The Curlew is situated not far from Bodiam Castle. An old coaching inn, it has a pleasant exterior with a pristine car park to the side and a terrace garden to the rear. They were awarded a Michelin star back in 2011, and having dined here a couple of times before, and been impressed, I felt it was time to do a review.
On this occasion, we visited on a Sunday evening. Though they have earned a Michelin star, they manage to keep the dining room relaxed and unstuffy. There is no silence and crisp white table cloths but rather a welcoming atmosphere . There is a pleasant waiting area on entry, with large armchairs which opens up into the dining room. This is a pretty space, with snazzy plates adorning the walls and an open kitchen. In fact, it's definitely worth checking out their website (www.thecurlewrestaurant.co.uk) which I think is rather clever, as you interact with different elements of the restaurant to access areas such as menu, bookings etc.
We are seated promptly for our 19.00 booking. On this occasion, I am unable to drink as I am driving, though they have an extensive wine list, reasonably priced with wines by the glass, 500ml carafe (hurrah!) and bottle. I really like the menu here, as it concentrates solely on the ingredients, no 'pan fried this', 'nuclear blasted that' and this, even though a number of different techniques are obviously used in the kitchen. My partner H and I, decide on the Charcuterie for two (a selection of fishy things) and both opt for their signature dish 'Chop and chips', which I have had before. Be warned, if you have your heart set on this dish (which I heartily recommend) then it may be worth mentioning at point of booking as it is slow cooked and extremely popular! Whilst we await our starters, we are brought some freshly baked bread with salty butter and pork dripping with thyme. The pork dripping spreads easily over the warm crunchy bread and we clear the lot with ease. Our starter then arrives and looks fantastic. Presented on a board, it comprises a clever play on potted shrimps, air dried tuna, some coronation crab, pickled anchovies, sheet thin crouton and pickled cucumber. All the elements of the board are superb, but special mention must go to the tuna, which I can only describe as like a fine Parma ham with a fresh slightly fishy taste running through. All of it complimented wonderfully by the pickled cucumber.
The main event, undoubtedly is the 'Chop and chips' and I have to admit to dreaming of this dish since the first time I had the privilege of experiencing it. The chop is the part of the animal known as the Jacobs ladder, which is a task to cook but has remarkable flavour. Here, they slow cook it for 24 hours and I believe at some point of the process it sees a water bath. This gargantuan piece is served on a board atop it's bone, in thick slathers, with the bone also retaining a fair bit of tender meat to gnaw through. To the side are beautifully crisp potatoes, and a serving of Kohlrabi, a kind of cross between a cabbage and turnip. The meat is wonderfully tender - melt in the mouth, and the taste is quite excellent with deep flavours that are only achieved through the meat being dry aged. The chips are crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy within, which is how they should be. The kohlrabi is certainly needed and is a welcome respite from the sheer richness of the beautiful meat. I have to admit to this being one of my top five dishes of all time. I'm afraid that after this, we are simply defeated, and cannot manage another mouthful so are unable to experience dessert, though these look to be extremely good. Service throughout was excellent, friendly and unobtrusive and with a bill of around £65 for the two of us, you would be hard pushed to find dining of this quality at this price anywhere nearby. Approved! TheLa