A new fining dining restaurant has opened in the heart of one of Sussex’s most popular historic gardens.
While Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens themselves won’t be re-opened until next year, after several years shut to the public, Restaurant Interlude is already finding favour as the word spreads.
The historic 200 acre estate, with Grade I Listed gardens, near Horsham, has been closed since 2010.
Before that, it was owned by the Loder family and saw more than 50,000 visitors a year pour through the gates during the spring and summer.
It’s likely those numbers will be surpassed when it re-opens next March, but for 364 days a year.
However, visitors to Restaurant Interlude are already able to dine looking out over the gardens.
Every dish in each seasonal, multi-course tasting menu is designed to a hunter-gatherer farmer concept of food
Owner Penny Streeter OBE explained the concept behind the dining experience: “Interlude connects lovers of fine dining with the very spirit of Leonardslee, the finest woodland gardens in England, carefully curated for over 200 years.
“Every dish in each seasonal, multi-course tasting menu is designed to a hunter-gatherer farmer concept of food that’s foraged, cultivated and raised on the estate or close by.
“It is savoured and enjoyed as an intimate dining experience, a small, exclusive dinner party within the estate’s Italianate mansion house.”
The restaurant is open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday weekly, with ten tables.
Bookings are online at www.restaurant-interlude.co.uk.
Diners can feast on the multiple courses that include, for example: estate rabbit, winter purslane, hogweed cider and charcoal; also fallow deer with local braai and sour raspberry; and oyster, foraged greens and juniper.
Penny brought Executive Chef Jean Delport from his native South Africa eight months ago to plan and prepare for the launch - from recruiting his team, which includes Chef Ruan Pretorius, to designing new kitchens, creating original tasting menus and sourcing the finest ingredients from the estate and selected local farmers.
Jean has particular experience from South Africa of how to complement extraordinary tasting menus with fine wines.
Guests at Interlude can enjoy a selection of wines from the owner’s vineyard at Benguela Cove, Hermanus in South Africa.
In Sussex, Penny Streeter has planted 40 acres of vineyards at Leonardslee and at a second site, three miles away at Mannings Heath, where she has created the UK’s first golf and wine estate.
Guests arriving at the mansion house, built in 1855, are greeted in the grand hallway with music from a self-playing piano and drinks in the bar.
They are then seated together at around 7pm in the restaurant, enjoying views across acres of gardens in the steep valley below, and east and south across to the South Downs.
Penny Streeter OBE is the owner of the Benguela Collection vineyards and hospitality group.
It includes Mannings Heath Golf and Wine Estate, Benguela Cove vineyard in South Africa, as well as four restaurants and a hotel on the Garden Route.
Executive Chef Jean Delport has worked with owner Penny Streeter at her restaurant in Somerset West, Cape Town for several years.
Jean trained and won awards at the prestigious Zevenwacht Chef School in South Africa.
With a background in classical French and English cooking, including several seasons in Ireland, he is noted as an innovator, changing and improving upon his own menus and selection of ingredients regularly.
Chef Ruan Pretorius began his career, and was finally head chef at restaurant Terroir in the Cape winelands in South Africa.
Terroir is one of South Africa’s most decorated restaurants, in the top 20 of the country for 19 years running.
He decided to join Jean Delport in the UK to meet an exciting new challenge at Restaurant Interlude.
Along with the restaurant, a new tea room has also opened.
Afternoon Tea at Leonardslee House offers a traditional afternoon tea with modern and exciting twists. The tea room is set in the drawing room where guests are able to view the kaleidoscope of colour and enjoy the mouth-watering cakes, bakes and scones.
To book go to www.leonardsleegardens.co.uk