Newly opened restaurant Sussex is the latest (and greatest) venture of the Gladwin brothers, following on from the success of The Shed (Notting Hill), Rabbit (on the Kings Road) and Nutbourne (in Battersea). There is culinary history in the very bones of the restaurant site on Frith Street in central Soho – it used to house first Bruno Loubet’s first solo restaurant Bistro Bruno and later Anthony Demetre’s seminal restaurant, Arbutus.
With ingredients sourced directly from the Gladwins’ family farm and vineyard, or else from only the very finest local suppliers, the brothers are committed to an ever-changing seasonal menu with sustainability at its heart. Combining the rustic with the refined, Chef Patron Oliver Gladwin moves away from his previous sharing-dish concept and serves up course after course of simple yet elegant goodness, combining the classic with the progressive!
Mixing contemporary artworks with carefully chosen artisan furniture and dark oak panels, Sussex feels almost ski-chalet like. Coming in from a chilly December evening it instantly feels warm and welcoming, without a hint of pretension or unnecessary fuss. The staff greet you like long-lost friends and the atmosphere is one of great good-humour and bonhomie. The layout makes impressive use of a relatively small space, with a lighter, brighter bar area towards the front and a tucked away, candle-lit back area for a spot of real romance.
The crowd at Sussex come 8 pm (and what a crowd – this is clearly somewhere that needs booking ahead) couldn’t have been more diverse. From the casual to the classy; large noisy groups of friends, close-leaning romantic couples, and even young families. Sussex – brand new though it might be – already has the feel of a well-established local, somewhere you could as happily bring your date, your office party or your mother. The one thing everyone seemed to have in common was an appetite for good food and a good time.
The menu at Sussex is reassuringly brief – often less than 6 options per course – though might still seem intimidating when you see something like marmite mushroom éclair listed. I can only encourage visitors to Sussex to put their faith in the excellent staff who are more than happy to answer questions and advise. The flavour combinations are classic, the seasonal ingredients are carefully chosen – chef Oliver Gladwin’s philosophy “what grows together, goes together” – and all the plates are executed with genuine artistic flair.
To begin with, the bar snacks alone are worth coming back for; we enjoyed meltingly lovely venison cigars (yes, you read that right) with horseradish (£6), crispy pork belly bites with kimchi (£4) and the scary-sounding but to-die-for mushroom marmite eclairs (£4).
Then for starters, I opted for sweetly delicious (not to mention absolutely huge) hand-dived scallops, with blood pudding, Jerusalem artichokes, apple and sour cream (£14), while my partner was in pasta-Heaven with his South Downs hare ragu, egg yolk, pappardelle, tarragon and English pecorino (£9). We couldn’t resist sharing the venison and mushroom wellington special (£58 for two), which came with crisply moreish vinegar powdered straw chips and buttered rainbow brassicas. Though it may seem pricey, there’s more food on the plate than at first meets the eye and was a perfectly executed dish. The only slightly underwhelming note came in the form of dessert; my chocolate and disaronno mousse with caramel sponge and raspberry sorbet (£6) was refreshing, and my companion’s magnum viennetta was perfectly lovely but didn’t hit the absolute highs of the earlier courses.
At the end of the meal, and despite bursting waistlines, I did almost consider ordering some more marmite eclairs to go…
The bar is an excellent pit stop in itself, even if you’re not sitting down to dinner, with a genuinely top-notch cocktail menu. Our excellent barman recommended the British Negroni made with Adnams Copper House gin and Kamm and Sons vermouth (£12) which went down an absolute treat at the end of a long week. Likewise, my partner’s Sussex 75 made from rhubarb and ginger gin, lemon and Nutty Wild sparkling wine (£12) was the sort of drink you could happily stick with all night. The wine list is also short but interesting, with plenty of wines from the Gladwin’s own vineyard and a good selection of (of course) Sussex wines. With dinner, I enjoyed an excellently well-paired Josef Ehmoser Gruner Veltliner (£6.50 per glass) with my scallops and a delicious 2018 Chinon Rouge (£7.50 per glass).
In a nutshell
Sussex exudes genuine warmth and appealing rustic charm, from the fantastic staff to the beautiful plates of food. I can’t think of an eatery that better captures the spirit of the outdoors whilst being slap bang in the buzzing middle of London. Absolutely somewhere worth returning to no matter what mood you’re in and who is with you – Sussex will put a smile on your face!