I needed to get out of London. The weather, the crowds, the concrete was starting to get to me and I needed some sort of little break, preferably with open spaces. With the bank holiday approaching, I booked a couple train tickets to Chichester (thanks for the recommendation, Rahul!) and a night at what would turn out to be a great B&B and so that Sunday, away we travelled from the Big Smoke.
Of course, food is always important, even on mini-breaks! A search revealed that Chichester is home to Field & Fork, a little restaurant attached to the Pallant House Gallery, quite an interesting little gallery housing the art by many modern British painters. But we weren’t there for the art (another time!) but lunch. The restaurant is run by the husband and wife team of Sam and Janet Mahoney who both have impressive CVs from their times working in other restaurants. But it was in Chichester where they settled down and opened Field & Fork in 2008, where the food is all sourced locally and presented in creative yet not overly complicated ways. The restaurant is wonderfully light and airy and it was a shame it was raining as their courtyard looked like a wonderful place to eat too.
To my surprise, there was a set lunch menu (nothing indicated this on their website): two courses £16.50 and three for £21.95 and it did sound good. With just two choices for each of the starter, main course and dessert, it was a no brainer when it came to decision time: one of everything, please! We each did have dishes that we had our eyes on but we were greedy enough to want to try everything, as usual.
The first starter was an English Asparagus Parfait, Smoked Pancetta and Pea Salad, Black Pepper Vinaigrette. I’m never sure what to expect when I see the word parfait as it seems to mean different things here and in North America. This turned out to be a smooth asparagus mousse like structure with crispy pancetta and the aforementioned salad. It was light and delicate and delicious – a good start.
Unfortunately, my starter of Chilli Squid, Cucumber and Lime Salad, Spicy Peanut Dressing wasn’t as accomplished. The dish that was brought out was pretty enough but was arranged rather too precariously to eat. Indeed, when I nudged the pile of squid to break it up gently so I could eat it, the whole thing collapsed and half of it tumbled onto the table, which was thankfully clean. I wasn’t convinced by the peanut dressing but the squid was quite tender and tasty despite the coating being just too thick for the delicate cephalopod. This was just alright.
Our main courses turned out to be the stars of the show though. Grilled Fillets of Red Mullet, Wild Garlic and Crayfish Risotto, Buttered Local Sea Kale was Blai’s favourite, with the strongly flavoured fish paired with lots of creamy risotto. His only wish was that the something more could be done with the sea kale but I liked this novel vegetable, which was just blanched and served with a butter sauce, quite a bit.
I could not resist a bit of good pork. The Slow Roasted Pork Belly, Saute Potatoes, Spring Greens and Crackling was calling out to me and it didn’t disappoint. Tender and meaty, the square of pork belly was topped with a few strips of most excellent crackling. Underneath was a veritable mound of vegetables and I revelled in that combination of rich pork belly and fresh veg and starchy potato. Excellent.
Like our starters, desserts were a bit hit and miss. Blai’s eyes were all over the one involving bananas: Minted Milk Parfait, Caramelised Bananas, Lavender Tuilles and Chocolate Sauce. Unfortunately, this combination fell a little flat. The bananas were the biggest letdown as the phallic structure (banana-henge?) consisted mostly of raw banana with only one of the cut sides caramelised. The lavendar tuilles were fine but the minted milk parfait was interesting by itself but didn’t seem to mesh with anything else on the plate.
Luckily, our other dessert (Rhubarb Jelly, Vanilla Shortbread and Ginger Ice Cream) was an absolute stunner. Sitting in a little puddle of a thin custard were two thin vanilla shortbread biscuits sandwiching a slab of rhubarb jelly, studded with lots of rhubarb pieces, and topped with a cone of ginger ice cream. Totally gorgeous and we clashed spoons many times as we fought for delectable morsels. This was just beautiful and has got me appreciating rhubarb more than I have done. Even Blai, the ginger-hater, dug that excellent ice-cream.
Though the meal wasn’t all mindblowing, it was still very very good and I do think Field & Fork is worth a visit if you’re in Chichester. If I had to use one word to describe the meal, it would be ‘fresh’ – describing both the locally sourced produce and the combinations of flavours (though some did not work, they were still interesting). It was a lovely start to our much needed break.
Field & Fork
Pallant House Gallery
9 North Pallant
Chichester, West Sussex