A guide to the best restaurants in Sussex

There are many reasons why holiday cottage rental in Sussex remains one of the most popular options for couples and families seeking a high quality getaway in the UK. Now divided into the separate entities of East and West Sussex, the historic county is large enough to include almost everything one could want from a holiday destination: rolling countryside, beautiful coastlines, ancient villages and vibrant towns.

Whatever your preferred scenery, however, one thing you will never be far from on your next visit is spectacular local food. From cutting-edge Michelin star restaurants in the heart of Brighton to centuries-old pubs hidden away among the South Downs, the area’s culinary quality is consistently high.

There are literally dozens of excellent eateries in both East and West Sussex for you to discover, but in this article we have chosen to focus on just a handful of our favourites. Take a look at our top picks for eating out in the county below – whatever cuisine you are partial to, we are sure you will find something here to whet your appetite.

Restaurant Tristan, Horsham

Restaurant Tristan in the pretty market town of Horsham, West Sussex, has been making waves throughout the county and beyond since its opening. The proud holders of a Michelin star and three AA Rosettes, head chef Tristan and his team have also been praised so far this year by the Good Food Guide and Harden’s, as well as countless happy customers.

The restaurant even survived a serious fire in early 2016, which saw it close for two months. Despite going through such upheaval, anyone who has dined at Restaurant Tristan recently would surely agree that – far from suffering from the disruption – this hugely popular venue is now serving up even more delicious offerings than ever before.

The Curlew, Bodiam

The Curlew restaurant is truly a place for dedicated food lovers. Not somewhere you will stumble upon during a walk down the high street, the former coaching inn (which dates back to the 17th century) is located in the countryside near the village of Bodiam, East Sussex.

Held in high regard by reviewers from The Times and Spectator, perhaps the most succinct and relevant praise heaped upon the Curlew came from Jay Rayner of The Observer: “Please go…the food is great.”

Crossways, Polegate

Crossways – found in the village of Wilmington near Polgate, East Sussex – is a well-established and much loved restaurant which will prove the perfect choice for those looking to combine an evening of fine dining with a trip to the famously beautiful South Downs.

We were fortunate enough to speak with David Stott, co-proprietor of the restaurant, who is understandably proud of the excellent reputation that Crossways has built up over the years. He explained why his establishment remains as popular today as when it began pioneering exquisite ‘fixed price’ dining in the Brighton area in the late 1970s:

“We are in our 30th year here at Crossways and for most of this period we have enjoyed being awarded 2 AA Rosettes for our cuisine. We offer a set price, seasonally changing menu featuring the best of fresh local produce where possible.

“Crossways is very popular with local guests who love to celebrate their special occasions in the relaxing atmosphere of this fine Georgian country house. It was also once the home of the parents of famous cookery writer Elizabeth David.

“Crossways is close to Glyndebourne Opera House and many of our repeat guests alternate visiting the opera one evening with dining at Crossways.

“Our most popular starter is the seafood pancake, which has become a signature dish.”

As if that wasn’t enough to pique your interest, we were also given a copy of Crossways’ menu for August, which makes tantalising reading! This month’s starters include an exotic mushroom basket, kiln smoked salmon with crushed potatoes and, of course, the aforementioned seafood pancake. This is followed by a homemade soup of the day, after which the sumptuous mains arrive. These dishes looked too delicious not to feature in full, so here is a list of all the main courses currently available at Crossways:

Maple glazed pork roulade – Roasted pork tenderloin stuffed with apricots and pistachio nuts, drizzled with maple syrup and soy glaze.
Guinea fowl with Madeira and chestnuts – Breast of guinea fowl wrapped in bacon with a shallot, Madeira and chestnut sauce.
Duck with ginger – Roast breast of Gressingham duck served with orange, ginger and mango sauce.
Today’s catch – Fresh from the ocean.
Roast rack of local lamb – Local lamb roasted and served with a redcurrant, port and rosemary sauce.
Stilton fillet of beef – Pan sautéed fillet of beef topped with onion relish and melted stilton (this dish carries a surcharge of £6.00).

This feast – plus a range of desserts, coffee and petit fours – is available for £41.00 per person, representing great value for such an exciting and unique menu.

Ockenden Manor, Haywards Heath

The restaurant at Ockenden Manor is a fine example of the setting enriching an already impressive dining experience. Situated in the village of Cuckfield, West Sussex, the award-winning eatery can be found within a beautiful building which dates back as far as 1520.

The team behind this particularly attractive restaurant, experience its winning combination of delightful food and ideal surroundings every day, and were on hand to tell us what makes eating there so special: “Led by award-winning Head Chef Stephen Crane, The Restaurant at Ockenden Manor serves up some of Sussex’s finest, locally-sourced cuisine, with a menu that cleverly mixes innovation and tradition – to be enjoyed whilst admiring the sweeping views out over the South Downs National Park.

“Award-winning dishes include English beef fillet, baby spinach, flat cap mushrooms, bone marrow, truffled mac and cheese; and Goodwood Estate lamb, saddle, belly, falafel, baba ganoush, smoked tomatoes and tapenade. When not dining in the restaurant, guests can relax by the fire in the elegant drawing room for a glass of wine or an indulgent afternoon tea, or head outside to the terrace come the summer.”

Ockenden Manor is open throughout the day for breakfast, lunch, dinner and morning coffee, as well as the afternoon tea mentioned above. So, whether you are looking to indulge in a whole evening of fine dining or just want to enjoy a quick drink in an elegant environment as part of your day exploring the countryside, this special venue makes for an exquisite option.

The Mirabelle, Eastbourne

The Mirabelle Restaurant, located within the Grand Hotel on the seafront in the traditional seaside resort of Eastbourne, East Sussex, offers consistently outstanding contemporary fine dining.

This highly sophisticated venue has received an almost intimidatingly extensive list of plaudits throughout the years, regularly featuring in the Good Food Guide, being included in the Independent’s list of top 50 UK restaurants, and most recently winning OpenTable’s Diners’ Choice award in 2016.

Put simply, the Mirabelle’s adventurous, European-influenced menu – ably complemented by a stunning wine list and luxuriant surroundings – represents the very best in exclusive dining that Sussex has to offer.

The Spread Eagle, Midhurst

Even older than Ockenden Manor is the Spread Eagle, a former coaching inn which can claim to be one of the oldest in England. Built in 1430, this charming building is home to a luxurious restaurant which specialises in providing first class, locally sourced food in a cosy, quintessentially English setting.

Fortunately, we were able to talk with the folks at the Spread Eagle, who explained why this ancient establishment remains so popular centuries on: “The restaurant exudes a welcoming, historic charm with its huge inglenook fireplace, and Head Chef Richard Cave-Toye’s accomplished menu of modern classic British cuisine uses the finest, locally-sourced produce. Guests can look forward to the twice-baked Sussex cheddar soufflé with double cream and spring onions; and for mains the grilled red mullet fillets with courgette, chipotle, chorizo and saffron & garlic mayonnaise.

“On finer days, guests can bask in the warmth of the sunny conservatory and terrace whilst enjoying a glass of wine, or retreat to the comfort of the oak-beamed bar and its roaring log fires come winter. With more than 80 different gins, gin-lovers can create their own gin journey and complete their cocktail from a menu of tonics and fresh garnishes, many grown in the hotel garden itself.”

Image Credits: Marco Verch, Michael Gaylard, Kent Wang, Dave_S, ChiralJon

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