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Muddy Eats: The Leconfield, Petworth

I’ve been lucky enough to eat in some top London restaurants over the years for press events, and, frankly, I’m an avid nosher at all times, but rarely have I been as impressed by the look and taste of a meal as I was at The Leconfield right here in Sussex. I’m telling you now, you should make it top of your list for special occasions or ‘I deserve it’ treating.

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The Petworth eatery has some pretty good credentials; at the end of last year it was joined by Michelin starred chef Paul Welburn. He has appeared on TV’s The Great British Menu, trained under Gary Rhodes and worked up the Gherkin, on a private yacht in Cannes and most recently at London’s W1 restaurant.IMG_0525

Despite its fine dining tick points the restaurant is by no means stuffy. From the cosy fires, and the lovely stack of cushions on our banquet seating, to the modern conservatory and cute courtyard garden it’s a homely place with some lovely nooks for different moods – appropriate for its foodie ethos of ‘gently nostalgic British dishes with a modern twist’.

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The service too was warm. Having been a frequent solo diner on my travels and often welcomed with vague confusion and a spot by the loos, I was pleased to note that as my best friend and I settled into our cushions for a long overdue catch-up a solo gent was also receiving a prime spot and a friendly chat.

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Onto the food… well first we had an amuse-bouche of melt in the mouth beetroot and goats cheese macaroon-style affairs which tasted as good as they looked – their colour setting the tone for the visual treat to come. And see that paper bag in the background – that’s keeping the bread warm – nice touch.

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When a starter comes soaked in G&T I don’t need much invitation so I had the gin and tonic cured trout with dill emulsion, fennel and treacle croutons – a super fresh tasting plateful from which the individual flavours just zinged out.

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My friend’s hay smoked chicken terrine with gentleman’s relish, parfait and brioche was also a winner and came in a variety of textures with actual strips of chicken, as well as the terrine set round an egg.

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After some serious deliberation as there were so many enticing options on the menu I plumped for the stone bass with brown shrimps, broccoli puree, SweetCorn Emulsion and what the menu called (boneless) chicken wings but I could only describe as posh chicken nuggets!

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I’ve always been derisive about surf and turf – two things that don’t go at all on one plate – but fish and white meat I was prepared to give a try, and it worked.

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Meanwhile, my friend also got fishy with a dish of roast cod with crab and roast fennel, pickled cucumber and taramasalata that she really rated. We also  had a side of roasted root vegetables.

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You know how the fancier the food the tinier the portions often are? (Seriously, I had to have a sandwich after a three-course lunch at one celebrity chef outfit) well, there’s no problem with that at the Leconfield.

Yet we weren’t to be floored by pudding for which I chose a tasty crisp hazelnut pastry, parsnip custard and apple sorbet which was like a particularly indulgent crème brulee.

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My friend meanwhile got the showstopper of an already super-pretty meal – this deconstructed rhubarb mess, which tasted really fresh (I know, I nicked some). Just look at it – it’s like something Ken would rustle up for Barbie in her Dream House.

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So how much does all this fabulousness cost? Well it’s more than I’d spend on an average Saturday night meal out but by no means uber-expensive, especially the set Market Menu. The Lechford’s now my first choice for a special occasion and it’s also easy to justify for a catch-up with an old friend.

Quick, find someone to treat!

Good for: Special occasions; impressing dates or business clients; an upgrade from your regular haunts; as part of an indulgent day trip to Petworth for shopping or Petworth House.

Not so good for: It would be wasted on children and with food this good it’s best as somewhere to linger and savour rather than grab a quick lunch (we ended up there for three hours!)

£££ Starters are £8-£11, mains £15 – £28 (for fillet steak) deserts from £7. The Market Menu is £23 for two courses or £27 for three on Wed-Sat lunchtimes and £25/£30 for Tues-Thurs evenings. The five-course tasting menu for whole tables only is £45 a head (Tues – Sat).

The Leconfield, New Street, Petworth, West Sussex, GU28 0AS, 01798 345111, theleconfield.co.uk

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