the big smoke and find restaurants situated amongst clean air and rolling hills.
Situated out in far flung Sussex near Chichester lies this restaurant and hotel specialising in serving fresh fish á la carte alongside on an extensive menu.
The building itself has been there for some time, and must have been a tavern stop for overnight travellers from long before cars were even a twinkle in Henry Ford’s eye. Over the last few years it has had quite some renovation work done to it, with the added additions of lodges attached to the back of the property.
The whole feel of the place is upmarket and they’re seem to be aspiring to gain a Michelin star grade by the looks of things. The service and decor are very well thought-out, and the additions of large fish tanks between the dining and kitchen areas give a definite taste of what is specialised in.
We stayed overnight in one of the lodges and the room itself was very well equipped. The bed was a queen, and the sizeable rain-head shower in the bathroom was very welcome. There was of course the flat screen TV with all the usual channels and the unexpected optional use of hot tubs situated in huts just outside.
Peering around doors of other lodges, some of them are very roomy indeed, with king sized beds, and baths instead of dedicated showers. The rooms are varied and not equipped the same, so if you do have specific needs such as a bath instead of a shower in your room it is best to ring someone when booking – this doesn’t appear to be made clear on their website.
When going to evening dinner we were invited to sit in the bar area in one of the numerous arm chairs to have an aperitif. We perused the menu and besides the fish specialities there were a great deal of meat and vegetarian options available.
A large party of us in attendance went for a variety of dishes but I started on a plate of oysters accompanied by relish and a small shot of Guinness. The large oysters had a wonderful fresh salty succulence to them. The lobster bisque and the scallops were also worthy of note, well cooked with bags of flavour. Wine-wise we started off with an Australian 2006 Balgownie Yarra Chardonnay to accompany which was a very fruity, and hints of a nutty buttery aroma; a superb accompaniment to the fish.
The mains however were more of a mixed bag of delights and disappointments. The ‘whole lobster’ thermidor, wasn’t quite all that was advertised with the tail being split, but only one half being served. The béchamel sauce was superb however, but the portion seemed unfinished with only one half of the tail presented. The fish platter looked to be good on the menu but when arriving on the table there was a sense of disappointment that the presentation and quantity was not greater – the roll-mops, squid, crevette’s and mackerel did hold a lot of flavour, but they were a little dry unfortunately.
The triumph’s started to come with the Venison steak arriving with two largish pieces of meat, a generous portion of crisp, yet soft sliced potatoes, and an incredible chocolate red wine sauce – really superb. When the desserts started to flow along with the brilliantly recommended wines their reputation started to shine justifiably. The chocolate fondant dessert and the crème brule were knock-your-socks-off good – rich, yet not overpowering with every last bit finished.
As we stayed a night we also had breakfast in the morning with this being pretty standard fair. A very wide selection of continental and English on offer; the eggs Benedict with the hollandaise being very rich and overpowering but with limitless orange juice and coffee on offer.
The overall experience was very good, well frequented and busy with clientele with the standard of service good from the waiters and waitresses. The price point is roughly £50+ per head given three courses for dinner and wine, with the hotel being £160 per room and breakfast included.
Even though there was a large party of us this is ideal for a romantic retreat away to the Sussex countryside. It is well situated for the lovely city of Chichester and the Roman Palace at Fishbourne.
01243 519 444
High Street, Chilgrove, West Sussex, PO18 9HX