As ‘one of England’s most established and well recognised country house hotels’ Cisswood House Hotel in Lower Beeding, has a reputation that even their own restaurant can find hard to match.
For too long, the hotel’s service and rooms have out-shone the restaurant - until last Thursday when they hosted a re-launch dinner party that aimed to prove their cuisine is every bit as good as every other aspect of this fine county establishment.
Approximately 40 guests were invited to enjoy an extravagant seven course tasting menu which created a response that went beyond restoring the restaurant’s reputation.
Nicky Hayward, the events co-ordinator of the hotel, said that the aim of the evening was to ‘put Cisswood back on the dining map’.
The reaction of the guests suggested that the restaurant had not only been put on the map but had re-programmed every sat nav in Sussex to navigate to that address.
Dinner commenced with poached scallops, langoustines and samphire, served with a pot of French tea, which prepared guests for a outstanding and exciting meal.
Second on the menu was an elegant dish of pressed rabbit and foie gras terrine with pineapple gel.
The third and, for many, favourite dish, was caramelised pork belly, rhubarb and apple puree, and a toffee and apple crisp.
This was followed by a Gin and tonic Granita which cleared the palette for an assiette of treats from the cisswood sweet shop which were as adorable as they were delicious.
Locally sourced coffee and a mint yogurt smoothie allowed guests to recover from their astonishment before the finale which was a delicious showcase of Sussex cheeses.
The menu could have revealed posey dishes with little substance but the food spoke for itself and left diners feeling replete and impressed.
The interior of the hotel is surprisingly homely compared to the grandeur of the building as a warm atmosphere is created with oak beams, red velvet sofas, soft maroon carpets and gold embellished curtains.
Two sections of the lounge are separated by oak particians and each has its own open fire place warming the air in a way which makes a visitor wish they were staying the night.
Next to the lounge is the bar area just large enough for a few small tables with arm chairs sat next to glass double doors which open out onto the beautiful garden.
The restaurant itself is a modest size, just large enough for 40 diners who get to enjoy a beautiful backdrop as the huge windows on each wall overlook the hotel’s perfectly landscaped garden.
‘Lovely’, ‘beautiful’, ‘stunning’, whatever their choice of wording, one thing that all the guests agreed on was that the building is a masterpiece of architecture which needed an exceptional restaurant to adequately reflect the potential of the setting.
One guest at the re-launch dinner party, Julie Tolley, who works at CMed in Horsham, often books in her clients to stay in the hotel and said that whilst they have always said that the rooms are fabulous, the hotel is lovely, and the staff are fantastic, they never chose to dine in the restaurant.
Julie said that she was very glad the restaurant had been re-launched as this was the only aspect of the hotel which was not up to par and there are few other choices of hotel in the area.
She said: “ We’re quite limited on where people can stay here, we’ve got the Premier Inn and South Lodge Hotel but people like it here.”
Nicky was thrilled and relieved that the night had created the response that the team had wished for. She said: “It was fantastic to see so many local people attending and the feedback we had was truly amazing.”
When asked what plans were in store for the restaurant’s future, Nicky spoke of the prospect of official acknowledgement for the new menu.
“Our chefs wish to continue along this path and hopefully achieve accolades in the form of Rosettes.”
So it is officially safe to expect only the very best of fare from one of Sussex’s most established and well recognised country house hotels as the food finally lives up to the beauty of its surroundings.