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The Crab & Lobster in Sidlesham: Restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 15:28 28 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:39 28 August 2018

Interior of The Crab and Lobster (Photo by Jason Keffert)

Interior of The Crab and Lobster (Photo by Jason Keffert)

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Laura Paton has found a great restaurant off the beaten track in Sidlesham – but keep it under your hat

Cured salmon at the Crab and Lobster, SidleshamCured salmon at the Crab and Lobster, Sidlesham

I have a confession to make: I have never felt less inclined to write a restaurant review as I did after visiting The Crab & Lobster. However, it wasn’t that I was dreading having to recall the experience. It was because my thoughts were entirely preoccupied with how I was going to keep the place, and its wonderful food, to myself.

As we make our way to Sidlesham, heavy traffic gives us plenty of time to admire the Constable-esque landscape, resplendent in the fading light. A stone’s throw from Pagham Harbour, the 350-year-old pub with rooms faces onto a single-track lane, with marshland one side, fields the other, and the curve of the inlet in the distance.

Inside, low lighting and friendly staff make the place feel warm and welcoming. Despite the off-the-beaten-track location, and the fact that it’s mid-week, there’s a good show of what appear to be regular diners.

Unsurprisingly, there is a seafood bias to chef Dan Storey’s carefully-crafted menu, but there are a good number of options for meat-eaters and vegetarians. It’s clear that this is an establishment that values provenance: the crab and lobster come from Selsey, just four miles away, and the ice cream is churned at the award-winning dairy next door. The prices are reasonable, too: starters top out at £13.95, mains are around the £20 mark, and desserts are all £7.50, with the exception of the cheese board for £2 more.

Soft, thick slices of bread tide us over while we wait. The butter – pale-ivory and flecked with gold – is handmade on site and could easily be mistaken for clotted cream. You can forget the 1970s classic: there isn’t a limp lettuce leaf in sight when my Selsey crab and tiger prawn cocktail (£10.85) arrives. The crab meat is the freshest I’ve tasted and transports me to a wind-whipped coastline, the air salty with sea spray. Although meaty, the tiger prawns are a bit of a let-down, but only because they are so cold. Crisp, sweet chunks of charred watermelon work perfectly in the wasabi cured salmon (£9.75), cutting through the richness of the fish with aplomb.

On to the mains. The breast of guinea fowl (£18.50) is lip-smackingly moist with a delicious layer of just-melting fat under the crisp skin, and it’s wonderful to find the rich leg meat hidden between the buttery layers of pomme anna. The porcini mushroom is bursting with a deep woodland flavour, and the shallot jam is fruity and sweet. A triumph from start to finish.

For the pan-fried fish of the day (£19.90), two generous and expertly cooked John Dory fillets sit on a tangle of seasonal greens, as if plucked from the seabed just moments before. An abundance of not-too-briny capers provide satisfying sourness.

Our desserts aren’t just easy on the eye; they’re also packed with flavour. The surprisingly light treacle tart (£7.50) is studded with stem ginger and served with a rich clotted cream ice cream, while the banana parfait (£7.50) is the taste of my childhood. Not those sickly-sweet syrups sometimes added to milk, but doorstop slices of still-warm banana bread, fresh from the oven. After tasting the accompanying Bailey’s fudge, I’m convinced there is no better way to make use of Irish cream.

We leave with broad smiles and full bellies, agreeing that we would happily make the trip again. This a rural hideaway worth seeking out. Go for the Selsey crab and the local fish. Go for the masterful cooking and the serene location. But please, don’t tell your friends.

The Crab & Lobster, Mill Lane, Sidlesham PO20 7NB; www.crab-lobster.co.uk

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