Restaurant review: The Leconfield offers English food with sexy Breton touches - but watch your waistband

The Leconfield, New Street, Petworth, West Sussex

The market town of Petworth is, basically, Antiques Central. You cannot move through its narrow streets without falling over a Queen Anne coal scuttle or Regency escritoire. If you have trouble sleeping in Petworth, just try to recall the names of all 35 antique shops that give the town its prevailing tone of expensive dinkiness. The Leconfield restaurant is itself a substantial antique.

For 250 years it was a pub called The Red Lion. More recently, it's been a car-hire joint and, inevitably, an antiques shop, but now it's been attractively hurtled back into the past. On the first floor there's a vast dining room, capacious as the warriors' mead-hall in Beowulf, with a vaulted ceiling, Georgian beams and traces of wattle and daub in the stairwell. It's so old, it wouldn't have surprised me if the waiters read out the specials in Anglo-Saxon.

The restaurant opened two years ago. It's big on fish dishes – head chef David Craig-Lewis used to run things at The Fish House in Chilgrove, where le tout Chichester used to head at weekends for his famed crustacea – the 'hand-picked crab with liquid wasabi and fennel wafers' was much talked-about, even if it was only to wonder about the phrase 'hand-picked', which is more generally used about footballers.

Anyway, fish is the thing in this handsome, solid-looking dining area, which keeps some cosy-pub virtues – the open fire, the exposed brickwork, the oak tables, the vodka martini… And there's a new arrival in the kitchen – Pascal Proyart, of the One-O-One restaurant in Knightsbridge. Pascal is from Brittany and loves game – within five minutes of our meeting, he was telling me proudly about the pheasant he'd been shooting the previous weekend. He seemed delighted to be in the countryside, negotiating with farmers and fishermen rather than Knightsbridge traffic.

The menu reflects the twin obsessions of David and Pascal. From a fish-heavy choice of starters (smoked salmon, lobster salad, roast sea trout) my south coast scallop beignets and crispy squid was fabulous – the scallops fat and mouth-filling with that quality of freshness that makes them slightly sweet, the tempura like a clothing of angel's breath.

Crispy squid was less exciting, but basked in a bed of shaved fennel, coriander and sweet chilli salad. Ravioli of goat's cheese with spinach and pine kernels arrived on melba toast, offering a welcome crunch against the delicate, melting pasta. A heritage-tomato sauce was finished with basil pesto and a kiss of balsamic.

When we reached the evening's specials, I expected to see evidence of cheffy rivalry between David and Pascal – a cook-off of fish against game. Instead, there was a harmonious intertwining of influence.

David the fish maestro offered 'roasted south-coast cod with Selsey lobster dumpling', but into this already-rich duo Pascal had introduced 'Brittany Paimpol coco bean truffle cassoulet' with sauce bisque. It was a crazily complex dish, with three major items wrestling for the upper hand, and a sauce derived from the pearly-white and creamy Breton 'demi-sec' beans which have a season of only seven weeks.

The lobster dumpling was pure luxury, the cod couldn't have been fresher, plumper, whiter, or more redolent of the bounding main, and the cassoulet somehow wasn't allowed to dominate.

Pascal the game specialist showed off with 'slow-roasted partridge and wood pigeon breast and confit leg'. That's right – one bird cooked inside the other, like the legendary medieval banquet dish that started by stuffing a wren into a sparrow and finished by shoving a swan, stuffed with 10 other birds, inside a great bustard.

The partridge inside the pigeon was heftily textured and very gamey indeed, the duet of birds amazingly unctuous and rich; not for faint hearts or small appetites. A caramelised onion compote was fine, and a cream ruby port salsify offered a startling combination of flavours, but by halfway through, I was aching for something green to offset the dark heaviness of it all.

Choosing a pudding (under duress, following such a blow-out) I went for a liquorice and lime parfait with poached spiced pineapple; it was brilliantly executed and unexpectedly (liquorice parfait!?) harmonious. And our maître d' Richard, the most charming and chatty greeter I've met in ages, bunged us a Tokay pudding wine gratis.

The Leconfield offers a cornucopia of English food, exceptionally well cooked and now given some sexy Breton touches. I just hope the rivalry between the chefs doesn't result in too richly bulked-out dishes (or, indeed, diners' waistbands).

Food ****
Ambience ***
Service ****

The Leconfield, New Street, Petworth, West Sussex (01798 345111). £130 for two with wine

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project