[Bodiam, East Sussex] The Curlew
For those of us used to our Michelin starred meals being in urban areas, the Curlew feels miles from anywhere. Possibly that accounts for why only about a quarter of the tables were occupied on a Friday night. That said, there’s a lot of tables and, if they are ever full, folk must be travelling some distance. I can understand why they would travel as the food is damn good. That’s damn good in that damn good sort of way of taking top notch ingredients and cooking them expertly without the bells and whistles of culinary technological wizardry.
It was a pleasant evening and we were invited to have aperitifs in the courtyard –a nice modern space which, had it been just a tad warmer, we’d have accepted the invitation to eat there instead of in the restaurant. It’d be a great summer lunch spot. There were nibbles with the drinks, of course. A decent enough gougere, some olives and spicy popcorn.
Potted crab was an ideal summer starter. That’s not “potted” in the usual sense of it being sealed in a pot with butter. The “potted” simply meant it was in a pot, in this case a mini Kilner jar. At the bottom was layer of fennel puree. This was covered with the crab which, in turn was topped with pickled mooli, micro salad and a couple of croutons. Alongside, a ginger biscuit that was as thin and light as the proverbial feather.
Chicken and ham terrine was altogether more butch. A lovely chicken and goose liver mousse affair, interspersed with big chunks of ham, wrapped in a layer of air dried ham. Scattered over the plate were a few broad beans and artichokes
I’m a bit fussy about veal on ethical grounds and wouldn’t usually order it. But I’ve no qualms about British rose veal. It’s a delicious meat and provides good income for dairy farmers who, otherwise, would cull male calves at a day old. Here, there was a wonderfully soft pink sweetbread and a couple of chunks of sirloin. Seasonality came from tiny broad beans and wild asparagus. Good red wine sauce.
Sea bass is pretty ubiquitous these days. It’s versatile and tasty, particularly so when, as here, it’s wild rather than farmed. They cook it well here – unlike many places, they understand the need for crisp skin. Alongside, crushed new potatoes, roasted leek, a scattering of capers and shrimps – and a vermouth based sauce. As with everything we ate, the plate looked a delight even before we got stuck in.
None of the dessert offerings appealed but we both took cheese instead. A pick of three from a list of a dozen British cheeses. Stand-outs were an isle of Mull cheddar, Sparkenhoe Red Leicester and Brighton Blue. They came with biscuits, quine jelly and a particularly fruity chutney.
Coffee was good. Petit fours were only OK.
We're big fans of The Curlew having been a couple of times in the last year or so. The cooking is of a better than decent standard, with everything attractively presented and we have enjoyed some great dishes. When you combine it with it's location just up the road from must-visit Bodium Castle it makes for a very pleasant day out!