What it’s like at Field & Fork restaurant in Chichester

The quietly unassuming Field & Fork in Chichester (Photo by Duncan Hall)

The quietly unassuming Field & Fork in Chichester (Photo by Duncan Hall) - Credit: Archant

We discover a warm welcome from a restaurant hidden away in a Chichester’s side street

Appearances can be deceiving. Which is what I’m reminding myself of as, leaving the hustle and bustle of North Street behind us, we step into an unlit side street and approach Field & Fork. The eerie silence, lack of street lights and an exterior covered in scaffolding isn’t doing the restaurant any favours, but, despite all that, the old adage couldn’t be more true.

Owned and run by husband and wife team Sam and Janet Mahoney, Field & Fork is built on solid culinary foundations. Head chef Sam has worked in kitchens since he was a teenager. The pair first met while employed by the Roux brothers, going on to work in New York and Japan, before settling in Janet’s home county, and launching Field & Fork in Chichester in 2014.

Inside we’re enveloped by a warm amber glow. The dark, foreboding street is replaced with soft candlelight and the sound of a crackling log fire. The first diners of the evening, we’re led through to the conservatory where elegant mismatched chairs, botanical prints, exposed brick and wooden tables create a relaxed French-country style.

The set menu provides two courses for £18.95 or three for £23.95, but there’s the option to mix and match dishes from the a la carte menu. As Sam explains, his local suppliers, such as Browns Seafoods in Littlehampton and Horrocks Greengrocers in West Wittering, have a huge impact on what the restaurant offers. “The menu can change daily, weekly, monthly,” he says. “We use seasonal ingredients and take direction from our suppliers.”

I find it easy to choose a starter. I recently learned that red mullet is Rick Stein’s favourite fish and it’s been top of my list to try ever since. The red mullet, miso glaze, pickled watermelon and cucumber (£6.50) is salty, sweet, and comforting for a light fish course. I’m with Rick on this one – the fish is top notch.

The caramelised beetroot tart with Roquefort and walnuts (£6.95) is magnificent to look at. The glistening rounds of deep-purple beetroot sit atop a delicate crisp and light pastry base. Blue cheese and walnuts give the dish a wonderful contrast of textures and flavours.

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Onto the mains, and it’s the pan-roasted scallops, parsnip puree and tarragon mayonnaise (£18.50) that piques my interest. I can’t fault this dish: sweet, caramelised scallops alongside a velvety smooth puree, earthy Romanesco and a thick, shiny mayonnaise. It’s a true showstopper. There is a lot of nodding approval on the other side of the table. The herb-crumbed shin of beef, served with potato puree, pancetta and mushrooms (£18.95), has been slow-cooked for 12 hours so the soft strands of meat fall easily apart. The beef has an almost smoky flavour. My companion is enjoying the crisped lardons, which add texture and seasoning. Unfortunately, the herb crumb is not a hit. Raw onion is the dominant flavour and the crumb appears to have been added just before being brought to the table.

The coffee pannacotta with cinnamon doughnut (£6.25) is a little disappointing. The pannacotta is creamy with a lovely flavour, but it lacks that tantalising wobble. And, although warm with cinnamon, the ring doughnut is tough and chewy. The flavours are there, but the textures have missed the mark. But the chestnut cake with spiced mascarpone and poached clementine (£6.50) is wonderful. With a golden sugary crust, the cake is heavenly light and irresistible to the last bite.

It’s been a very relaxed evening spent in a restaurant that exudes a quiet confidence. Until the food arrives, there’s little hint that a chef with such an impressive culinary pedigree is at work, proving that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Field & Fork, 4 Guildhall Street, Chichester PO19 1NJ; 01243 789915; www.fieldandfork.co.uk


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