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Upon entering this two-AA-rosette-awarded restaurant, we were amiably welcomed and shown to our table in the orangery. One of several delightful dining areas in this 17th-century building is the spacious conservatory, which affords views of an enclosed courtyard – an idyllic spot for al fresco dining when the sun shines.
As we perused the set lunchtime menu, we were presented with warm, crusty brown bread accompanied by malted yeast butter with onion ash – the first of many adventurous takes on culinary staples delivered by head chef Mark Lawton during our visit. To start, the Norfolk quail adobo – Mark’s take on a classic Filipino dish – was a succulent affair, with sesame and puffed rice adding texture. Plump morsels of the stout-cured chalk stream trout were delicate and moreish, and the accompanying pickled shallots and horseradish gave the subtle fish a defined edge. We followed with South Down venison, which was a work of art, served with feather-light truffl ed potato, red cabbage and blackberry jus. The buttery, slow-cooked guinea fowl breast was equally pleasing, arranged with delicious trompette mushrooms picked by Mark, who likes to forage and find wild ingredients to incorporate into his dishes. Pear tarte Tatin with amaretto ice cream fitfully rounded off proceedings, while the cheeseboard was a triumph. For first-rate seasonal cuisine served by knowledgeable and attentive staff in genial surroundings, you’ll find no better than The Leconfield.