RESTAURANT REVIEW: Wingrove House in Alfriston
Not every village can boast of being so pretty that it has been immortalised in a hymn.
Morning Has Broken was written by Eleanor Farjeon in 1931, moved to put pen to paper by the beauty surrounding her in Alfriston.
Alfriston is just as picturesque now in 2016 - and Wingrove House, which boasts an excellent restaurant and rooms, is in one of the village’s prettiest buildings. The balconies and wooden-slatted windows bring something of New Orleans to this quintessentially English country village.
The restaurant has recently had a makeover to make the most of the beautiful views across to the village church on the Tye. Giving a nod to Alfriston’s position between the rolling Downs and the sea, the room - and the menu - features touches of both the land and the sea.
Chef Mathew Comben, formerly from the Hungry Monk, of banoffee pie fame, joined Wingrove House in 2012. The menu clearly reflects his passions: seasonal ingredients and working with local suppliers.
The oven-roasted plaice, served with zaatar-roasted cauliflower and lemon and caper butter, is revealed to have been caught at Hastings, while the pan-fried fillet of beer, with a green peppercorn and brandy sauce, watercress and handcut chips, has been reared by David and Jane Fenner of Bullock Down Farm at Beachy Head.
The menu isn’t just mouth-watering, it takes the diner on a whirlwind tour of the county - smoked salmon from Henfield, cheese from Brighton, venison from Uckfield.
The chef clearly takes great care of the excellent Sussex ingredients.
Starting the meal was Sussex charcuterie: thin slices of juicy cured loin of free range pork, served with curls of homemade pickled carrots and fennel, and cornichons. A Continental classic given a fresh, Sussex twist.
Provencal squid stew – with seafood from Hastings and Eastbourne – was served with spicy rouille and tempura calamari.
From the specials menu, mains of a breast of duck with an orange and star anise jus was meltingly soft, perfectly seasoned and served with creamy mash and seasonal vegetables, while the sea bream with smoked salmon beurre blanc - with the same side dishes - was another example of spankingly fresh Sussex seafood.
Desserts included a rich Valrhona chocolate and hazelnut cheesecake with a salted caramel sauce and banana ice-cream – and spiced autumn fruit flapjack crumble with creme anglaise. Specifically Sussex options included ice-creams and sorbets from Downsview Farm in Ringer and a plate of Sussex cheeses.
It’s not just the food that comes from Sussex. Reading the menu in the lounge, full of chocolate leather sofas and a blazing fire, diners are offered a drinks menu featuring a comprehensive gin menu, as well as the usual wine lists.
The Brighton gin comes with a small sky blue stick of rock in it, which gradually colours the drink as you sip.
Of course, for those who want to indulge in a few Brighton gins without having to keep a clear head for driving home, there are rooms available upstairs.
Wingrove House attracts guests from near and far – locals can wander down the high street for fantastic food on their doorstep, while visitors from the rest of the UK – and abroad – are attracted by not only the fabulous venue but also its proximity to the South Downs and Glyndebourne.
Couples on a romantic date night, tables full of friends, and even a shooting party who’d asked for their wine to be left open to breathe until they returned were enjoying the restaurant on the evening of this visit.
Although the cooking is serious, the vibe is friendly and inclusive with charming, knowledgeable staff.
• Wingrove House opens from 12pm for drinks. It serves breakfast seven days a week from 8.30am-10am, lunch from Thursday to Saturday from 12pm-2pm, Sunday lunch from 12pm-2.30pm and dinner seven days a week from 6pm-8pm.
The hotel is running a special offer on room rates for January and February, starting from £100 including breakfast from Thursday to Sunday.
To book a table or a room, see www.wingrovehousealfriston.com or call 01323 870276.