I had a couple of preconceptions that were quickly dispelled on my visit to The Sundial.
1. That French Restaurants in the country that advertise themselves as wedding venues tend to be a bit mundane.
2. That we would be hard pushed to find an East Sussex restaurant that was better than The Waterside.
On entering the rather empty car park on a quiet Saturday lunch time in the unassuming village of Herstmonceux. I was pleasantly surprised by the attractive, modern and well designed layout of The Sundial. It has a small lounge bar area in the middle, a small private dining room to the left and the main restaurant to the right. There is a also a small terrace and a large garden area.
We were greeted by the proprietors Chef Vincent and his wife Mary who manages front of house, and made comfortable in the lounge area where we were served some tasty canapes while we made our selections. First step was choosing which menu. They have a fine dining menu which at £25 for 3 courses seemed really good value. The a la carte is £40 for 3 courses and there is a 5 course tasting menu at £55. We opted for the a la carte.
First we had a nice creamy crayfish mousse amuse bouche. Then for starters we both had the perfectly cooked Panfried King Scallops, with Wild Mushrooms, Garlic and Parsley. A lovely looking dish visually enhanced by the inclusion of the blue Vitelotte Potatoes. Next we had a refreshing champagne and lemon granita palette cleanser.
For main course I had the Wild Seabass Fillet, Seabass and Lobster Sausage with Tarragon and Pistachio served with beautifully smooth mash and my companion had the fairly substantial Breast of Duck with Potato Pancakes and seasonal Vegetables
This was followed by a pre dessert that was effectively a mini raspberry choc ice, a bit like a frozen raspberry ruffle on a stick. Then for dessert I had Red Berry Compote and Chocolate Mousse, Hazelnut Macaroon and Nougat Mousse with Carrot and Ginger Sorbet. The Hazelnut Macaroon was really moreish, working so well with the unusual Carrot and Ginger Sorbet. However the star of the show, at least visually, was the Chocolate Dégustation that included chocolate ice cream, chocolate mousse and chocolate parfait. This dish was very much presented to impress.
The wine list is extensive, although there are not too many by the glass unfortunately – my only complaint.
We finished off this rather splendid meal with coffee and a fairly substantial selection of petit fours in the lounge.
Attention to detail and stylish presentation are obviously important at The Sundial, they used a lovely selection of tableware ranging from the cute copper pot butter dish to the stunning customised glass dessert plates, this was backed up by solid cooking and good ingredients.
The Sundial restaurant had a Michelin star for three years until 1982 and I sincerely hope it’s back on the Michelin Inspectors radar, as this is a serious contender for a star in my opinion.