Harcourts RestaurantDeans Place Hotel
Seaford Road, Alfriston
Tel: +44 (0)1273 - No - 01323 870248
Cuisine types: INTERNATIONAL | BRITISH
Friston, sounds similar but isn't Alfriston. My partner had heard me say what he wanted to hear (nothing new there) and assumed Deans Place Hotel was in East Dean just past Friston, wrong. We were now, even later than I thought. So, we arrived a little ruffled but nonetheless excited to sample the fare concocted by a newly appointed chef at Harcourts Restaurant, Deans Place Hotel, ALFRISTON!
The setting is idyllic, Deans Place sits in a tiny hollow just outside of Alfriston, nicely nestled between soft hills and pretty trees. The building from the outside is quaint; whitewashed stone and exposed timber, tiny wee door ways to catch out the tall ones amongst you (maybe that bump will wake my partner up…), gentle lighting and plenty of shrubs. Inside you're quickly reminded that you're not visiting a National Trust garden and that you have instead, entered a 3 star Best Western hotel with every amenity offered.
The restaurant, presumably like the hotel, is expected to be a certain standard and thanks to its recent refurbishment and re-launch, it is. It's spotless. Full of soft furnishings and drapes, patterned carpets alongside stone floors, highly polished deep mahogany woodwork and stiffly starched linen tablecloths and napkins. Real flowers on the tables might have been a sweet personal touch, but we made do with the plastic arrangement!
Head chef, Chris Lamper, is no stranger to producing menus and running kitchens for large hotel restaurants, he formerly worked at The Grand Hotel, Brighton. His menu shows the flair you'd anticipate - modern British cooking combines effortlessly with International dishes - Grilled Lamb & Mint Sausages (£14.95) and Pan Roasted Supreme of Salmon (£14.25) are placed comfortably alongside Thai Green Chicken Curry (£12.95) and Coconut Crusted Sea Bream (£14.95). We ordered Honey Roast Parsnip, Bramley Apple & Cumin Soup (£5.25) and a Rossette of Locally Smoked Salmon & Gravadlax with Beetroot & Baby Leaf Salad and Orange & Grain Mustard Vinaigrette (£7.50) to begin with, followed by Cinnamon Marinated Duck Breast with Sweet Potato Mash, Kumquat Compote and Brandy Sauce (£16.50) and Grilled Locally caught Dover Sole with Herb Salad and Roasted Charlotte Potatoes (£22.50).
I had the Gravadlax which was accompanied by tasty, peppery rocket (my favourite), long curly beetroot strips and yummy sticky-sweet mustard dressing. It all had a wonderfully nutty flavour enhanced by some kind of oil, possibly a nut or seed oil, maybe sesame? With the offering of walnut bread and butter it went down a treat. My partner, Marc, had the parsnip soup which didn't quite live up to its mouth watering description. It was rather bland with only a hint of the sweetness of roast parsnips, and the bramley apple's sharpness seemed lost amongst a general 'winter vegetable soup' type flavour.
Clearly far more impressed with his main, Marc didn't speak a word for at least 10 minutes (maybe he was intently listening to Harcourts' resident musician playing Spanish acoustic guitar, but I doubt it); he was too busy chowing down. Marc broke the silence by announcing that the duck was marinated and cooked perfectly. I could see for myself that its presentation had been immaculate also. He continued that the delicious kumquat compote and brandy sauce set the dish off but the sweet potato mash was missing just a little tiny something.
My fish was completely delicious, possibly the best Dover sole I've ever tasted. It was obviously very fresh and most likely to have been caught locally (thank goodness for living next to the coast), my lips tingled as I stripped the flesh of the bone and it left me picking over it for just that little bit more. The new pots were tasty with there chewy, earthy skins and firm non-fluffy innards, but my 'salad' was the same garnish I'd had with my first course, possibly my own fault for not imagining that the baby leaf salad could be described as a herb salad later in the menu.
For dessert I had the Poppy Seed Parfait with Sesame Snap and Sieved Kiwi (£5.95). It arrived on dramatic black chinaware, had been decorated with physalis, kiwi and star fruit slices, icing sugar and scribbles of raspberry and kiwi sauces. Very 80's revival. The parfait was sweet and delicious with crunchy poppy seeds and a sharp raspberry sauce, but the snap's butter had been burnt leaving it rather bitter.
Marc had a Caramelised Lemon Tart with Clotted Cream and Orange Caramel (£6.25), which was equally as interesting to taste as to look at with buttery pastry and smooth, tangy filling.
We finished off in the lounge with a pot of tea (£1.75) served with mint chocolates where we were made to feel like we had all the time in the world - no making room for the next table setting and no feeling guilty about keeping the waiting staff away from their beds and loved ones. Hotel lounges are, for me, the best bit about hotel restaurant dining.
The restaurant is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner.
Prices from £12.50 for a two course set lunch, £15.50 for three courses to around £25.00 a head for dinner à la carte.
For reservations please call +44 (0)1323 870248.
P.s. Harcourts is a non-smoking restaurant and does not knowingly use genetically modified foods.