boti eats: rathfinny tasting room
If someone asked you to picture an idyllic spot to head out of Brighton to for lunch, we’re pretty sure that the Rathfinny Estate would be it. Based just outside Alfriston in Polegate (half an hour’s drive from Brighton), the rolling hills and neatly planted vines are nothing less than dreamy to look at. The drive in from the road was a succession of ooohs, ahhhs and wows… and that was before we even ate anything at their Tasting Room Restaurant when we visited for lunch.
After a snap-happy drive up to the restaurant, we were seated at a window table with the vine-heavy downs in our eye line. Kicking things off with a glass of Sussex fizz, their Blanc de Noir 2014 hit the spot and where better to try it.
If like us here at BOTI, you go weak at the dough-loving knees when there’s bread on the menu, you won’t be able to eat at this restaurant without lining your stomach with a little pre-starter. We were served a generous bread offering, mixing locally baked sourdough from Flint Owl Bakery in Lewes alongside homemade rosemary focaccia and the creamiest of butters with rock salt sprinkles of joy. We could eat it all again now in fact. And we did… eat it all, naturally.
The lunch set menu is priced at a super reasonable £30 for two courses and £35 for three, so it would be tough not to make the most of it in such lush surroundings. To start we tried the diced tuna in yuzu oil, charred aubergine, daikon, shiso and wild fennel, which arrived looking like a giant flower and almost too good to destroy. But we did, and the flavours were incredible. Our veggie companion opted for the grilled Little Horsted asparagus with miso and fried sea lettuce and confirmed that, like everything we tried, it tasted every bit as good as it looked.
For main, the John Dory was beautifully cooked and served with white asparagus, wild garden salad, smoked cod’s roe and meadowsweet, which sounds like an essential oil you might choose for a relaxing massage, but it’s actually a herb from a sweet-smelling flower. There’s nothing worse than the dread of looking at what you’ve ordered and thinking ‘uh oh, we’ve gone too far’, so we were grateful to be given the heads up that the fish main came with a side of potatoes and that would be more than enough to share. They were tasty little tatties, too.
Meanwhile, the vegetarian main of grilled violet artichoke with confit ceps, buffalo ricotta arancini, sprouting broccoli and black garlic oil was a masterclass in flavour and colour. If food can make you go weak at the knees, the arancini in particular was a real Casanova.
Believe it or not, we managed to fit a dessert in after that little lot, thanks to the portion sizes not being over-sized because you’re going to want to try all the courses while you’re there, right? We both opted for the same thing and it really was too good to be choux (sorry!) as we cracked through the impressive Choux au Craquelin to discover the pistachio gelato, Gariguette strawberries and white chocolate filling. And no, it was not too much. It was just right and we’d eat it again. And again…
The kitchen is led by Michelin-starred chef Chris Bailey and he certainly knows what he’s doing when it comes to seasonal, modern British cuisine. He’s almost certainly inspired by the panoramic views of the vineyard and South Downs, it would be hard not to be.
Lunch served Wednesday to Sunday midday – 3.00pm, also open for dinner Friday & Saturday
2-course lunch £30, 3-course lunch £35; tasting dinner menu £55-65