Posh Fish and Chips at Stanmer
Stanmer House is the elegant grade I listed manor situated in the big and beautiful Stanmer Park in Brighton. Once upon a time, the park was the estate of the house, all private until brought by Brighton Council in 1947.
The house was built in 1722 for the Pelham family. Nearly 400 years later and it’s an award winning restaurant, bar and event venue.
Whiting and Hammond took it over in 2011. Up until last week, I had only ever been there once for afternoon tea with a friend after a lovely, crisp, wintery walk through the park.
It’s stunning inside, and could almost pass as a museum. But a museum where you can sit down and relax by the fire, eat, drink and be merry. My kind of museum.
My boyfriend and I decided to check it out on a Friday night. We both fancied fish and chips, but not the kind wrapped in paper. We had heard that Stanmer House did an amazing battered cod and chips called ‘the Moby Dick’. Sounded interesting.
As we walked in, we immediately started to look around us at the beautiful interior. The horseshoe shaped bar was on the right through an archway. Handsome looking Chesterfields littered the ‘front room’ and there was a gorgeous old bookcase filled with old books for anyone to read. An impressive broad oak staircase was right ahead. I wondered where that led to.
We were greeted warmly by a member of staff and taken to our table in the restaurant to the left.
The room was regal and grand. Very ‘Downton Abbey.’
There were high ceilings, old paintings on the wall, a huge, original looking rug on the dark wooden flooring. The tables weren’t crammed together but nicely spaced.
There was a gorgeous, gold chandelier hanging from the ceiling and a noble looking bust on the centre of the mantlepiece. Our table was an oval shaped one, placed right by the crackling, open fire. You could feel the warmth and smell the flames which felt comforting, like we were in our own living room.
The restaurant was full and bustling, but not in a noisy, chaotic way. The music was on low, as were the lights. Although busy, the staff glided through the room gracefully and professionally giving the atmosphere a sense of calm.
Having absorbed in the room we started to look at the menu. We both knew we were going for the ‘Moby Dick,’ but we still wanted to see what else they had to offer for future outings.
The South Downs Braised Rabbit Ragu was something which caught my eye. Very seasonal and local. The menu is made up of a number of sub-sections: Nibbles, Starters, Light Bites, Salads, Pie Week, Main Courses, Prime Steaks (hand cut to order), Deli Selection. Sandwiches, Side Orders and Desserts. Courses for any time of the day and any occasion. They also have a separate breakfast menu and an afternoon tea menu.
There was a choice of a small Moby Dick and a large one. We decided to go for a starter as well just so we got to try something else on the extensive and exciting looking menu. I went for the Stanmer House Prawn Cocktail and Tommy went for the Smoked Garlic and Crayfish Risotto.
Perhaps next time we’ll go for a meat theme, as there is plenty on the menu. The tastings of Pork and Lamb as a main course looked really interesting.
As we waited for our starters we had a look at the wine menu. I’ve never seen a wine menu like it before. It was more of an information booklet than a wine menu.
Designed like an old sepia newspaper, it not only had a great choice of wines, it also contained articles including one headed, ‘What to drink with seasonal produce’.
This really useful and informative article was split up in months of the year and spoke about seasonal produce and the kinds of wine you should be drinking with that produce. There was even a taste test at the back. After all that information, we still both went with our instincts and went for the wines we thought we enjoyed the best. I went for the fruity Rioja Blanc, and Tommy broke all wine etiquette and went for the rich and slightly spicy Malbec with his fish dinner. I tried a bit and this was absolutely stunning.
Our starters arrived. The Prawn Cocktail was presented in a martini glass on a slab of slate, with a huge doorstep hunk of fresh wholemeal bread on the side. The chef had been very generous with the prawns and the cocktail sauce which was a relief as a lot of places can fall down with this classic starter by being stingy on the portion. There were two large leaves of Pak Choi sticking up in the side of the glass which served great as ‘scoopers’. The prawns were juicy and fresh and the homemade cocktail sauce was tangy and creamy. I enjoyed every bit..
The risotto came out in a large white soup bowl. It was soft, and creamy but still with that slight bite to the rice. The flavours were superb. The garlic wasn’t overpowering and there were big chunks of juicy crayfish throughout. This dish could even be eaten at lunchtime as a main with one of the exotic salads to go with it. It was very satisfying.
Now for the main show: the Moby Dick. These were beautifully presented on a heavy, square, white plate. The enormous battered cod was balanced on top of a neatly stacked pile of the rustic homemade chips. There was a big swirl of pea puree in the middle of the plate, a ramekin of homemade tartar sauce and half of a chargrilled lemon on the side.
As I cut into the fish, I could hear the crunch of the batter. It wasn’t greasy but just super fine and crispy.
The fish was obviously as fresh as can be and not over cooked as it was soft, moist and flaky. An absolute delight.
The chips were hand-cut, skin-on and again, perfectly cooked. The tartar sauce, pea puree and the half chargrilled lemon all made such a nice complement to the dish. I squeezed my lemon all over, giving it that largely sharp tang that all fish and chips should have. The tartar sauce with big chunks of gherkin and crushed capers added to the lovely salty, tangy flavours. The whole dish was so pleasant, we barely spoke throughout.
Completely full (particularly Tommy as he had the large Moby Dick) we had to sit back and relax by the fire for a while before we could think about leaving. Dessert wasn’t even an option which was very unusual for us, but neither one of us waived and considered it. Just another reason to come back for.
Even though a busy evening, we didn’t feel rushed out at all. I even thought I’d have a look around, once I felt able to move. I discovered that the room we were seated in wasn’t the only room in the restaurant. Further on there was another equally stunning room. This room has a huge banquet table all set up. You could just imagine a scene from Downton Abbey taking place here. There were pictures, painting and framed artefacts all over the wall.
I could have stayed for hours just reading and absorbing in all the history. Again, just another reason to come back to Stanmer House.See the listing for Stanmer House – Proud Country House