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The Fig Tree in Hurstpierpoint: Restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 12:03 23 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:09 23 May 2017

Sea trout ballotine, smoked fillet, quail egg, pink fir potato, curry spices and fromage blanc from The Fig Tree (Photo by Jeron Holy)

Sea trout ballotine, smoked fillet, quail egg, pink fir potato, curry spices and fromage blanc from The Fig Tree (Photo by Jeron Holy)

Archant

In just six months a husband and wife team has built a foodie destination in their home village to the delight of Duncan Hall

Anyone who wants to test the commitment a restaurant puts into its menu shouldn’t blithely order the most expensive dish. A chef with vision sees his or her set menus and specials as a chance to draw in customers who might want to splash out in the future.

And judging by the high quality of the set lunch menu at James and Jodie Dearden’s The Fig Tree, in their home village of Hurstpierpoint, a visitor could happily select a dish at random from their a la carte menu and leave satisfied. James’s experience, at Ockenden Manor and as head chef at the Ginger Fox for six years, shines through in every dish. And judging by the large diamond anniversary celebration taking over most of the restaurant the day I visit, the couple’s takeover of the restaurant in September has been well-received by their local customer base.

With space for only 38 covers The Fig Tree feels intimate and comfortable, although the set up for fine dining with white table cloths and gleaming cutlery and glassware adds a touch of class. Contemporary paintings from the village’s own Alison Sibley line the walls, while the music is modern but inoffensive at a low volume. The hum of the efficient and professional kitchen can be heard in the background, but there are no Gordon Ramsay-style explosions.

The set lunch menu changes fortnightly with the seasonal produce available and offers a starter and main course for a bargain £15 – especially considering the main courses on the a la carte menu start at that price. It is available Tuesday-Thursday evening before 7pm and Wednesday-Friday lunchtimes. The choice is small but perfectly formed, with a vegetarian, fish or meat dish in each course. The starter of wild duck faggots is packed with a rich deep flavour and beautifully complimented by a cushion of creamed savoy cabbage and a light cauliflower cheese puree augmented by some lovely tender broccoli stems.

The broccoli reappears in the vegetarian main course – a delicious broccoli and blue cheese fricassee with wild mushrooms, topped by a wheel of crisp but succulent fried potatoes. Every forkful is a salty, creamy taste explosion.

Neither is a heavy plateful of food, meaning the dessert menu can be perused without guilt. The desserts – which come in at between £7.50 and £9 – are about creating combinations of sweet flavours. A raft of rich pistachio cake floats on a sea of cream, populated by shards of chocolate biscuit, long thick laces of bitter dark chocolate, a quenelle of creamy chocolate ice cream and a pistachio macaron which melts in the mouth.

The wine list is extensive with plenty of options by the glass or bottle. And it carries on the restaurant’s desire to keep its suppliers as local as possible, with several bottles of wine from Ditchling’s Court Garden range, Blackdown and Brighton gin, Chilgrove vodka and soft drinks from Wobblegate.

With plans to open a 16-cover function room upstairs and to revamp the outside it is likely The Fig Tree will soon be welcoming more visitors from further afield – it won’t remain a local secret for long.

The Fig Tree, 120 High Street, Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, BN6 9PX; 01273 832183; www.figtreerestaurant.co.uk

Open for lunches Wed to Sat noon to 2pm, Sun noon to 2.30pm, dinner Tues to Thurs 6.30pm to 9pm, Fri/Sat 6.30pm to 9.30pm.

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