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

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

    The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album