The Sundial in Herstmonceux

I had a couple of preconceptions that were quickly dispelled on my visit to The Sundial.

1. That French Restaurants in the country that advertise themselves as wedding venues tend to be a bit mundane.

2. That we would be hard pushed to find an East Sussex restaurant that was better than The Waterside.

On entering the rather empty car park on a quiet Saturday lunch time in the unassuming village of Herstmonceux. I was pleasantly surprised by the attractive, modern and well designed layout of The Sundial. It has a small lounge bar area in the middle, a small private dining room to the left and the main restaurant to the right. There is a also a small terrace and a large garden area.

We were greeted by the proprietors Chef Vincent and his wife Mary who manages front of house, and made comfortable in the lounge area where we were served some tasty canapes while we made our selections. First step was choosing which menu. They have a fine dining menu which at £25 for 3 courses seemed really good value.  The a la carte is £40 for 3 courses and there is a 5 course tasting menu at £55. We opted for the a la carte.

First we had a nice creamy crayfish mousse amuse bouche. Then for starters we both had the perfectly cooked Panfried King Scallops, with Wild Mushrooms, Garlic and Parsley. A lovely looking dish visually enhanced by the inclusion of the blue Vitelotte Potatoes. Next we had a refreshing champagne and lemon granita palette cleanser.

For main course I had the Wild Seabass Fillet, Seabass and Lobster Sausage with Tarragon and Pistachio served with beautifully smooth mash and my companion had the fairly substantial Breast of Duck with Potato Pancakes and seasonal Vegetables

This was followed by a pre dessert that was effectively a mini raspberry choc ice, a bit like a frozen raspberry ruffle on a stick.  Then for dessert I had Red Berry Compote and Chocolate Mousse, Hazelnut Macaroon and Nougat Mousse with Carrot and Ginger Sorbet. The Hazelnut Macaroon was really moreish, working so well with the unusual Carrot and Ginger Sorbet.   However the star of the show,  at least visually, was the Chocolate Dégustation that included chocolate ice cream, chocolate mousse and chocolate parfait.  This dish was very much presented to impress.

The wine list is extensive, although there are not too many by the glass unfortunately – my only complaint.

We finished off this rather splendid meal with coffee and a fairly substantial selection of petit fours in the lounge.

Attention to detail and stylish presentation are obviously important at The Sundial, they used a lovely selection of tableware ranging from the cute copper pot butter dish to the stunning customised glass dessert plates, this was backed up by solid cooking and good ingredients.

The Sundial restaurant had a Michelin star for three years until 1982 and I sincerely hope it’s back on the Michelin Inspectors radar, as this is a serious contender for a star in my opinion.

LOCATION INFORMATION

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The Waterside Seafood Restaurant – The third kind

Seafood restaurants in my view fall into three categories:-

  1. The bad ones of which there are way too many.
  2. The good but conventional ones like Chapmans in Canterbury, which are not quite so plentiful.
  3. The rare ones that have that special something that sets them apart.

I would put Eddie Gilberts in Ramsgate and The Sportsman in Whitstable into the third category for example along with The Waterside Restaurant in Eastbourne which on my third visit in an eight month period just did not disappoint.

The Waterside Restaurant is situated in a boutique hotel of the kind that goes a long way to revitalizing British Seaside resorts, every good resort should have one or better still half a dozen such places.

Our first visit to The Waterside was in the heart of winter and I guess the fact it was thriving then should have been the first clue to how special this place was. Something the AA recognized earlier this year by awarding it a second Rosette.

When we arrived it was nice to be welcomed back by the waitress who remembered us from our earlier visits. We had a good start – ordering a glass of Moet at a fraction of the price we would have paid in London.

The menu changes frequently enough to make it interesting. I started with the King Scallops Sweet Plate – The scallops are served with mustard brulee and cashew nut baklava, this is a dish I have had before and one I am pleased they keep on the menu.  My companion ordered the crab and crayfish salad a new addition to the menu which was delicious.  It took a while to choose my main course as I was torn between several of the dishes. l finally settled on the Sea Bream served very simply with potato and spinach salad – perfect.  My companion had the Fillet of Plaice served with a divine crayfish risotto and scallops. The only disappointment of the evening was that they did not have the stunning Basil Ice cream we had on our last visit on their list of home made ices, but I still enjoyed the Toffee, Apple & Cinnamon and Banana & Mango ice creams that were on offer along with a nice glass of Moscatel.

