European cuisine in Haywards Heath restaurant review - out of this world...

Restaurants set amid wonderful gardens make a meal out in the summer even more special. Lulu Larkin has found one where the views and the food are out of this world, Jeremy's restaurant at Borde Hill in Haywards Heath ...

IF Kent is the Garden of England, then Sussex is the gardener's world. Whether you're a knowledgeable enthusiast, a keen amateur or someone like me who can't tell a weed from a weigela, you'll be surprised and inspired by the wealth of parks, woodlands and gardens on your doorstep and the inspirational and surprising restaurants hidden within.

Jeremy's is such a place. It's located within the 200-acre Borde Hill Park, one of the county's most popular gardens and just five minutes away from Haywards Heath. Sweep through the gates along the imposing drive through luscious parkland passing an imaginative children's play area to the right, the Green Tree art gallery to the left and up the hill to a very grand Tudor mansion owned for more than 100 years by the Stephenson Clarke family.


Next to the (ample and free) car park, there's a cobbled courtyard and converted stables with one of the prettiest restaurants I've ever seen. Huge glass windows let you glimpse through its light, creamy room to the garden beyond. Nearly every table was taken with families clearly enjoying themselves and children eating chocolate cookies the size of cartwheels. But just a minute, this is Caf� Elvira. So where is Jeremy's?

At that moment, an old oak door opened next door and Sarah rushed out to meet us, explaining: "That belongs to Jeremy's wife. Isn't it wonderful? It's been a huge success and families love it as they can bring their dogs along, too. But come on in and have a drink - you must be thirsty after your journey." Well, not really as we'd only set off from Eastbourne 40 minutes earlier, but it was a wonderful welcome and a splendid idea.


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We were ushered through to a cosy bar overlooking a rose-covered archway and served olives, fresh orange juice and champagne by a delightful Scots lady called Noddy (we never found out why) while Cyril, the ever-attentive restaurant manager, talked us through the various menus. The three-course table d'hote (�22.50) offered plenty of choice and there was la carte, too, but Cyril mentioned the new six-course degustation menu (�32.50/�50 with wine) that evening. The menu, created by Jeremy and his head chef Andre Ebert, hadn't been printed yet but would we like to try it? Ooh, yes please. I love surprises!


Cyril showed us to our window table overlooking the lake with its mesmerising glass water feature designed by local artist Allissia de Lucy Spofforth, whose paintings adorn the walls of the restaurant. A pity they didn't consult her about the Diana memorial fountain.


Our meal began with two sushi rolls and a shot glass of tomato and basil sorbet with an anchovy so tasty Daniel filched mine. The homemade walnut bread made it a sensational starter. Then came a scrumptious summery salad of crab, asparagus and broad beans with a creamy lovage dressing and parmesan crisps followed by a perfectly-cooked crispy breast and confit leg of duck on a bed of leek and strawberry risotto. At that moment a duck flew out of the lake and waddled on the courtyard in front of us. Cyril saw my concern but reassured me that it was Penny, a pet duck who nests in the lake every year but stays well away from the kitchen.


Just as we were wondering whether the food could get any better, we were served fillet of sea bass teamed with gazpacho and a tapenade crostini. What a sublime combination. Noddy came along to see if were all right but we were just lost in silent appreciation. "Do you think you're going to make it?" she asked. No doubt about it.


Every course and accompanying glass of wine was served in moderation, all the more to enjoy this wonderful food. But there were two courses still to come. The meltingly-tender baby kid with roasted new potatoes, artichokes and baby vegetables couldn't be faulted nor could the glass of Chianti Riserva 2003 which accompanied it. Only Daniel was brave enough to tackle the quartet of strawberry desserts: miniature pavlova, fruit-filled tuile, homemade ice cream and the fluffiest pannacotta ever.


Perhaps the most perfect meal Daniel or I have eaten. But don't just read the review, enjoy Jeremy's for yourself. He's hosting a jazz brunch on July 6 to celebrate his restaurant's tenth anniversary. Why not go along and wish Jeremy and Vera a very happy birthday - they deserve it.


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Anderida at Ashdown Park

Wych Cross, nr Forest Row, East Sussex RH18 5JR

tel: 01342 824 988

Formerly a convalescent home in World War One, a nunnery and a university, this listed 19th century mansion lies in the heart of Ashdown Forest and is surrounded by 186 acres of beautiful parkland, landscaped garden and lakes. Enjoy the scenery - or even a round of golf - before lunch at the Anderida, which prides itself on imaginative cooking using the freshest local ingredients. A typical menu might include pumpkin ravioli, roast cod on chorizo risotto and strawberry pannacotta (�23.95pp).

Afterwards, take the children on a woodland nature trail, a bird-spotting expedition or see if they can find a secret garden. If you fancied a lakeside picnic, Anderida will rustle up a hamper (from �20pp).


Purus at Ghyll Manor

High Street, Rusper, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 4PX

tel: 01342 810567

Rusper is one of the prettiest villages in Sussex and home to the imposing 16th century Ghyll Manor and the award-winning Purus restaurant. Although owned by the Civil Service Motoring Association, Purus is open to the public, who can enjoy a three-course meal created by Alec Mackin, former head chef at the Savile Club in London, for less than �20. Expect delectable dishes and afterwards guests are invited to take tea or coffee in the terraced courtyard, explore the expansive landscaped gardens or just sit and relax by the lake.


The Orangery at PowderMills Hotel

Powdermill Lane, Battle, East Sussex TN33 0SP

tel: 01424 775511

Another gardener's garden with its own superb restaurant is the 18th century listed PowderMills country house hotel near Battle. Built on the site of the finest gunpowder factory in Europe during the Napoleonic Wars, it now provides a more tranquil setting for its visitors, who are encouraged to explore the 150 acres of landscaped gardens, parkland, woodland trails and weeping-willowed lakes usually accompanied by the hotel's enthusiastic springer spaniels. The Orangery is a light and spacious marble-floored conservatory adorned with Greek statues and exotic plants. Take a window table overlooking the terrace and enjoy exceptional food.

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