REVIEW: Celebrating the tradition of the finest Sunday lunch in Petworth
Traditional Sunday lunch.
On a crisp autumnal day these three simple words conjure up a host of emotions.
They remind us of the importance of finding a little space at the weekend and spending it with family or friends.
They are a prompt too of the sheer joy of sharing a meal which is an intrinsic part of the British psyche.
The best Sunday lunches, of course, are cooked by someone else - who will also take responsibility not just for the preparation but the clearing up as well!
Nostalgic reminiscences of childhood Sunday lunches were always besmirched by the horror of washing up afterwards and ensuring your siblings did not evade their fair share of the duties.
Many pubs and restaurants claim to have this weekend specialty as part of their culinary repertoire.
The best of them serve beautifully tender meat, in elegant surroundings with a terrific wine list and a polished serving team who never intrude into the conversation.
The Leconfield at Petworth leads the field.
We've eaten there before but welcomed the chance to escape for three courses from their Sunday lunch menu.
Frankly, it doesn't get much better than this.
Two courses are Â£25; three courses Â£30.
Yes, you can find cheaper elsewhere - but not necessarily with the guarantee of such consistent good quality.
The choice of starters were tomato soup, duck croquette, and crayfish croquette.
The soup, with a hint of spice, was spot on. The croquette was packed with duck - tender and textured - and set off beautifully with fig chutney.
But it will always be the roast itself which defines the success of the occasion.
There were three options. Slow roasted Sussex beef, slow cooked Sussex Pork belly, and slow roasted leg of Sussex lamb. They were all served with duck fat roasted potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and magnificent Yorkshire pudding, and meat jus.
Joyfully, the jus was served in separate jugs - so you could add as little or as much as you wished without drowning the meal.
For vegetarians there was a Gnocchi and for those who prefer fish, pan roasted cod. We sampled neither of these so cannot comment.
The beef and the lamb, which were our mains of choice, were simple in composition, supremely well cooked, and stylishly presented on the plate.
Desserts which concluded the meal featured sticky toffee pudding, winter berry crumble, and pannacotta.
Restaurant manager Carlos Simao nodded approvingly at the choice of crumble. It was rich in fruit and and the crumble was as lightly crisp as you could hope.
They were still pouring into The Leconfield for lunch well after we had finished our three courses. It's no surprise that the venue attracts such a following.
The wine list is as powerful as the menu. It's reasonably priced too. We had a glass of the sparkling Berry Brothers Cremant de Limoux, France (Â£8.50) on arrival and
La Flor Malbec 2016 Mendoza, Argentina (Â£8.50) with the main course.
A small fortune has been spent on the historic building's renovation. The cloakrooms - always a signal of the health of a restaurant - were spotlessly clean. Carlos and his colleague Zac could not have been more welcoming.
Head chef Mark Lawton has gone on record saying: “My style of cooking is simple, seasonal dependent and clean dishes that are bold and flavours that pack a punch. Still with a classical way of preparing and cooking but a bit more modernised the way we present dishes. I do try and use a little of my Asian background and ingredients but I wouldn't call it fusion.”
His mastery of the kitchen is reflected in external awards. It is an AA 2 rosette awarded restaurant, listed in the 2016 Tatler Restaurant Guide & the 2016 Good Food guide.
But the real proof of the pudding is in the eating.