IT IS INAPPROPRIATE to say this in a food review – but even the toilets at Newick Park are worthy of comment with their fresh lemon smells and wonderful small towels.
Forcing my nose to leave the ambrosial Gents, in case I am asked to leave for being weird, I notice a framed letter from former Prime Minister John Major dated 1994 – thanking staff for their warm welcome.
The feast proper began with a glass of house red for me and nice ginger beer for Mother Dear, my dining partner that day.
We were presented with warm pumpkin and sunflower seed brown bread, twinned with slices from a pecan and raisin white loaf, while relaxing in the convivial atmosphere of the hotel’s Georgian dining room.
Mother Dear tackled the Autumn lunch offer (two courses, £17.50/three courses, £21.50) by trying foie gras and chicken liver parfait, onion confit and toasted brioche as a starter. Then she pounced on some Newick Park venison sausages, dauphinoise potato, swede and red wine sauce.
Her foie gras arrived as a fresh creamy slab challenged blissfully by the brioche and piquant sweetness of the onion confit. The venison sausages were gameful and brassy, and filled Mother Dear’s happily rumbling tum.
My opulent choices from the usual lunch menu were pan-fried cod tongues with chicken wings, carrot puree, chicken reduction and caramelised garlic (£7.50). Then Newick Park pheasant breast with Trofie pasta, butternut squash, wild mushrooms and truffle oil (£18).
My former boss at a fish restaurant years ago used to fret over the lack of interest in cod cheeks by diners. So it was a delight to see and sample another part of the cod fish which arrived laced and plated in a delicate queue with the chicken wings and complementary additions. My taste buds were still processing the appealing dialogue between sweetness and savoury when my pheasant arrived – cheerful slices surrounded in a mosaic circle of colour, consisting of the pasta spears, mushrooms and luxurious truffle oil.
We swapped over menus for the puddings – Mother Dear going to the usual lunch choices for banana mess with toffee popcorn, caramelised banana and candied walnuts (£7) as I was too tempted by a dark chocolate pot with poached pear and cinnamon shortbread from the Autumn offer.
Mother Dear’s pud reminded me of the cliffs at Beachy Head, with the combo standing proudly at various angles, gilded in honey yellow and cream.
“How is it?” I asked, looking up like Winnie the Pooh from my little chocolate pot and pear. But the banana mess had vanished, and all I could see was Mother Dear’s spoon scraping, rather too loudly, around the plate. “I could eat three of those,” she stated.
We thought a male celebrity was dining near us, but couldn’t be sure (I had no glasses and Mother Dear needs new bifocals).
But we also learn afterwards, while relaxing with coffee, tea and petit fours by a roaring fire in another lounge, that Newick Park is a favourite venue for fans of Glyndebourne Opera House.
A lunch menu will be offered from December with two courses for £19.95 and three courses for £23.95.
Newick Park is a unique venue – and a ‘Must’ if you are still wondering whether to visit. – Chris Eyte