FOOD REVIEW: Annemarie Field reviews Cru in Eastbourne's Hyde Gardens
'Everything you see on our menu is what we would like to eat and drink if we were going out for the night. The whole concept and ambience is what we would like to experience,' so say Jordan and Hardy, the couple behind Cru in Hyde Gardens.
And they have succeeded. In the two and half years since the fashionable eatery opened its doors, it has become the go-to place, the place to be seen at.
Cru – the French definition of a vineyard or group of vineyards, especially one of recognized superior quality – has fast become a by-word locally for a fine dining restaurant with an ever changing seasonal menu designed by experienced chefs, as well as a high quality wine shop and wine bar with a vast selection of “characterful” artisan wines selected by a team of wine geeks.
Jordan says Cru was originally a food and wine concept set up to fill a major void in the local market and the venue continues to go from strength to strength.
It is open Thursday to Sunday and bookings are always advisable especially for the great food offering.
My colleague Denise and I are not strangers to Cru and our latest visit on a Thursday evening gave us the opportunity to try the summer menu.
There are only a handful of tables within the restaurant which means the service is second to none and helped along by the fact the majority of staff have been with Jordan and Hardy since the early days and share the ethos.
We started our experience with a glass of the very acceptable house white for me and a flute of sparkling pink Prosecco for Denise.
The summer menu was in the process of changing to the autumn menu but there are firm favourites which remain year round like scallops, chorizo, padrons, cod, burger and, so I am told, the best steaks in town.
The menu consists of a variety of “small plates” which can be ordered simultaneously like tapas or as a starter to go with the “large plates” for those who prefer a more traditional dining experience.
We opted for starters; a tuna sushi stack for Denise with sashimi grade yellow fin tuna loin, sticky jasmine rice, avocado, cucumber and soy dressing which was delicious and just the right amount so as not to spoil her main course of chargrilled swordfish steak with a rice noodle salad and red Thai coconut dressing.
The verdict was that the meaty like fish was cooked to perfection and the flavours worked well together.
My starter of lobster, chicken and shitake gyoza with a sweet and sour wakeme salad and peanut dressing was equally good.
On previous visits to Cru, I have enjoyed the sparkling wine battered local cod with hand cut chips but this time chose the Persian chicken ballotine with steamed saffron, pistachio and barbary rice with a wild shallot yoghurt and sabzi dressing which was heavenly and did not disappoint.
Quite how we managed to find room for a dessert is a mystery, but we took up the challenge – the Eton Mess with summer berries was fabulous – and also tried an infamous Pornstar Martini as a nightcap.
I can’t rate Cru highly enough. I love what they have done with the space and their ethos.
It’s important to remind people that it isn’t just a wine bar or restaurant; it’s also a wine shop (where customers can buy wines at competitive retail prices or pay a fair corkage to enjoy them in the friendly venue and for those who just fancy a nibble to complement their wine selections, some of the finest local and international cheeses as well as charcuterie imported directly from the best regions of Italy and Spain can be ordered), a place to host bespoke wine tastings for private parties and corporate groups and now the perfect place to enjoy a cream tea.
As well as Sunday roasts, some of the delights on offer on the autumn dinner menu include slow cooked pork belly and monkfish and mussell Goan curry.
See you there.
Cru is open Thursday to Sunday from midday. Bookings can be made on 01323 646494.