As we reach the end of another year, and the overwhelming message starts to become that we should all eat less, live better and set ourselves ridiculously ambitious resolutions for the new year, I always feel inclined to go the other way. To eat more and live better by enjoying the finer things in life. And with that in mind, earlier this month, I embarked on an ambitious eating project that took me around a variety of different Sussex restaurants. Those that were a tad uninspiring, have understandably not made the grade but over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing some of my favourites and what I thought were the best. So unfold your napkin, undo a buckle on your belt, and prepare to get stuck in. Let’s start at Goodwood.
Farmer, Butcher, Chef
I’ll be honest with you, for reasons best known to myself, I didn’t want to like the Farmer, Butcher, Chef. It had been nearly a decade since my last visit to Goodwood Hotel and I really wasn’t sure it was going to live up to my memories. Farmer, Butcher, Chef is Goodwood Hotel’s flagship restaurant and having now eaten there a number of times in the last couple of months, I can say “hand on fork”, I have consistently been delighted!
Farmer, Butcher, Chef is a genuine farm to fork experience. In fact, during two recent visits, I went out running along the estate trails in the morning which took me past their sheep, pigs and cattle. All their meat is born and bred on the estate and is 100% organically fed and there is something immensely satisfying in seeing where your evening meal comes from. Unless you’re vegetarian, of course.
The restaurant is so named because the core team quite literally includes the farmer, the butcher and the chef, all of whom are at the top of their game and who work together behind the scenes together. Chef, Darron Bunn, has worked at the likes of The Windows restaurant and Criterion Restaurant and has earned Michelin stars of his own at other restaurants. No surprise then that Farmer, Butcher, Chef won Gold for Excellence in 2020 at the Beautiful South Awards.
Staff and memorabilia
From drinks in the bar or The Snug, you move down to the restaurant which is packed with memorabilia reminiscent of the many aspects of Goodwood’s long and diverse story. With wood-panelled walls, an open fire and barn-style rafters, the restaurant has a modern but classic feel. It’s warm, it’s calm and is welcoming and if you run out of conversation, you can always discuss the many fascinating nick nacks on the walls and tables. The staff are charming too. Helpful but not too in your face.
A La Carte
As you might expect from a restaurant that is passionate about local, the menu is seasonal and the autumn menu includes such delights as Sussex Red Steak Tartare (not easy to find on a menu these days) and Salmon Pastrami (with lime, caramel and crème fraiche). Both were delightful.
I’m a modest beast (not) and opted for the Fillet of Halibut for my first main but my companions went for the Butcher Board.
This, my friends, is a sharing board of great beauty designed to showcase the various cuts of meat from the estate (lamb, beef and pork). It’s not cheap at £50 but worth every bite and you won’t have room for much more.
On my third visit, I tried the Smoked Haunch of Estate Venison for my main. I like my meat rare (most chefs in the UK doubt my preferences) but I have to say this was cooked to perfection! And what of the vegetarians, I hear you cry? Well, not a huge choice as perhaps the name suggests, but I tried the Green Lentils and Fermented Beetroot for a starter and there is a risotto option for main. However, primarily this is a place for the carnivores amongst us.
Their drinks menu includes a couple of Sussex gins and three sparkling wines from Kent (all Gusbourne). Sadly, there are no other Sussex wines to choose from and although the Sauvignon Blancs I had were superb, I can’t help but think they’re missing a trick here with so many great wines now coming out of Sussex and the wider area.
Stay a while
Goodwood is tucked away in the west of the county so a trip here for me really does require an overnight stay. And why not? With the South Downs, local walks, golf, horse racing, the Festival of Speed, the aerodrome, Tinwood Estate and Chichester all within easy reach, if you’re going to overindulge, why not go the whole hog! Great atmosphere, great service and food, and for the die-hard meat eater who wants to know where their meat has come from, this is a great choice!
For more great places to eat in Sussex try: