Exciting things are afoot at Proud Country House!
Brighton Food Reviewer, Laura, September 2016
Formerly Stanmer House, this stunning Grade 1 listed Georgian mansion stands in pride of place at the heart of Stanmer Park. It was built in 1722 for the ill-fated Pelham family who, crippled by inheritance tax, were forced to sell in 1946. Since then it has changed hands multiple times, even being requisitioned by the War Office during the Second World War. Now, local boy and entrepreneur Alexander Proud is at the helm. He plans to transform it, gradually and sympathetically, into a rosette level restaurant and, ultimately, five-star boutique hotel. It’s early days yet but watch this space…
The surrounding Stanmer Park consists of 5000 hectares of beautiful open downlands and sun-dappled woods, and the garden, bar and lounge at Proud Country House are dog-friendly, so it is the perfect place to take your dogs. You can go for a leisurely stroll through the beautiful countryside to build up an appetite while your furry companions exhaust themselves tearing around like lunatics. Then, with your clapped out hounds sleeping it off at your feet, you can enjoy a hearty lunch in peace and quiet, which is exactly what we did.
We decided to sit outside to make the most of the fresh air. The garden at the side of the property is vast, with a large feature pond and lots of well-spaced wooden garden furniture. On the paved patio the tables are more formally laid with pristine white linen table cloths and napkins, and sparkling glassware and cutlery.
There seemed to be a dog at almost every table. When I went through the bar to visit the ladies room I was confronted by the two most magnificent, horse-sized, Irish Wolfhounds, which put our two scruffy mutts to shame. Dogs aside, Proud Country House also has a wonderful, friendly, family vibe and the children were getting a real kick out of peering into the depths of the pond.
We had fantastic weather for it, starting with a light misting to cool us off after our walk, before the skies cleared and we were nearly blinded by the brilliant sunshine reflecting off the bright white table cloth. Thank goodness for sunglasses! Suffice to say it was the perfect day for a leisurely alfresco Sunday lunch. We were even treated to a bit of live music courtesy of a two-piece jazz band playing popular classics like The Girl from Ipanema.
While we sat back and enjoyed the atmosphere I had a glass of Italian Cielo Sauvignon Blanc which was smooth and light and a little sweet. Andrew had a refreshing pint of chilled Brazilian Brahma lager, which we’d not heard of before but was very nice indeed.
For lunch Andrew started with the confit duck, watermelon and chilli salad. He was served a bowlful of mixed salad leaves dotted with big cubes of juicy red watermelon, shredded confit duck and the odd slice of red chilli.
I had the poached egg, asparagus and parma ham. It looked very pretty, carefully arranged on a jet black slate, which really made the colours pop. The egg was perfectly poached, with firm white and oozing yolk, and it was coated with a gorgeous smooth, tangy hollandaise. The asparagus had been beautifully prepared and delicately cooked and was topped with a lovely salty combination of Parma ham and parmesan shavings. It was served on rich garlicky, citrusy houmous, which worked really well and the addition of a few drops of intensely flavoured basil oil was delightful. It was really delicious and I’d happily eat it every day.
For our roasts Andrew opted for the lamb and, after a fairly meaty week, I decided to go for the vegetarian option, the roasted vegetable wellington.
Our portions were very generous! We were both served lovely fluffy roast potatoes, roasted parsnips and carrots and we got a separate dish of shredded cabbage and cauliflower cheese to share. We also got an enormous crispy Yorkshire pudding each.
I was served a puff pastry parcel filled with well-seasoned cubes of soft, sweet, roasted butternut squash and Andrew had several nice thick slices of lamb, which were well-done but still tender and very tasty. All in all, it was good, wholesome, filling fare.
The service was excellent and provided by waiters smartly decked out in black and white attire, complete with natty braces and bowties. The surroundings were beautiful and we didn’t have to abandon our furry family while we went out for lunch, bonza!
The music added a bit of colour and we agreed that it was a very civilised way to while away a couple of hours on a lovely summer’s afternoon.