Category Archives: Review

Restaurant Review – Brasserie Blanc, Chichester

Once again, my wonderful mother-in-law invited my husband and I out for lunch, this time to celebrate my husbands birthday (how lucky am I to have a mother-in-law who loves eating out?!). She had recently eaten at Brasserie Blanc in Chichester with friends, and was keen for us to try it.

Since opening its doors in Chichester nearly a year ago, I have heard mixed reviews, not in relation to the food, but to the service and portion size, so it was with interest that we embarked on a taste of France in the centre of Chichester.

We were offered a choice of two menus, the Dine with Wine and the lunch menu. The Dine and Wine is a special offer choice of a 2 course meal for £11 or 3 courses for £13.45, and a glass of wine starting from £1.75 depending on the option of wine you decide upon. My mother-in-law decided on the Dine and Wine and my husband and I chose from the standard lunch menu.

The choices available would satisfy every palate and making the decision of what to have for a starter had me tossing a coin in my head; smoked mackerel or grilled squid, smoked mackerel or grilled squid….the squid won. As luck would have it my husband chose the mackerel so I was able to sample it anyway! The third starter we opted for was goats cheese salad. The starters were delivered in good time and were all delicious. The grilled squid and courgette with a parmesan and rouquette salad was bursting with flavour and delicately dressed with sweet balsamic and I couldn’t fault the dish.

For mains we decided upon Pork Belly on summer vegetables, liver (served medium rare) and sage mash with buttered cabbage and I chose North Sea cod on salted cod and a tomato sauce. Again we were not disappointed in our decisions. If I had one criticism with my meal, and was being really picky, the skin on my cod was not as crisp as I would have liked it and there was a lot of oil, which I’m assuming was from the salt cod, which made it incredibly rich and I was unable to finish all of it – which is unlike me! But they were personal preferences and if it had detracted from my meal I would have sent it back, however I didn’t and the food was of a high standard that you would expect from a restaurant of this calibre. The cod was cooked to perfection (barring the skin) and the sweetness of the tomato sauce complimented the flavour of the salt cod perfectly.

My husband’s liver dish was cooked to perfection, blushing pink with a creamy sage mash, and my mother-in-law was delighted that the slow cooked pork belly came with ultra crispy crackling, an all time favourite.

We did come to the conclusion though by espying other patrons dishes, that when choosing from the Dine and Wine menu, the portion sizes appeared to be somewhat smaller than dishes from the regular menu. Maybe this was where the complaints had come from as the two options from the main menu were more than satisfactory in size. So much so in fact, we declined the offer of dessert and went straight to the coffee.

As for the staff, I have to say that we received impeccable service from the moment we entered the restaurant to the moment we left. Our waiter was polite and personable with the right level of attentiveness. The plates were cleared quickly, the wobbly table leg was resolved as soon as it was brought to their attention, and the servers that we spoke to throughout our visit were all professional.

The restaurant itself provides a relaxed atmosphere, with décor to match – ironically in the same colours as my kitchen. In the centre of the restaurant is a display of enticing produce to purchase, including oils and vinegars, being two of my many weaknesses, however I did manage to resist getting the credit card out, probably as my husband was keeping on eye on me. Although the restaurant was full to bursting, we never felt overcrowded or had to raise our voices to be heard and due to the clever table planning, romantic couples would still be able to enjoy an intimate meal even with all the hustle and bustle going on around them.

The Dine and Wine menu is exceptional value for money and ideal for an impromptu get together with friends or a light lunch. The Summer Lunch Menu, although noticeably more expensive, is worth the money in my opinion. But it’s not just the food that your hard earned money is being spent on here, it’s the ambience and experience, which I felt was worth every penny – or every penny of my mother-in-law’s anyway!

Star rating: 9 out of 10

Restaurant Review – The Lamb Inn, West Wittering

My wonderful Mother-in-law called the other day to invite my husband and I out for Sunday lunch. Being a foodie I of course jumped at the chance of consuming the culinary delights of another local establishment. We have a small selection of pubs and restaurants in our local area and I am endeavouring to work my way through all of them, which is proving to be an interesting and mixed experience.

