What’s the vibe?
Farm to table, baby. Beloved of our American cousins, it’s done at Sussex in a way we haven’t experienced in London yet thanks to the fact that its owners, the Gladwin Brothers, own a farm and vineyard and are also fastidious in using local, sustainable suppliers for everything they can’t grow. The Gladwin’s farm is in Nutbourne, West Sussex, hence the restaurant name. Sussex is the fourth opening from Richard, Oliver and Gregory, following on from The Shed in Notting Hill, Rabbit on the King’s Road and Nutbourne in Battersea. Diners of a certain age will remember the Frith Street site for when it opened many moons ago as the wonderful Arbutus.
What’s the cuisine?
Visitors to the brothers’ other sites will know they love a small plate or two, but they’ve gone more traditional with the menus here. There’s an a la carte option as well as the “Local & Wild Kitchen Table” offering that lets you sit at a private table in the middle of the kitchen and watch head chef Oli Gladwin at work. The selection of dishes changes daily, so your visit might include starters like Monkfish Carpaccio with Aubergine and Red Amaranth, or (really tasty) mushroom Marmite Eclairs. Main dishes could be choices like: Fallow Deer, Faggot, Salsify and Chestnut or Rainbow Carrots, Black Garlic, Puffed Wild Rice and Thyme Jus. Worthy of a mention is Gladwin’s championing of everyone’s favourite rodent as a sustainable menu item, here served, when available, as The Squirrel Tortellini, Tunworth Foam, Lovage and Bone Marrow Pesto. Squirrel apparently tastes like rabbit (not that we tried it!)
What are the veggie options?
On the menu, the busy night of our visit was a delicious starter of rainbow carrots, black garlic, puffed wheat and pesto. For mains I was torn between Parsley and Pumpkin Gnocchi, Quince, Tunworth Foam, Buckwheat and Sage, and the daily special, ‘A mushroom fricassee Chef is experimenting with. You’ll be the first guest to try it.’ And so I was, and it was delicious. An unctuous base of nameko mushrooms and pesto topped by a sizeable lion’s mane mushroom. It was a great looking dish and delicious.
Plenty of options, including Roasted Red Gurnard with Devon crab ravioli, seashore bisque and samphire and South Downs Hare Ragu, Egg Yolk, Pappardelle, Tarragon and English Pecorino. At our waiter’s recommendation (staff here are super friendly and happy to make dining suggestions) my sister went for Fallow Deer, Celeriac, Brassicas, Button Onions, Red Wine Jus, which she said was tender and delicious.
Sussex is divided in two: The bar side is quieter so good for a catch-up, the main dining room buzzier. A row of banquettes to one side is great for dining a deux.
What about sustainability?
The brothers couldn’t be more eco-friendly. They champion British produce; whatever doesn’t come from their own farm is from local farmers and growers, all of whom share a ‘minimal intervention, biodynamic approach.’ Even their driver’s route from the farm to their restaurants is planned to be as efficient as possible. They’re very open about their waste management too – recycling 70%, landfill 25%, compost 5% – and send coffee and tea granules back to the farm for use in compost. All their restaurants are single-use plastic-free, using instead wheat straws, compostable recycled takeaway cups and boxes.
What’s the verdict?
A great menu, enthusiastic and friendly staff and dishes that are delicious and perfectly sized make Sussex one that we can’t wait to try again. Price-wise, it’s a special dinner rather than a midweek treat but at £40-£50 a head, great value for money.
Words by Steven Short