I am always suspicious of restaurants with fine views and settings as a complacency sets in that this is enough. Stanmer House is an exception, I might also say exceptional, as it combines reliable well cooked cuisine with fine views over Stanmer Park. I went there yesterday with a French girlfriend who is herself a notable cook and applies the exacting standards of a French restaurant goer used to the best.
Lunch is served in 3 large salons each decorated with paintings and the air of a notable national trust country house. Why don’t more such houses leases part to a restaurant? Aside from that use, weddings and conferences could make for a profitable and sought after venue.
We both ordered the same: prawn and crayfish with a Marie Rose sauce. This is a traditional dish and might have benefited from a touch of paprika. For mains we had a trio of roast: gammon, roast beef and pork with a large selection of vegetables, carrots, broccoli and spinach and roast potatoes this was a copious portion and reasonably priced at £14. I asked my friend to choose the wine and she selected a Pas de Moine rose: it was the high end of the list at £28 but had none of that pallid acidity that can bedevil the cheaper rose. In short a perfect wine for a warm late summer day. We shared a sorbet. Nervously I asked my friend for her comments. She was glowing in her praise but felt the maitre’d should not be in jeans but something smarter to reflect the elegance of the rooms. I found him just a tad too friendly but he did tell me the restaurant was serving 1000 diners. This did not surprise me as I had heard from Polly, the equestrian friend of Nancy Bright Thompson, that it’s immensely popular on a Sunday. With her normal cheerful positivity when I spoke to her afterwards she said “When I marry a millionaire we go there for our wedding.”
Afterwards we strolled in the vast grounds, visited the church and the woods. Young families abounded with babies as its a favourite picnic spot too. I could hardly fault the place and at £80 for 2 excellent value. I could not avoid a comparison with the Pig on the Beach that rushed us through our meal and coped less well with a full dining room. I also give if full marks for service. I have been to quite a few Brighton restaurants recently and the waitresses and greeters are invariably pretty, helpful girls. I left a generous tip which our waitress thanked me for fulsomely. Stanmer House does not have the practice of leaving a 12-5% service charge on the bill land because of that and for the waitress’s all round competence I was happy to leave more.
I was surprised it did not have bedrooms. The younger Daffers could easily be seduced by more than the food!!!