The Lamb is a quaint pub situated on the main road running to West Wittering, so is an ideal location for attracting passing traffic. The car park is frequently full during the summer months, with holiday makers and day trippers stopping off before heading to or from the beach, and the pub offers various meal deals throughout the year to keep the locals coming back. Having eaten there only once in the last 5 years, with that only being a quick bar snack to fuel ourselves on our bike ride, I was looking forward to sampling their Sunday lunch menu.

On arriving we went to the bar and asked for a table, with only one being left inside (booking during the summer months is recommended), this all looked promising. If a pub is empty at the weekend during the tourist season, I’d be rather concerned as to why!

The menu consisted of light bar food, such as jacket potatoes, or more substantial meals such as ham, egg and chips. There was a specials board for Sunday lunches, consisting of 4 or 5 starters and main courses, including a Sunday roast, with a choice of beef or turkey. Unusually for a pub, we had table service rather than having to order at the bar, which also included our drinks being brought to us from the bar as well, a nice touch.

We all decided to order from the specials board, with my husband and mother-in-law ordered the roast beef with all the trimmings and I opted for poached haddock on crushed new potatoes with a caper, lemon and butter sauce. Our food arrived about 40 minutes later, which was understandable as the place was packed and we didn’t notice the time as we were busy chatting and catching up. The roasts looked acceptable and was served with roast potatoes, carrots, cabbage and cauliflower and a huge yorkshire pudding, which my husband commented was overcooked and hard, indicating that it may have been made a while ago and kept warm. The beef was medium to well done, which is usual when ordering a roast; it would be wonderful to find a pub or restaurant that served their beef medium rare at least, but alas, I’ve yet to find that elusive place. The vegetables were cooked well although had little taste, however the potatoes were a hit and hubby happily polished off his own as well as the one going spare from his mother’s plate.

My dish consisted of two fillets of poached haddock placed on a mound of crushed new potatoes, cauliflower and carrots and a hollandaise sauce with capers, which looked as though it had been sitting for a while and unfortunately the sauce had formed a custard like skin and had separated slightly. The dish lacked colour and was crying out for something green to liven it up, however I wasn’t going to let that put me off.

I don’t think even some greenery would have rescued my meal however; the haddock was overcooked, dry and slightly chewy, the vegetables were unassuming and tasteless and the initial taste of the separated sauce was acidic from the vinegar and capers. It wasn’t until I peeled the custard-like skin back and tried the next layer of sauce that I managed to get a taste of the lemon. I did however have 3 bones included in the fillet, for free! The saving grace of the meal for me was the crushed potatoes which were buttery and seasoned well, that was of course until I clamped down on a peppercorn, which then provided a burst of aromatic flavours which weren’t in keeping with the delicate dish I had ordered. All in all, a disappointment.

With the plates cleared away, we waited for a good 30 minutes before realizing that we were not going to be offered dessert, so had to request the menu, which consisted of pies, crumbles and suet puddings, all of which were a bit heavy following a roast. We therefore decided to pass on the puds and have coffee at home.

The waiting staff were all young teenagers and there appeared to be no supervision in providing them direction, resulting in below average service. We were not asked at any point during our meal if everything was to our liking and we had to request the dessert menu. Having said that, our waiter was polite, courteous and had a smile.

For around £10 per head for an average roast and a below average fish dish (with free bones!), there are plenty of other establishments I would chose above this pub, whose meals are actually worth their prices.

The Lamb is an attractive pub in a prime spot for passing trade and well known amongst the locals. Being fully booked on a Sunday lunch time is an accolade to the management that they have got what it takes to fill their restaurant. Unfortunately, on this particular day, they didn’t in my humble opinion, have what it takes to provide the Sunday lunch experience I was anticipating. Maybe my disappointing meal was a one off, I’d like to think so, therefore to satisfy my curiosity as to whether this was actually the case, I will be eating at The Lamb again, in the not too distant future, with the hope that it won’t be my final visit.

