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The Leconfield in Petworth - restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 10:22 03 May 2016 | UPDATED: 16:07 06 November 2017

Archant

The Leconfield in Petworth has a new chef, Paul Welburn. Jenny Mark-Bell found his food warmly evocative with a sexy modern twist

In an increasingly uncertain world, there is something reassuring about The Leconfield. It is named for the estate of which Petworth House is part and its logo is a pair of stag’s antlers. It is not that it is hidebound or old-fashioned – in fact some of the dishes are downright surprising – but entering the suave dining room, with its paintwork, expensive wood and leather, feels like stepping into warm, exquisitely scented bath water.

This restaurant won the customer service at the 2014 Celebration of Sussex Life Awards and yes, the staff are brightly cheerful and informally charming, but what I really wanted to find out was how new head chef Paul Welburn, who arrived last autumn with Michelin pedigree, had changed the place. In keeping with the town, with its upscale boutiques and antiques shops, the focus of the restaurant has been on nostalgic British food, with a sexy modern twist. So the new menu includes dishes like my starter of gin and tonic cured trout. The butter-soft Chalk Stream Farm trout was threaded with ribbons of crunchy fennel, studded with dollops of emerald-green dill emulsion and sprinkled with crispy croutons on treacle bread. It was outstanding, a magical reinterpretation of the flavours of British summertime. My colleague’s beetroot and vodka cured salmon matched a subtle zing of horseradish with the fresh taste of cucumber and, again, that dill emulsion. It was exquisitely presented, the vivid colours fairly jumping off the plate.

My mackerel main was from the a la carte menu and was an excellent piece of fish, part of the catch from the restaurant’s fish suppliers MCB, who have a fleet of 20 boats landing daily on the South Coast. It came with roasted fennel, the sweetest crab I think I have ever eaten, and a vegetable that was new to me: rock samphire.

My colleague’s fillet steak was big, thick and juicy, served with doorstop chips. All the steaks are Sussex Beef and sourced very locally, including from the Leconfield Estate.

We notionally shared a dessert, but as my dining partner had just finished a very generous piece of beef, I got to eat most of it. I was lucky I did, as the chocolate tart was decadent and almost liquid in its unctuousness. I may have looked like a hippo enjoying a mud bath by the end of the meal but that was a small price to pay.

If we are talking literal pounds and pence, I would probably place The Leconfield in the ‘treat’ category. The a la carte has starters for under £10 and main meat courses are northwards of £20 while the ‘market menu’ is a decent £23 for two courses or £27 for three at lunchtimes, slightly more for dinner. I think it is a great chance to see a really imaginative chef at work.

The Leconfield, Petworth 01798 345111; www.theleconfield.co.uk

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