We retired to the bar for cocktails.  Where they serve a mixture of classic cocktails and boutique cocktails. I had an Aqua,  one of the boutique cocktails containing Lycee and Melon liqueur, Vodka, Gin, Cointreau, Lime Juice and lemonade – very refreshing and a nice way to end a lovely evening.

This may have been my third visit to The Waterside but it certainly will not be my last.  I don’t need the sunshine to draw me to Eastbourne when the town boasts a restaurant of this calibre, and it’s only an hour and a half away from London by train 😉

Marks out of 10

Food 7.1

Service 7

Ambience 7

The Waterside Restaurant on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION

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Where to Eat and Drink – Sussex

EASTBOURNE 

SOVEREIGN HARBOUR

If you fancy a trip to the Seaside then here is a list of the some of the more interesting places I have found on or near the Sussex coast.

EAST SUSSEX

The Waterside Restaurant (Eastbourne) –  Superior restaurant in a stylish boutique hotel. For something a little bit different I would recommend having dinner here.

Morgans (Eastbourne) – Good value set lunch.

Thai Marina (Sovereign Harbour) – Consistently high quality Thai food in pleasant surroundings.

The Sundial in Herstmonceux – Ideal for a special treat.

WEST SUSSEX

47 Mussel Row (Littlehampton) – Worth a detour for the excellent Sea food.

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The Little Polka Cafe – a little ray of sunshine on the coast

The Little Polka Cafe in Eastbourne markets itself by saying there is only one “Little Polka” on the South coast. Which is basically my only complaint, I just wish there were more – one in London that I could get to more easily would be great.

I just loved this place. We walked in on a rather bleak bank holiday Saturday for a late lunch, to be warmly welcomed by the owner. The feeling this invoked was rather like the sun coming out. We had stepped into a beautiful Polish parlour. I think we easily spent the first 5 minutes looking round the room and complementing the owner on how lovely it was. With its terracotta walls and eclectic decor like the upright Piano and the dresser filled with Boleslawiec ceramics.

There was only one other customer, an obvious regular, so the level of service was perhaps more attentive than it would have been if the place had been busier. We ordered Pierogi’s for two and the Schabowy (pork cutlets fried in breadcrumbs and egg).

There were 3 types of Pierogi’s – one filled with cheese, potato and onion, another filled with lentils and the third filled with fried mushrooms mixed with pickled cabbage and onions – they were served with beautifully fresh beetroot and a delicious cabbage and carrot salad. They were a meal in themselves (and even now, days later I can still remember how good they were). The Schabowy was also excellent, you could really taste the pork.

Initially I had no room for dessert, so we just sat back and had some more tea. Then after a gap I did order a light piece of lemon zest roll, just to complete the lovely meal.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.9

Service 7.9

Ambience 7

Little Polka Cafe on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION

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UPDATE: February 2012 – Sadly Little Polka has closed see comment for details.

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The Grand Hotel Eastbourne – Afternoon Tea at The White Palace

The Grand Hotel Eastbourne has a lot of history associated with it.  Lots of musical connections – Debussy completed  ‘La Mer’ here in 1905. The BBC Palm Court Orchestra used to broadcast live from The Grand Hall and Dennis Potter’s Cream in My Coffee was filmed here.

Visually “The White Palace” is quite stunning, it’s very much a remnant of a bygone era.  Just the sort of place where you would expect to see Miss Marple sitting in the corner knitting.

Our visit on Easter Sunday when The Palm Court Strings were playing was my first opportunity to have a formal “Afternoon Tea” outside London.

We arrived early enough to check out the bar.  The drinks selection was not as extensive or as special as it could have been, just some fairly standard Whiskeys, some common brands of  Rum and a couple of Sherries. The Cocktail list was much more interesting and the ones we had were very nice indeed.  Even if they were expensive – i.e., London cocktail prices, but then again The Grand is a 5 star hotel. So after a leisurely start we made our way to the far end of  The Grand Hall where Afternoon Tea is served.   The  layout was a bit awkward, set up as it was to accommodate The Palm Court Strings, which made it difficult for the staff to serve tea and rather limited our ability to order anything beyond the Champagne Afternoon Tea we had already paid for.

