Nestled at the end of a rural lane and overlooking the lapping waters of the Fishbourne Estuary, the Crown and Anchor at Dell Quay is a rather special place. Already popular with those in the know, it provides the ideal spot for a refresher on the way to the beach at West Wittering, or to simply sit, glass in hand, watching the bobbing boats on the quay.
A destination pub offering seasonal, beautifully presented food, the Crown and Anchor has expanded its already substantial offering with a monthly Chef’s Table event. Taking place in a stunningly appointed side room beside the open kitchen, we joined a table of twelve local guests to enjoy a host of carefully curated seasonal picks, paired with incredible wines. Masterminded by the Manager Oliver Thomas and Head Chef Jon Morley, the Chef’s Table gives the team a chance to showcase their favourite ingredients, experiment with menus and to help diners explore wines they might not usually try.
We took our seat at the table for the third monthly event on a wet and windy night at the start of March; the convivial atmosphere inside the pub more than compensating for the bleak weather outside. Joining a table of strangers turns out to be a fantastic way to enjoy your meal, with stimulating conversation about the ingredients and flavours as well as other fun chatter. We loved talking to our new friends for the evening – particularly Keith and Thelma who were there to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary!
The first course of Oysters Rockefeller was served with a dressing of land cress, parsley, garlic and breadcrumbs alongside tempura samphire and torched lemon. Our host, Chris, expertly talked us through his chosen accompaniment of Mezzi de Mezzacorona Glacial Bubbly. The zingy notes of the wine lifted the mineral quality of the oysters and the saltiness of the samphire bringing a delicious balance to the dish. Chris told us to look out for the flavours of popping candy and orchard fruits, which excited the palette without being overwhelming.
The fish course was another stunner. Wild seabass, served with a crab bisque, squid ink aioli and brioche crouton. We learnt that all the fish served at the Crown and Anchor comes from within 15-20 miles. This particular fish was a two and a half kilo specimen, cooked whole and taken off the bone just before serving to maximise the flavour. The accompanying crab bisque was luxuriously velvety and rich, while the garlicky aioli and brioche crouton made the ideal addition to the depth of flavours. For this course Chris had chosen a white Rioja, Vina Torcida, which cut through the robust flavours with its citrus aromas. We all agreed that this was a fabulous pairing, not least because it gave many around the table the opportunity to try a grape variety they’d never sampled before.
Shoulder of lamb, patiently cooked for nine hours was served next atop a bed of samphire and anchovy butter. Head Chef Jon gave us a passionate talk on the merits of using British lamb rather than New Zealand. The British variety is fattier meaning it carries greater intensity of flavour than its Antipodean cousin. The meat was unbelievably tender and flavourful while carrying delicate hints of the rosemary and garlic with which it had been roasted. The eccentrically named Lala Land Pinot Noir provided the perfect foil to the richness on the palate and the table was unanimous in its appreciation.
Somehow we managed to find even more space in our rapidly expanding tummies for Set Toffee Pudding with Sloe Gin and Sultana ice cream. The ice cream was perched on a ring of homemade toffee with biscuit crumble. All the fruity and buttery elements came together perfectly, especially when washed down with Chris’ final choice – Porto Ferriara, a tawny port.
There’s no doubt that this is a winning formula, the infectious enthusiasm and passion of the team coupled with outstanding food and wine makes for an evening that’s so much more than just a meal. The dining room’s situation beside the open kitchen adds a sense of drama and the feeling on the table was that this was definitely one to put in the diaries for next time.
It sounds like there’s going to be competition for a place at the table at next month’s event, so if you’d like to come along you’d better reserve your place at the table quickly. You can book online or by phone on 01243 781712.
If you can’t make it to the next event, or if you have a special occasion coming up, you can book a private Chef’s Table of your own. From 6-12 people you can have your very own chef and server and wow your guests with an evening of delicious food and drink overlooking the open kitchen on one side and the beautiful harbour views on the other.