A hidden gem
Alex Jenkins finds a “sublime” restaurant tucked away in the quiet village of Burpham.
The words ‘fine dining’ and ‘country house’ can make a place sound a bit daunting – conjuring up a formal, rather stuffy image.
But Burpham Country House, in Burpham near Arundel, is neither formal nor stuffy. Instead, it is a down-to-earth restaurant offering exquisite food.
“You can’t go wrong with fresh ingredients,” says co-owner Jackie Penticost, who runs the establishment with her husband, and chef, Steve.
And it is this mantra that makes Burpham Country House, in The Street, so good.
However, people seem to be missing a trick. The restaurant part of the business, named Burpham Brasserie, has all the ingredients to ensure it should be booked up weeks in advance.
Yes, it is far down a dark, narrow country road. But as Steve says: “You have just got to keep on going. Don’t give up”.
The Penticosts have worked hard to make the small venue as relaxed as possible – so you almost feel like you are at a friend’s house for a dinner party.
It is this that makes it stand out from the run-of-the-mill restaurants and ‘gastro’ pubs.
Steve makes a point of supporting local producers but admits if better quality food comes in from elsewhere he will use that instead.
This results in a well thought-out, small seasonal menu, which changes daily.
For starters, I chose the roast butternut squash soup, served with red pepper oil and toasted hazelnuts (£5.50), which was a wonderful blend of sweetness, spice and crunch.
Meanwhile, my partner devoured the meat mezze board (£7.50), which included “the best” hot chorizo sausage he had ever tasted, alongside Serrano ham, sliced salami, roast peppers and juicy olives.
My choice for the main course was Gressingham duck breast (£15.50), from Brittany, and I was delighted to see it was cooked as it should be – pink and tender.
This was served on a ragu of peas, white coco beans (a wonderful alternative to potatoes), pancetta, and cream alongside French beans and carrots.
My partner plumped for the classic chilli con carne with spiced butter, corn chips and rice (£13). It smelt incredible and the side of chilli jam meant he could add extra spice if needed.
For dessert he decided to try three scoops of Sussex ice cream from Caroline’s Dairy in Sidlesham (£5.50). The egg-free flavours ranged from the usual (vanilla) to the unusual (sea buckthorn – a plant which makes a tropical tasting ice cream).
I faced a tough decision choosing between Eton mess, grilled white pears with panna cotta or the poached Mirabelle golden plums (all £6) – but in the end the plums won the day.
Served with a sweet custard and amaretti topping it was an ‘open’ version of my favourite pudding – crumble – and a fantastic choice.
However, if you fancy something savoury, try the cheese board, with goodies including Goodwood cheddar and the award-wining Saint Giles cheese from Horsted Keynes.
The menu is very strongly influenced by French and Spanish cuisine and it really is fine dining at its best.
This is a beautiful establishment – wonderful food, friendly staff, and a great atmosphere in a picturesque setting.
I could go on but I think the words “sublime” and “out of this world” sum it all up quite succinctly.
Trip Advisor has given the brasserie and guest house five stars and I am not surprised. This place is truly a hidden gem.
To book, call 01903 882160 or visit www.burphamcountryhouse.com
December 3, 2012 Food and Drink