Sussex, the first West End site from the Gladwin brothers, serves as a calming antidote to the hedonism that Soho is known for, instead offering up a rustic-looking setting and well-executed comfort food, made with proper ingredients and served with a smile.
While the name might make Sussex a challenge to find on Google Maps (careful you don’t end up on a trip to Brighton), it couldn’t be a more apt title for the restaurant. You enter via the bar – a mixture of high-back stools and copper surfaces – while the dining room round the corner aims to transport diners straight to the countryside, thanks to wooden furnishings, blackboard specials and flickering candles.
Much like the Gladwins’ other ventures (The Shed in Notting Hill, Rabbit in Chelsea and Nutbourne in Battersea), Sussex champions seasonal produce often sourced from the brothers’ family farm in Pulborough on the edge of the South Downs, although this is their first restaurant to ditch small plates in favour of a traditional à la carte format.
Things get off to a promising start with the snacks: a pair of venison croquettes is matched with a tart kimchi emulsion, while miniature savoury eclairs are filled with a creamy mushroom filling and the salty hit of Marmite.
For the starters proper, plump scallops arrive with crumbled black pudding and dollops of sour cream, with a few julienne slices of apple to cut through the richness. Sussex’s contemporary take on meat and two veg continues with the main courses, where smoky pork loin is slicked with an earthy miso sauce, and served alongside a lively medley of savoy cabbage and smoked cauliflower florets.
After such a strong showing, we were a little underwhelmed with our Magnum Viennetta dessert. It sounded fabulously kitsch, but was simply a layered slab of chocolate, vanilla and salted caramel ice cream, without any of the retro dessert’s fun presentation. Nonetheless, sweet and attentive staff, plus English wines from the brothers’ Nutbourne vineyard, helped to pull things back.
Sure, Sussex might feel a little out of place in its setting, but it offers a welcome escape for when the bright lights and late nights of Soho all get a bit much.