Moonrakers Restaurant, East Sussex - Restaurant Review
PUBLISHED: 11:23 28 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:36 20 February 2013
Lulu Larkin journeys to the historic village of Alfriston where she discovers the gourmet food available at Moonrakers resaurant...
High Street, Alfriston, East Sussex BN26 5TD
tel: 01323 871199 (closed Mons and Tues)
Magic by Moonlight
ALTHOUGH weve all had to tighten our belt a few notches lately, dining out is still one of lifes affordable pleasures. But as paying customers, we are increasingly more discerning and have higher expectations of the entire restaurant experience.
Culinary wizardry with its thermo-dynamic chemical concoctions may be oh so witty, but the restaurants which offer honest-to-goodness, scrumptious food in convivial surroundings win hands down.
And, of course, we want value for money quite right, too. If you are spending 100 on a meal, you want it have the wow! factor. You should come home singing, dancing and smacking your lips rather than thinking, well, that was all right I suppose.
Complacent staff, waiters who make you do the waiting, sloppy service, indifferent food, hidden charges, horrendously overpriced wine and a patronising no problems attitude that the customer is always wrong, are no longer options - a fact that restauranteurs and chefs have been quick to recognise.
Its no coincidence that the popularity of gourmet evenings and taster menus has rocketed: not only an opportunity to sample the very best the restaurant has to offer with well-chosen wines to accompany each course, but theyre terrific value and good fun, too.
On your behalf (yes, I know, selfless as ever), I visited four restaurants which regular host demonstrations of culinary excellence. Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats as the show is about to begin.
Moonrakers snuggles in the middle of the medieval Alfriston High Street and is utterly enchanting.The low-beamed dining room is suffused with candlelight, the walls are adorned with sophisticated paintings by local artists and the tables have fresh flowers and pretty naperie.
There is a cottage garden terrace at the back which overlooks the Tye a splendid sward swooping down to the Cuckmere river and the majestic Cathedral of the South Downs, St Andrews church, graveyard and Clergy House. A village idyll.
But everything at Moonrakers is idyllic. Daniel and I visited when Robin Bextor (yes, father of Sophie Ellis) and Polly (yes, daughter of international artist Harold Mockford) were hosting one of their regular ten-course Sussex Tasting Menu and Wine evenings an opportunity to showcase the excellence of local produce and suppliers and for head chef Ross Pavey to flaunt his culinary skills, which he did to perfection.
There were sixteen of us for dinner that night, mostly strangers to one another, but Robin and Polly are consummate hosts and after a glass of fizz and some scrummy morsels on the patio, we all mingled and were made to feel like special guests at a convivial country house party.
After showing us to our (separate) tables, Robin welcomed everyone with a liberal glass of Rioja and introduced Ian Jarman of Cooden Cellars in Eastbourne, whod chosen six wines from around the world to accompany each course. We were invited to comment on each and how well they complemented the food and a few heated debates ensued but it was all taken in good part and added to the lively ambience.
Our first course was a demitasse of forget-the-calories-and-just-enjoy- it creamy lobster broth with delicious bread still warm from the oven. The smoked pigeon, guinea fowl and ham hock terrine which followed was a colourful masterpiece of design as was the orientally-inspired Gressingham duck breast with coleslaw, melba toast and 1,000 island gastrique dressing. (Why 1,000 island, incidentally? Perhaps a kind reader will let me know.)
After a tiny shot of refreshing Sauternes jelly with Granny Smith apple sorbet - an inspired combination came a double chop of wild sea bass with bean cassoulet. I thought Id be flagging at this point but the portions are perfectly proportioned so I was easily able to enjoy the mango puree, the dark chocolate brownie and a morceau of Brie de Meaux mousse. Jellies, chocolate and fudge the size of dolly mixtures were served with the coffee and Head Chef, Ross Pavey, emerged from the kitchen to a well-deserved round of applause. Bravo!
If this has whetted your appetite, and I do hope it has, Moonrakers will be hosting their next Gourmet evening on Thursday, 4 February with an 8-course menu including tasting flights of wine for just 85.
And if youre wondering where you may have come across Moonraker before, it was the eleventh James Bond film starring Roger Moore and generally acknowledged as the worst Bond movie ever. Unlike Moonrakers restaurant, which was simply the best. Bon appetit!
Threeother Tasting Sensations
The Wild Mushroom,
Woodgate House, Westfield Lane, Westfield, East Sussex TN35 4SB
tel: 01424 751137 www.wildmushroom.co.uk
An elegant, converted barn in a rural setting near Rye, Rebecca Webbes restaurant provides food reflecting her love of foraging for the finest local ingredients. They have a 32 tasting menu all year round but are hosting a gourmet Valentines Day dinner. At 55 for 7 courses with wine and a drink on arrival, its a perfect gift.
Webbe's at the Fish Caf & Webbes at Rock-a-Nore
17 Tower Street, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7AT
tel: 01797 222226; 1 Rock-a-Nore Road, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 3DW
tel: 01424 721650 www.webbesrestaurants.co.uk
Following the success of his Rye fish restaurant, Rebeccas husband Paul recently launched Webbes at Rock-a-Nore by the old fishing quarters in Hastings, where one of the main attractions is a seafood, oyster and crustacean Taster Bar. Paul regularly hosts Webbes Cookery School mornings where for 50 you can learn how to buy and prepare local seafood and then enjoy the fruits of your labour over a five-course lunch.
The Grand Hotel, King Edwards Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 4EQ
tel: 01323 412345; www.grandeastbourne.com
Gerald Roser, Chairman of the Master Chefs of Great Britain and head chef extraordinaires sensational tasting menu is available all year round but on 3 February he will display his culinary skills to the full with a special six-course Wines of Baron Philippe de Rothschild gourmet dinner.
He hosts another gourmet evening and champagne reception on 3 March and then again on 7 April for 65pp including wine. Extraordinary value.