Stars in his eyes: Restaurant Tristan, Horsham

Does everybody in the restaurant business think they deserve a Michelin star? The Tristan of this new eaterie is Tristan Mason, who used to cook at the Hare in Lambourn and picked up a star for his labours. He moved to the Orrery in London, which had a Michelin star when he joined but lost it on his watch, whatever that may mean. No sooner had he put his name over the door of what used to be Stan's, in Horsham's dinky, narrow East Street, than he was telling local papers: "I want to get my star and I want my three AA rosettes. I want to make it one of the best restaurants in England." Well, I dare say you do, Tris, but in what sense is it "your" star and "your" rosettes? Do you hear actors demanding, "I want to get my Oscar and my Baftas"? Do you hear me saying, "It's about time I had my Nobel and several Pulitzers"? I don't think so. Not out loud, anyway.

It's clear that Tristan would do anything for his flipping star. He has, for instance, an avant-garde approach to service. The waiting staff look at you with a kind of thrilled hostility when you arrive, and fail to bring you, unless you expressly beg for it, any bread, any menus or any cutlery. My pal James and I thought that very radical. The dining room is charming, though, with its exposed timbers and clever colour scheme, in which geometric sections of wall are painted orange to mirror the Mondrian-style prints. It's a Michelin-star room. It has edge. It has heat. It has weirdly thin windows.

A "present from the chef" was a coffee cup of celeriac foam (delicious) and a spoonful of Madeira and mushroom jelly (jelly balls in fact, with no discernible hint of sweet wine, which would hardly suit mushrooms anyway). I asked the waiter to explain the "oyster beignets" among the starters. Did it mean the oysters were deep-fried in choux pastry? No no, he assured me, they're simply cooked, "but I haven't seen it on a plate yet". The oysters arrived five minutes later, deep-fried in pastry, artfully arrayed on piles of pickled cucumber. It didn't do much for the bivalves, except muffle their briny tang in a floury, doughy obfuscation which wasn't helped by the pickled cucumber, which tasted of sauerkraut.

James, however, was in raptures over his Jerusalem artichoke velouté, ladled around a crayfish ravioli. The latter was closer to a Chinese dumpling than pasta, but the texture of the crayfish was bliss. And the velouté was "miles better than you'd ever expect from a provincial restaurant". (James isn't a snob. Ask anyone. Well, anyone who matters.)

The service didn't improve. If you asked for wine, it took an aeon to come. If you ate the bread, it could be Christmas before they offered any more. If you asked the waiter to remind you what was in a dish, you could guarantee he wouldn't reappear for 10 minutes. Was it something I said?

The main courses offered the same breed of solid English dishes (guinea fowl, turbot, steak, monkfish, pork belly), given some French-Italian grace notes. My pork belly resembled a slice of treacle tart, but tasted just perfect, crispy on top, velvety down below, moistened by tomato sauce, given a lovely kick by braised fennel. Why then spoil things by including half a dozen squid rings in batter, and a "fennel confit", in which fennel slices were brutally soured with lemon juice and olive oil?

James's turbot came with risotto balls, clams on their shells and a single young artichoke, naked and shivering like a Victorian urchin. James detected signs that it had been lightly fried rather than poached. "It's taken away its turbot quality, coarsened it and dried it out." But he ate it with relish, and I thought the turbot and clams worked out just fine.

I asked the waiter to talk us through the cheese selection. "Basically it's brie, cheddar and goat's cheese," he said, like one announcing a death in the family. Instead, I had the passionfruit curd with lemon rice and jelly and lemon sherbert granite, which was good and tart but was basically a big dish of freezing lemon on cold curd – a pudding to chill you to the marrow. The banana tarte tatin was infinitely better, the bananas cooked à point, accompanied by "parsley" (actually pistachio) ice cream, rolled in caramelised walnut – a thing of eccentric beauty, with a huge brandy snap the size of a surfboard.

It was a curiously hit-and-miss dinner, over-reliant on floury experiments and acidic vegetables, but the actual cooking was fine and the presentation dramatic; virtually every dish featured that modish annoyance of a sauce into which the kitchen maestro has clearly jabbed an intrusive forefinger. I think that's the trouble here – the feeling of the chef's finger prodding you to be amazed by his style, rather than employing it in trying to cook you a good meal. Sometimes, Tristan, it's not all about you.

Restaurant Tristan, Stans Way, East Street, Horsham, West Sussex (01403 255688)

Food 3 stars
Ambience 3 stars
Service 1 stars

Around £90 for two, with wine

Tipping policy

"Service charge is 10 per cent – of which about 90 per cent goes to the restaurant staff; all cash tips are divided among the waiting staff"

Side orders: The joy of sussex
By Madeleine Lim

Jolly Sportsman
This glorious gastropub serves superlative pub food – main courses include Saddleback pork belly with mash, cavolo and thyme gravy (£14.85).
Chapel Lane, East Chiltington (01273 890400)

West Stoke House
The inspired modern-Brit cooking from Darren Brown includes a pan-fried fillet of black bream with aubergine and plum tomato tart. 2-course lunch: £19.50.
West Stoke, Chichester (01243 575226)

Due South
Sublime cooking using local produce – start with a seared pigeon and blackberry salad, followed by braised hare with South Downs butter mash and jugged sauce.
139 King's Road Arches, Brighton (01273 821218)

Real Eating Company
Tempting deli and restaurant serving exemplary seasonal food with a modern British emphasis. A cod fillet with crab risotto, aioli and pesto sauce costs a reasonable £14.86.
Western Road, Hove (01273 221444)

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors together in Magic in the Moonlight: Woody Allen's 1920s romance

PROMOTED VIDEO
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
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
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

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week