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South Lodge, Brighton Road
, Nr. Horsham,
In addition to swanning it in the swanky Camellia Restaurant, visitors to this lavishly refurbished Victorian mansion can also get up close and personal to the culinary action at the Michelin-starred Pass – a dramatic dining space right at the heart of the kitchen, complete with LCD screens beaming footage of the action. It may sound gimmicky, but this is serious stuff. New man at the pass Ian Swainson (ex-The Samling) has taken over the reins “with some success”, and his dramatic tasting menus are full of unexpected flavours and contrasts – not to mention tongue-in cheek dish names: ‘eye of the beholder’ involves braised whelks with oyster emulsion, sauce nero and shrimp vinaigrette, ‘three pigs’ is an assiette of suckling pig with truffle cream sauce, wild garlic and asparagus, while desserts might feature ‘concrete paradise’ (poached rhubarb and purée with rapeseed-oil vinaigrette and balsamic meringue). Swainson’s team “take food to another level”, staff are “so attentive” and the wine list is full of treasures (ask for a tour of the cellar).
Square Meal’s Best Restaurants in the UK 2015 is compiled using votes from our annual survey, last conducted in May and June 2015. Thousands of readers and bloggers took part and the results were moderated by the Square Meal editor and his nationwide team of professional reviewers. The survey does not ask for or include any restaurants in London. Click here for a full list of Square Meal’s Best Restaurants in the UK.
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South Lodge, Brighton Road
, Nr. Horsham
Horsham Station 6km
Littlehaven Station 7km
Leonardslee Gardens 751m
Mannings Heath Golf Club 3km
Wed-Sun 12N-1.30pm 7-8.30pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
The set-up of the dining room was something of an unexpected contrast with the rest of the South Lodge premises, the hotel full of traditional style and elegance, the restaurant with elevated banks of seats and uncomfortable high chairs designed to allow full visibility of the open kitchen opposite but nowhere to place one’s feet conveniently. The imminent change of chef, with Matt Gillan leaving for some undisclosed destination, surprisingly meant that we had the pleasure of meeting the incoming replacement, Ian Swainson, who had the tricky task of getting to know the kitchen and cooking someone else’s menu, a task he accomplished with some success. This is also a restaurant where the chefs serve and explain the dishes, a nice touch, although a cynic might wonder how much in waiting staff costs it saves. Snacks came in the form of a parmesan tapioca crisp, potato foam and crisp, cured salmon with pickled cucumber, and crispy belly pork in panko crumbs and dashi, all of them light and palate-provoking. The sequence of light and attractive dishes continued with chicken liver parfait, terrific radishes soaked in cranberry juice, roasted onion and a yuzu reduction, then pressed chicken steamed in whisky, red chicory and a fabulous roasted girolle sauce, and finally onion puffed rice with a black olive topping, very mild and soft caramelised Roscoff onion and a lovely light hollandaise. The fish dish was pan-fried pollock complemented with crushed chick peas, roasted spring onion, garlic cream and an onion crunch. Happily the prominence of onions in these dishes was properly balanced against all the other ingredients. We were offered an alternative to the meat dish on the tasting menu which we gladly accepted since it was the goat special that Matt Gillan had got through to the Great British Menu Dinner. A great deal has been written about this comprehensive exposition of the meat with all its various elements, but we particularly enjoyed the goat fat gnocchi, the confit shoulder and the ‘Herder’s pie’, chef’s spicy take on the lamb version. Two delightful and light desserts were just right after all the rest, strawberries in balsamico with basil leaf and tonka bean served on a biscuit base, and a super green tea meringue with hazel nut marshmallow and lemon jelly. Everything was very competently done and most enjoyable, but at the end of the meal our thoughts did, inevitably, turn to wondering how the new chef will put his stamp on The Pass.
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