A birthday is always an excellent reason for a festive gastronomic adventure, and this year we ended up at The Parsons Table in Arundel. The Good Food Guide gave it a fine write-up and the sample menu on the website was enticing – our kind of food we felt, and we were not disappointed. Being a Saturday lunch-time, the light, modern interior was buzzing with energy, the atmosphere was relaxed and easy, and the welcome smiling and warm.
We started off with a glass of the rather comically named but beautifully balanced and crisp sparkling wine – Nutty Brut from the local Nutbourne Vineyards- while we contemplated the day’s “specials” on the board and the weekly changing à la carte menu. After much deliberation and negotiation (it is strictly forbidden for us to choose the same dish), we finally managed to put together a combination which satisfied us both and gave us a broad taste of the culinary treats on offer as well the chef’s very confident and accurate fish cookery.
My scallops with celeriac purée, bloomed sultanas and red wine sauce were fabulously fresh and cooked with admirable precision, resulting in a golden, slightly crusty exterior and a centre of utter tenderness; the only disappointment was the scarcity of both celeriac purée and sauce – both the scallops and I would have loved at least three times the quantity. Sous-Chef went for the Confit Duck Croquettes with parmesan and truffle oil aïoli – crisply coated spheres of duck confit packed with flavour and savouriness and utterly life-enhancing, although here again the aïoli was a bit sparse for our liking, let alone sharing.
The main courses had to come from the daily specials – after all, for a restaurant this close to the sea, it seems criminal not to opt for the local fish. A medley of gurnard, hake and brill with courgettes, samphire and an intense bouillabaisse sauce was soft, smooth and silky, with a hint of heat and plenty of Mediterranean sunshine, a perfect contrast to Sous-Chef’s choice of hake with leeks, potatoes, chives and brown shrimp in a white wine velouté – delicate, subtle flavours with the elegance of classical French cuisine.
Selecting two puddings out of the four on offer should not have been difficult but certainly led to lots more discussion and bargaining. The Fine Pear Galette with almond frangipane and salted caramel ice cream was easily discarded since
frangipane is not one of my favourite things, but I was very tempted by the Treacle Tart with lemon thyme and passionfruit ripple ice cream. Although I love treacle tart, the magnet on this occasion was the ice cream but my indecision was solved by the waitress’ suggestions of a scoop of the ice cream to be savoured alongside the other contender, a White Chocolate Cheesecake with rhubarb Gelée, poached rhubarb and honeycomb. This resolution left Sous-Chef free to opt for the Rhubarb Crumble with strawberry ripple ice cream which turned out to be the champion of the whole meal: soft, slightly tart rhubarb in the bottom of a wide soup plate, a crisp, crunchy layer of golden crumble and a scoop of sheer summer to top it all off. The flavour in my cheesecake and the passionfruit ripple ice cream was a bit too elusive for my liking but the rhubarb added plenty of clout and the honeycomb was as light as a feather, crisp with just the right amount of chewiness.
All in all, our visit to The Parsons Table was a delightful, soothing and satisfying
experience marked by delicious food, impeccable friendly service, and a very reasonable final bill of just over £100 for three courses and four glasses of wine.
The Parsons Table, 2 & 8 Castle Mews, Tarrant Street, Arundel, BN18 9DG, West Sussex - www.theparsonstable.co.uk