However I have to say, it was the string quartet that really made this an occasion. They only play on the last Sunday of each month and the very conventional Afternoon Tea would have been something of a disappointment without them.  Not that there was anything wrong with what we had to eat. The Cake Stand contained a selection of perfectly fine sandwiches, scones and cakes. It was all just a bit too conventional for my taste.

We also had a brief look at the menu for the Hotels main restaurant.  Nothing very exciting there either. The pricing structure for a la carte dishes was a bit odd, in that the price quoted per dish was on top of the £27 set menu price which meant that if you went entirely a la carte you had to remember that there was an extra £27 to add to your bill – What’s wrong with just having a set menu and showing “the real prices” for the a la carte dishes? (maybe  Miss Marple can get to the bottom of that mystery!).

When we left the Hotel at about 6 o’clock, we were very surprised to still see people sun bathing by the outdoor pool, indeed Eastbourne (on the Sunshine coast)  is certainly a sweet spot for a Staycation when you get the kind of weather we had on our visit.

Marks out of 10

Food 5

Service 5

Ambience 7

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The Hungry Monk in Jevington – Birthplace of Banoffee Pie

I do like my desserts, so a visit to The Hungry Monk in Jevington was a no brainer.  Banoffee Pie was invented here way back in 1974 and as far as claims to fame go, inventing Banoffee Pie is a good one in my book.

37 years later the Banoffee Pie is still going strong, as is The Hungry Monk.

Banoffee Pie

The previous evening I deliberately ordered Banoffee Pie in another Restaurant, which will be nameless – mainly because I have no intention of returning there as the food was mediocre to say the least.

Verdict on the Banoffee Pies (pictured) :-

The Hungry Monk – cost £7.50 (less when part of a set menu)  – 7/10 : Homemade, with a pastry base – you could really taste the condensed milk, bananas and toffee, I would have prefered less cream, but otherwise it was a very nice dessert.

The unnamed Restaurant – cost £3.85 – 2/10 : Factory made I suspect – faintly metallic taste, mostly cream and toffee sauce and some soggy banana’s on an overly crumbly biscuit base.

A prime example of how the invention has been corrupted over the years, even at half the price the “factory” made one was not worth it.

The Hungry Monk

The Hungry Monk Restaurant is in a quaint 14th century building in the tiny village of Jevington on the outskirts of Eastbourne.  The building is a bit of a maze – there is a series of small sitting rooms to left of the entrance, where you can have drinks before you are escorted to your table.

The menu on our visit was fairly typical for a Sunday lunch with main courses of Lamb, Roast Beef etc.

To start we had a fairly conventional Scallop dish (Seared Scallops with Crisp Bacon and Minted Pea Dressing) and a smoked salmon dish described as being with New Potato salad (it was actually with potatoes and lettuce), so not exactly as expected, but perfectly acceptable.

The most  interesting dish on the menu was the Rabbit Roasted in Prosciutto and Stuffed with Leek and Bacon, served with a Mild Mustard Sauce. I ordered that and certainly had no cause for complaint. My companion ordered the Roasted Rump of Sussex Lamb with Redcurrant and Rosemary Sauce which was nicely cooked, but pretty much what you would expect to get in most pubs for Sunday lunch, so nothing special there. It would have been good to choose from a small selection of vegetables rather than just the ones provided with the lamb.

For dessert I ordered the Banoffie Pie described earlier and we had a generous selection of English cheeses.

We also had coffee with home made chocolates. Something my companion who runs chocolate making courses was keen to try – they were very disappointing to say the least.  I can actually say here in all honesty, that I make better chocolates and I have only been on one course!

The Wine list was very reasonable, indeed some wines seemed to have hardly any mark up at all!

Jevington and Willingdon

The area has another claim to fame in that Jevington is in the same parish as Willingdon.  Willingdon was the base for the local village of the same name in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. We drove round Willingdon which has now been subsumed by Eastbourne, although there is still a couple of interesting looking pubs and houses and a windmill which looked very out of place on the edge of a housing estate. Jevington is more picturesque with a lovely church and access to country walks.

Marks out of 10

Food 5

Service 4.9

Ambience 5

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Update – September 2012 : After 44 years The Hungry Monk Restaurant has now closed.

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