The Dysart was transformed from a local pub into a fine dining restaurant in 2014. The dining area is spread over two floors, and tables are widely spaced. Head chef Kenneth Culhane is a Roux Scholar, and had worked previously at the excellent Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin. The Dysart was awarded a long overdue Michelin star in 2020. There was a full a la carte selection, but today we went for the tasting menu at £95. There was also a three-course menu at £45.
The wine list had 205 full bottles, ranging in price from £27.50 to £995, with a median price of £55 and an average markup to retail price of just under three times, which is fair. The list is quite international, with just 31% of the bottles being from France, and with labels from The Lebanon, Bulgaria and Slovenia as well as the usual suspects. It was also nice to see 39% of the list under £50, so it is not a list just for the wealthy. Example labels were Sussex Reserve from Nutbourne Vineyards 2018 at £35 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £10, Blank Canvas Chardonnay 2016 at £67.50 compared to its retail price of £34, and the lovely Jermann Capo Martino 2010 at £116 for a label that will set you back £73 in a shop. At the prestige end of the list, Meursault “Les Perrières” Domaine Jean-Michel Gaunoux 2011 was £149.50 compared to its retail price of £98, and Pavilion Rouge Château Margaux 2004 was £325 for a wine that has a current market value of £202.
Parmesan shortbread canapes were the first food to appear, the little biscuits topped with roasted tomato jam, dashi and lemon basil. These were closely followed by two further canapes. Crab on a fennel pollen cracker topped with wild salmon roe was lovely, the crab naturally sweet and tasting very fresh, pairing well with the saltyiness of the roe. Even better was shirodashi glazed Irish eel on a kudzu flour cracker with oyster leaf, garnished with oscietra caviar (from the large supplier Petrossian). The Japanese shirodashi seasoning, made from light soy, bonito dashi and kombu, goes really well with eel, which had excellent flavour, with the crisp cracker providing a textural contrast (canapes 16/20 average, but the eel was better than this).
This was followed by a technically interesting dish, with three different hot and cold layers, served in a shot glass. Hen’s egg, maple syrup and Pedro Ximenez sherry contrasted sweet and savoury and hot and cold, and was pleasant enough (15/20); apparently it a homage to the "chaud-froid d'oeuf à la ciboulette" dish of Alain Passard of Arpege.. A signature dish of the restaurant followed, mackerel with champagne sauce, braised daikon and fresh radish. The mackerel was precisely cooked, and its natural oiliness was cleverly balanced by the freshness of the champagne sauce and the earthiness of the radish (17/20). Bread was made from scratch in the kitchen, a sourdough focaccia that was a definite upgrade from the soda bread that used to be served here.
A hand-dived Orkney scallop was precisely cooked and had lovely natural sweetness, served with a little peach to provide acidity, nicely presented with local tomatoes and herbs from the garden (16/20). This was followed by a refreshing chilled pea soup that had been flavoured with apple, verbena and a little Dorset wasabi. The peas had very good flavour and the acidity of the apple and gentle spice of the wasabi was a nice combination (16/20).
The star dish was a fillet of turbot from a huge 15kg fish (with turbot, bigger is better in terms of flavour). This was beautifully cooked and served with a deeply flavoured vin jaune sauce involving chicken stock and also concentrated duck stock, served alongside lovely braised morel mushrooms. This was a superb dish (18/20). For main course I swapped out the default lamb for an oxtail risotto with pickled chilli and bone marrow. The aged Acquarello rice beautifully absorbed the flavours of the stock and the bone marrow, with the bite of chill counteracting the richness (16/20). A vegetarian alternative was excellent pasta dish with goat curd, summer truffles and Parmesan.
Pre-dessert was a refreshing young ginger, Irish coffee and lychee sorbet. This was a clever combination of flavours (16/20). This was followed by a dessert of Araguani chocolate from Venezuela topped with Tulameen raspberries alongside saffron, pistachio and rose petal ice cream. The acidity of the raspberries was a good contrast to the richness of the chocolate and richness of the saffron (16/20).
The restaurant has recently upgraded its beverage suppliers, and now uses Difference coffee and Lalani tea. Service, led by owner Barney Taylor, was charming, and the bill came to £245 each including copious amounts of excellent wine. If you ordered a la carte and shared a bottle of modest wine then a more typical bill might be around £90. This was a lovely, enjoyable meal, as it always seems to be here. The Dysart is a charming restaurant, and the food has steadily risen in standard here.Book