A flavour of the country in the city
16 January, 2020 — By Róisín Gadelrab
Sussex has opened on the site of the much-missed Arbutus in Soho
A MEAL with the Gladwin brothers is fraught with envy for a frustrated farmer like me.
Richard and Oliver Gladwin now run four restaurants in London, each serving a taste of rural bliss. I grew up in Camden Town; they spent their childhood roaming the family farm and 26-acre vineyard in West Sussex, where the fertile soil holds some of the oldest vines in England.
Their social media flashes dreamy snapshots of the farm-to-fork lifestyle: cracking walnuts to infuse in apple spirit; tending to Oxford Sandy and Black pigs; picking bunches of Bacchus grapes in the dappled sunshine.
Sussex is also the name of their new restaurant in Frith Street in Soho, which has opened on the site of the much-missed Arbutus – a legendary restaurant in its heyday.
This venue has been crying out for some love. The brothers have stylishly rebooted the space with a run of tongue and groove panelling, painted inky green, set above light blue banquettes.
There’s a huge cheeseboard, carved from oak, and clever details such as a banister made with a single varnished tree branch. On the walls, admire the unusual series of framed collages made with English wine labels, carefully collected over several decades. One includes old labels from Nutbourne, the family winery.
We started at the bar, where these wines understandably get star billing. For fizz, go for the delicate Nutty Wild, £9.50 per glass, a 100 per cent Pinot Noir naturally fermented with wild yeasts.
Oliver Gladwin, the head chef, is a creative whizz with British ingredients. His recipe for squidgy focaccia, for example, switches olive oil for rapeseed oil; a fish tartare ditches tuna for chalk stream trout.
His accomplished cooking includes occasional flashes of fancy technique – chamomile gels and cheese foams – but on the whole his style is original, gutsy and elegant.
Start with the mushroom Marmite eclairs: a snacky puff of choux pastry piped with a truffled, umami-rich paste and topped with a sliver of cornichon and blackberry pearls.
We enjoyed the play of textures in a starter of cured trout, sliced into curls, dressed with a zingy fennel citrus salsa and scattering of pine nuts.
Carnivores are well served here, with wild game and signature dishes such as a Sussex beef chateaubriand and whole roasted mallard.
A main course of pork arrives with smoked purple cauliflower, hazelnuts, English miso and rainbow chard, stalks and all – a part of the plant often discarded.
Less thrilling were the colourful gnocchi – green and orange from parsley and squash – whose delicate flavour was slightly overwhelmed by a foam of Tunworth cheese.
Service at Sussex is friendly and efficient; the atmosphere laid back and fun. The set lunch and theatre menu at Sussex costs £24 for two courses; £28 for three.
Many restaurants blither on about provenance and local produce. But the Gladwin brothers live the dream and push the boundaries. The Sussex is a dazzling English restaurant.
63-64 Frith Street, W1D