Building on its strengths

Cisswood House Hotel Restaurant relaunch. photo by Derek Martin
Cisswood House Hotel Restaurant relaunch. photo by Derek Martin

HIGH Street restaurants offer cuisine from just about every corner of the globe.

French, Italian, Spanish, Indian, Japanese and Chinese have become familiar flavours in every town centre.

But getting a taste of traditional England can sometimes prove more than a challenge.

Pubs still serve a largely British menu and there are some notable examples of top quality contemporary English restaurants and hotels too in the Horsham district.

But tracking down venues that are comfortable, welcoming, and elegant with kitchens that deliver quality, simple, local fare is not always as easy as it might sound.

Cisswood House Hotel on the edge of Horsham at Lower Beeding is a notable example of all this at its best.

In recent years, the hotel has struggled with its identity and the quality of its offering has lurched from one extreme to the other.

There have been times when it has felt tired and lacking direction; with food that seemed to demand chips with everything and décor that consisted of empty wine bottles and less than classic paintings for sale on the walls.

But all that has changed.

Cisswood has reinvented itself and this week relaunches the restaurant based on skilfully rediscovering all that makes it special.

It does not pretend to be something that it is not.

Instead it builds on its strengths.

The menu is cleverly presented in a simple style using first class quality local produce whenever possible.

And it is extremely competitively priced, with lunch and dinner options.

When we sampled the food, starters included lobster risotto with dill, lime and parmesan - an exceptional dish; and pressed game and foie gras terrine with rhubarb and vanilla puree with a brioche toast.

The slow braised belly or pork was exceptionally good, rich in meat and generous in proportion it was amongst the best pork belly we have yet sampled. The crackling was crisped to perfection. The only minus - the fondant potato which accompanied it should have been cooked a little more, the texture was too hard.

The grilled breast of duck, confit leg bubble and squeak was a great dish - perfect in terms of presentation and balance of textures.

The range of desserts was equally impressive with the chocolate and orange pannacottta smooth and light - and much improved from an earlier tasting where the zest of the fruit and been too dominant.

The food underpins the ethos of the hotel itself - which is warm, welcoming, and homely, with log fires blazing on cold winter days and shows off the building’s architecture and facilities to their best.

Country homes in the 1930s were hallmarked by a sumptuous return to mock oak panelling and a spacious elegance.

Cisswood House was built in 1928 for the then chairman of Harrods and his wife Cissily.

Not surprisingly, for someone who ran the world’s most exclusive department store, the house brought together the very best in design that the age had to offer.

An independently operated hotel with 51 both traditional and contemporary modern rooms, it has recently been extensively refurbished. Amenities include - Spa treatments, gym, indoor pool, sauna and Jacuzzi, restaurant, Bar and 24 hour room service, complementary WiFi and free parking.

Its mature landscaped gardens are particularly fine.

Cisswood House hosts a number of special events throughout the year and is an ideal location for weddings, conferences and family celebrations.

Sous chef is Jason Vincent and the head chef is Mark Cheeseman.

Mark has a down to earth approach to the menu. He wants to deliver quality food in a simple, honest way - sourcing as much of it locally.

But being ‘local’ is not enough in its own right. That has to be discernment too.

He explained that they had change the supply of duck because the local duck contained shot and did not meet customer expectations.

He can be reassured: the new restaurant menus met our expectations in every way.

The Resatauant Inspector