The Earl of March in Lavant is grand by name and proved equally resplendent in taste, as Alice Cooke found out.
Purporting to be a country pub restaurant, as The Earl of March does, is in my eyes far too modest. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of brilliant rural pubs in Sussex, but the food here is so much more than you’d ever expect from pub fare.
There’s sumptuously fresh seafood, tender and fantastically flavoured local meat, and vegetables that “have travelled as little as possible before they get to your plate,” according to our waiter. Which brings me to the staff, who are charming, smiley and reassuringly au fait with everything on the menu and the wine list.
The latter is an oenophile’s delight, with local offerings alongside choice pickings from around the world, and yet while this is all very impressive, the food is the real champion here…
To start we had emulsion of watercress with seared diver scallop, pancetta and truffle oil, which was one of the ever-changing seasonal chef’s specials, and steamed mussels in cider and parsley cream with frites. These were both spot on, and I also noticed the neighbouring table starting with grilled halloumi, salad of marinated summer vegetables, confit lemon and truffle vinaigrette, which looked equally mouthwatering.
To follow this we enjoyed (which is in itself something of an understatement), breast of guinea fowl, panache of seasonal vegetables, oxtail pomme purée and roast jus; and sirloin steak, garlic butter, hand cut chips, grilled field mushroom and plum tomato. The steak is something that you find on nearly every menu, granted, but when it’s done brilliantly, boy is it done brilliantly, and this was superb. The guinea fowl was tremendously well seasoned and flavoured – it was rich and succulent but not too gamey.
There’s a sporting-themed party room that you can hire out for events, which can also be opened out on to a patio. This looks like it would be gorgeously cosy in the winter, but in summer it’s equally appealing, with its homely décor and comfortable private setting.
The whole scene is helped by the fact that the Earl of March looks out over Goodwood and all that the beautiful estate entails. For those who aren’t familiar with the area I am talking enviable rolling downland, but also a car park full of amazing sports and vintage vehicles all year round.