The Leconfield at Petworth
Set in the quaint, historic town of Petworth, this restaurant bar in the heart of the village is a bit of an enigma. Head chef, Paul Welburn, who took the helm in October, is the first to acknowledge that people don’t quite know what to expect when they step over the threshold – be prepared for your expectations to be truly exceeded at…The Leconfield.
By Samantha Ready
While the exterior to this award-winning restaurant is all oldey-worldy, higgledy-piggledy, rustic charm – as you would expect in a 200-year-old building – the interior dining room is all about classic, clean-lined sophistication. Cool walls, rich wood tables and leather tub chairs lead to a secluded outdoor terrace, where white, wrought-iron tables and chairs beneath pale wood and parasols offer the perfect space for alfresco dining, or pre-dinner drinks, as well as a sneak peak into the kitchen through the square outdoor pass.
Settled on the terrace with a glass of Blackdown Sussex vodka and Fever-Tree lemonade, I was soon relaxed and comfortable, taking in the seamless service and engrossed in the freshly printed menu, which offers select à la carte choices determined by local seasonal produce, and a tasting menu that changes daily. Now, I believe that a sign of how good a dining experience is to come can be revealed by an amuse bouche, canapés and the bread. The attention to detail and thought that goes into the unassuming beginning of your meal can be a great precursor as to what is to follow, and the Leconfield delivered (and then some!) with its beetroot meringue and coronation chicken canapés alongside soda and honey and spelt breads.
Tastebuds tantalised and expectations growing we were ready to let the evening begin!
Our starters came quickly served in earthenware bowls; my guest’s pink cubes of gin-infused trout offered a beautifully fresh looking and tasting dish with dill mayo and the ‘tonic’ element provided through an inspired lemonade-like jelly. My intriguing ‘crispy pig’ delivered two large, crisp croquettes full of delicately seasoned shredded pork – the combination of this with fresh apple batons, shallot and burnt apple sauce was delicious.
It takes a confident kitchen that believes in the strength of its ingredients and skill to deliver simply a fillet of beef on a plate for a main course! But, this was not ‘just’ a fillet of beef, this was a perfectly cooked, flavoursome slab of prime beef swiftly accompanied by a surprising light sauce of whipped herb bearnaise and by far the best hand-cut chips we’d eaten for some time. My guest was also swayed by the recommended ‘carrots & carraway’ side and promptly ate the whole bowl. While my dish of Hardwick lamb rump served with light mayo, fresh mint and parsley, broad beans and peas more than fulfilled the flavour and taste quota, by far the star of the show was the confit shoulder – the delicious nugget of lamb brought the whole dish together and the rich lamb gravy was great with those chips too!
Keen to try more, we were presented with the ‘BFG’ dessert served with compressed and raw strawberries. A light affair of summer flavours, fresh berries, elderflower and hints of lemon via cheesecake, sorbet (devine!) and mousse (even better!), the BFG was a story on the plate as chocolate soil gave way to a cherry sorbet; milk chocolate creameux; and dark, aerated chocolate cubes with pecan puree and black cherries – it was as good as it sounds.
From the first taste of meringue to the last mouthful of white chocolate fudge petit fours, every bite was a triumph and clearly demonstrated head chef, Paul and his team’s commitment to fresh local produce and storytelling food. At The Leconfield, it’s not only about seriously great food, but also about seriously great service, where efficient, friendly staff combine with inspired dishes to create a place that really is quite special.