It has been some time since I have visited Rye. In fact, I had forgotten just how pretty it is. Especially the High Street area with it’s cobbled streets, architectural charm and cafes and pubs galore.
One of the most striking premises here is The Ambrette. The front of the building is concealed by a thick drape of ivy, which I feel adds to its appeal. From closer inspection we find it is housed within the confines of a boutique guest house. My companion, A, and I arrive on a Tuesday evening for our 7.30 booking. We wait only a matter of seconds in the waiting area, which incidentally, feels like a hotel lobby and are swiftly shown to a table within a beautiful dining room to the front right of the building. There are only a handful of tables within the room, creating a nice atmosphere, and there is an old fireplace with modern touches which I found a nice feature. The majority of the tables are taken, and those that aren’t are quickly filled. Immediately, we are provided menus and left to make our decisions.
The menu is Indian, though certainly not your average Indian, it is obvious that the food here is prepared with a strong nod toward fine dining. You will certainly not find ‘mixed kebab’ or ‘onion Bhaji’ which is a welcome change, but there is ample to choose from which, in fact, makes us a little indecisive. As A has his heart set on the game dishes, and I am the designated driver, we decide on a bottle of Lo Troncos Carmenere from Chile. This is a fairtrade wine and a variety unique to Chile, fresh and medium-bodied with a long and lightly spiced finish - perfect for our choices! A decides on the Breasts of Wood Pigeon, grilled with ginger and aromatic spices, served with a game mince patty and a shallot and coriander raita. For his main he opts for the Pan grilled duck served with a sauce of fresh oranges fenel and cinnamon. I decide on the Brochettes of lamb marinaded in a pickle served on a bed of sweet potatoes followed up with the Spice crusted pork tenderloin with a Goan style sauce. We are brought a gorgeous shot of mango and (I believe) guava pulp, by our attentive waitress which sets some excitement. This is then followed by a pre-starter which seemed to be a deep fried ball of potato with an extremely pleasant slick of sauce. This gets the thumbs up and we wait anxiously for our starters. These are delivered promptly, and we are both very impressed by the presentation which is artistically set out on large oblong plates. A’s pigeon is cooked to absolute perfection, slightly pink in the middle, the accompanying sauces are fresh tasting which marries extremely well to the spicing and gamey flavours. My lamb is also a triumph. The meat is melt in the mouth and there is a layer of different flavours which again compliments the dish very well.
In fact, at this point, I have to say that I am that impressed that I make comparisons with Atul Kochhar’s restaurant that I visited last year. The standard is that good, if not better. Both delighted by our choices, we are then presented with a ‘pre main’. This time we are provided with a ball of deep fried vegetable and a small cuplet of soup in which to dip it, this has a light minty flavour and is absolutely delicious. It is again not long until our mains arrive. Again, the presentation is top notch. A’s duck comes ready sliced, with a nice crispy skin and precision cooking, he exclaims that the plate is bursting with flavour, and is a darn fine take on the old classic Duck l’Orange. My main is a revelation. I am somewhat of a chilli fiend, one of the morons that when dining at a traditional Indian, orders the hottest dish they have such as a phall. I was aware that Goan cooking was fiery, hence why I ordered it. This though has lots of great flavours and although sweat inducing is extremely pleasant. The pork is moist and I am able to mop up the sauce with the fantastic side we have of courgette with coconut as well as the delightfully fluffy naan bread which accompanied both dishes. Unfortunately, I hate to say, we were both defeated after this but are still presented with an iced fruit concoction that is sprinkled with popping candy - excellent! We order coffees and await the bill, which is an extremely reasonable £111 including service. This includes starters, main courses, all the additionals, 2 sides, wine, water and coffee. To finish we are also provided a gorgeous white chocolate truffle.
Overall, I highly recommend the Ambrette. There is some excellent cooking being showcased and the service and ambience was perfect. I would suggest that they are heading toward Michelin star territory, so with prices as reasonable as these it may be an idea to get down there quickly!