Duchess

Restaurant Review – Rosario’s

Nestled between the East Wittering village betting shop and a shop which I have as yet to determine what it actually is, lies the unassuming yet charming Rosario’s.

Described as ‘a new kind of Mediterranean restaurant which combines the best of traditional Spanish Tapas with flavours and inspiration from Italy and other Mediterranean countries’, there is a diverse choice to satisfy even the most finicky of diners, unless of course you are adverse to garlic! I for one am not and would happily devour every item on the menu!

My husband called to book a table for four on a Friday evening, and although the telephone conversation lacked the customer service one has grown to expect from a restaurant, the style and ambience of the restaurant made up for the absence of warmth over the phone. The restaurant has been stylishly designed yet retains a relaxed look, which combines simple clean modern décor with a laid back provincial feel. The semi opened kitchen brings the complete dining experience one step closer to the customer.

Having been seated and the wine opened, a bottle of Gaio Bianco Sicilia, which was light and fresh, we set about making our food choices. I usually feel slightly daunted by the quantity of choice in most restaurants, so was delighted to find a menu which had obviously been well thought out and carefully considered. Enough of a selection to satisfy everyone’s tastes without being overwhelming.

We opted for 8 dishes between the four of us, although 6 or 7 would have been sufficient. However all four of us appreciate our food so decided to try as many dishes as possible without appearing too glutinous. I think the waitress may have thought otherwise when all the dishes were produced and she struggled to find room on our table to accommodate them all. One of the distinctions that sets Rosario’s apart from other Tapas restaurants is the quantity of each portion. There was more than enough of each dish for all of us to have a generous helping, with still left overs, which we of course polished off.

Our options were a selection of Italian cured hams and cheeses, which my Italian companion selected to compare with the products used at his own restaurant. They were given the thumbs up. Meat dishes included meatballs in a creamy tomato sauce which were slightly dry, although the flavour of the sweet creamy tomato sauce was heavenly, pork fillets with a warm tomato salsa was a hit with my guests although I felt the pork was a bit overcooked, chicken and garlic cooked in white wine, again slightly dry but the flavours were sensational and Chorizo with onions and white wine, which was the star of the show as far as I was concerned.

The surprise for me was the Broad Bean cooked with onions and spicy pepper. Such an unassuming vegetable, but Rosario had combined the balance of freshness and heat perfectly.

As for the fish dishes, unfortunately we all felt the scallops delicate flavour were overshadowed slightly by the bacon they were served with, but all agreed the king prawns in chilli, white wine and garlic were sensational.

Although all the dishes contain strong ingredients, the separate flavours all came through individually and complemented one another perfectly (excluding the scallops).

The dessert menu was then perused and disappointedly only one dish was homemade, the others were bought in. After a 45 minute delay, as the lone waitress was rushed off her feet, we ordered two homemade baileys cheesecakes and a selection of Italian cheeses, accompanied by bread and at my request, sliced apples. All delicious, all devoured.

Being a relaxed and friendly restaurant, the founder and head chef Rosario, found the time to enquire to his customers if they had enjoyed their meal, which we found refreshing and a wonderful personal touch. I also like to see who has been slaving in a hot kitchen to produce my meal and have the opportunity to thank them, if deserved of course. His interaction with the diners had the perfect balance of friendliness and professionalism.

Although not perfect, it was pretty close, and at a cost of £80 for a meal for four, including two bottles of wine, it’s exceptionally priced. Most importantly though the food has been made with consideration and passion, which shines through on each dish Rosario produces. To discuss and reminisce days after about exceptional food is a foolproof means of gauging just how good a restaurant is, marry this up with the ambience and atmosphere, Rosario’s is a restaurant I would highly recommend and am already salivating in anticipation over my next visit.

For further information and menus visit http://www.rosariostapas.co.uk/index.html

Duchess