The Forest Brasserie at Ashdown Park on Ashdown Forest opened last year, with a commitment to local produce. I headed back this week for one of my favourite pastimes: a lingering mid-week lunch and to see what was on the menu.
The Brasserie is in the Ashdown Park Country Club with large windows and a balcony overlooking the golf course. The décor and choice of artwork speak rather magically of Ashdown Forest (do have a look at the artwork at the entrance of the spa next door too) and the vibe is warm, comforting, and quietly stylish. With a choice of tables, we headed window-side and our waitress Viktoria could not have served us better.
Let’s talk about the wine
The wine and drinks menu has a fantastic selection of local drinks, one of the best Sussex selections I’ve seen in a while. Think Vermouth aperitifs from Lewes, Haywards Heath and Alfriston. There are Sussex sparklings wines, rosés, still whites, and reds on the menu and we opted for a Sauvignon Blanc from Kingscote Vineyard. Why? Because the Kingscote vineyard is only 7 miles away! It was a good choice, and the wine was light, crisp, and ever so slightly exotic, perfect for our lunch. Other Sussex wines include Bluebell Vineyard, Bolney, Rathfinny, and Nyetimber and if you don’t mind straying into Kent they also serve a Chapel Down wine as well as wines from further afield.
If beers and spirits are your thing, fear not. They have plenty of Sussex choice here too. They have beers from Bedlam Brewery and Harvey’s, cider from Horsham, and gins, vodka, and even rum from across the county. They’ve even got locally sourced soft drinks and it would seem when these guys say they’re sourcing locally, they mean business. Happy days indeed.
What’s on the menu?
First things first, on the table they have a small map where you can see where their produce comes from. These are the small finishing touches that bring me great pleasure (what can I say, Sussex and maps, what more could a girl want). Suppliers include meat from Tablehurst Farm from nearby Forest Row, fish from Rye, dairy from Northiam and Salcombe, and cakes from Hailsham.
What would you like to start with?
I am always a sucker for calamari especially when it’s baby spiced calamari with saffron aioli and sweet chilly tomato jam. Enough flavor and punch to dance nicely with our wine but not so much as to wipe it out. Light, crispy and enough to leave me wanting more.
My colleague opted for the soup of the day of parsnips, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash with roasted nuts – which she told me was perfect for a cold day (which it was), packed with flavour and with a lovely finishing crunch of nuts. Some of the other temptations for starters include a sharing board; duck, chestnut, and artichoke terrine; and Parma ham with grilled asparagus.
And for your main course?
There is an extensive main course menu here which takes you from the grill to seafood, salads and healthy plates, homemade pizza, and specialty sandwiches. Parmesan truffle French fries will always have a place in my heart but on this occasion, I was being healthy. Loving the feeling of being slightly exotic whilst still firmly rooted in Sussex, it was the Asian Sweet Crispy Beef Salad for me. And rarely does healthy feel quite so decadent! Lots of crunch and fresh unusual flavors (which include Japanese radish and Asian cabbage) give this dish a zesty zing, whilst lotus chips were a new experience for me (and definitely something I want to try again).
It would be rude not to have a pud
Despite both courses being wonderfully light, I wasn’t sure I’d have room for pud. But I’m not a quitter and I decided I could probably do justice to pear, oat, and walnut cheesecake with blackberry sorbet. And I was right. I loved the flavours of this and the texture of the oats and walnut almost give this dessert a coconutty feel. Pear and blackberry are happy bedfellows indeed and this works as a winter warmer or a dessert for a summer evening.
The menu includes vegan and gluten-free alternatives (and children’s portions are available).
Will I be back? Without a shadow of a doubt. What’s more, as mentioned, there is a spa next door, with a suitably tempting selection of treatments. Hello Mother’s Day! There’s also a guided forest walk on the 16th April with a two-course lunch included. Both of which seem very good reasons to head back to the Forest Brasserie soon.
If you like this post about the Forest Brasserie at Ashdown Park, you may also like:
Eateries & Places to Stay in Forest Row
A Bimble Around Ashdown Forest (East Sussex)
Discovering Forest Row
You can read more here: Forest Brasserie