The Castle InnLondon Road
Tel: +44 (0)1273 - No - 01444 881 223
Guide price: £30
Cuisine types: CHINESE | MISCELLANEOUS
The Castle Inn, Hickstead, is one of those places you could easily miss or not know of its existence. A twenty minute drive up the A23 is too much to ask of many Brightonians who have an abundance of good restaurants within walking distance.
However, if you did venture past Preston Park you’re in for a surprise.
Proudly boasting an MSG (monosodium glutamate) free kitchen, The Castle Inn forces the favours of the food to stand on their own two feet, without a chemical crutch enhancer. This came as music to my ears and, it proved, to my taste buds too.
For starters we had a handful of both Squid Balls in spicy batter £5.50 and Scallops in a spiky batter. The scallops were sweet and tasty with a lovely textured batter. The squid was chewy as expected with a hint of chilli, served with a flavoursome garlic marinated onion garnish. Just as tasty.
Both were only cut short by the lack of a dipping sauce whether plum, soy or chilli…
We then had Crispy Aromatic Duck (£7 a quarter), or at least my carnivore partner did, I had the veggie version. Both dishes were just as they should be; fresh, flavoursome and mouth watering. My partner announced one of his favourite treats as “spot on”!
The crème de la crème, piece d’ resistance came with the main course; a house speciality. These dishes are changed regularly and not on the menu so you’ll need to ask the waiters what’s good.
We had Dover sole cooked and presented with Yin Yang flair and originality. The Dover sole, stripped from the bone, was half deep-fried in light tempura batter mixed with delicious sweet peppers and half stir-fried with spring onions and young greens. These two complimentary dishes were presented in a deep fried Dover sole fish skeleton, making a marvellous platter!
This dish was incredible; it’s flavours delicate, subtle and balanced; not too ‘fishy’ and no one ingredient overpowering the others. Very moreish indeed. This was served alongside prawns with tropical fruit which seemed just how prawns should be served and French green beans in a sweet chilli sauce. Absolutely delicious.
The interior, if you care, is wooden panelled and ornate with beautiful paintings of Chinese ladies. There’s the obligatory fish tank with coi carp and the cutlery is from 1930’s Shanghai. The staff help to make your evening individual (an 8 year old was enjoying a song of ‘Happy Birthday my Dear Friend’) and there’s a function room for 22 where live evenings take part and a party room for large numbers. Ideal for Christmas parties, Birthdays or functions.
In my opinion, The Castle Inn is well worth the drive. Go for a Sunday lunch instead of the usual gravy dinner or why not get a gang together and make a night of it? However, skip the usual dishes (as good as they are) and tuck straight into the special creations, they truly are unique.
June 2005Guide price £30