Whites Bar & Kitchen

23 High Street, Steyning, West Sussex, Steyning, England, BN44 3YE, United Kingdom

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Editor's note. This restaurant has now closed and is now "The White Horse Smokehouse and Grill'. The notes below are therefore solely of historical interest.

White’s is on the site of a 15th century coaching inn, just a small part of which remains due to the ravages of a fire. It is in the quite pretty village of the unpromisingly named Steyning, the dining room having a conservatory extension providing good natural light. The décor is simple, with wooden floors and no tablecloths, though there are white linen napkins. Chef Stuart Dove has spent many years abroad after a one year stint as a chef de partie at Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, and as a pastry chef a few years ago at the Michelin starred Lux Stockholm. The menu is firmly British, based on local ingredients, and takes the unusual step of noting the number of miles each ingredient has travelled from its source. Starters are £5 - £7, main courses £13.25 - £17.50 and desserts mostly £6.25, with Sussex cheese at £9.75. There was a two course lunch menu available for just £10.

The wine list, put together by Bibendum, has some pleasant wines, but oddly has omitted to show the vintages in most (yet, even more oddly, not all) cases. Whilst someone has taken the trouble to provide brief tasting notes on the wines, this attention to detail did not extend to checking the spelling of the grape varieties. Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc is listed at £24.50 compared to a retail price of £8, Les Tourelles de Longueville 2004 at £52 for a wine that can be bought for around £20 retail, and the local Bacchus Primose Hill at £24 for a wine that will set you back around £9 in the shops. The objective bargain of the list is the Dom Perignon 1998, which was £145 compared to a shop price of around £190 (I suspect this price may change shortly after I post this review).

The restaurant makes some of its own bread, something I heartily applaud. Foccacia was a little dry but nicely seasoned, brioche was pleasant, while a bought-in sourdough was also good (14/20). I began with game terrine, served with cranberry jam, mulled wine jelly, walnuts and green beans. The beans were nicely cooked and the walnuts excellent; the terrine itself, a country-style coarse terrine made from locally hunted game, had good taste but also some elements that were a little chewy (13/20). I also tasted some fried local oysters, which were clearly fresh and had good batter.

My main course of lemon sole with scallops and a few pieces of baby carrots was served on the bone. The fish itself was fresh, properly timed and the small scallops were cooked well enough, though it is hard to find really exciting lemon sole, and in this case the rather oily sauce with it did not add much (11/20). I was genuinely surprised by the excellent chips, crisp and cooked nicely through. I later discovered that these were not only hand-cut but, crucially, triple cooked, which is for me the best possible way that a chip can be prepared; in this case King Edwards potatoes were used (16/20).

A choice of three local cheeses consisted of Sister Sarah goat cheese from High Weald, Flower Marie ewe’s milk cheese and Sussex Blue: the mild Sister Sarah was in lovely condition, the ewe’s milk cheese pleasant but the blue for me was past its prime (14/20 overall).

Dessert of spiced baked apple used a russet apple, served with Calvados-flamed dry fruit, thick pastry cream and salted caramel ice cream. This was fine, the apple cooked to a pleasing consistency, the ice cream well made with smooth texture (13/20). I preferred this to a deconstructed lemon meringue pie, whose elements of lemon curd, shortbread, meringue and vanilla ice cream matched each other well, but suffered from mediocre meringue and shortbread (11/20). Illy espresso coffee was pleasant was served in a decent measure. Service was friendly and very helpful throughout the meal.

While there were some relative ups and down in the meal, the care taken with ingredients, the home-made bread and fine triple cooked chips mark this out as a place worth visiting in an area not exactly over-burdened with good restaurants.

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