It would be easy to assume that an estate hotel set in the heart of Goodwood with a captive audience from the legion of headline events held there would not need to try too hard to please its customers.
When business is almost guaranteed from visitors to the amazing horse racing and magnificent Revival, the hotel could just sit back and rest on its laurels, couldn’t it?
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The estate is the most successful of its kind in the country thanks to its painstaking pursuit of excellence and that applies as much in the kitchen of the Richmond Arms as it does on the racetrack at the Festival of Speed.
Second best is not a concept Goodwood has ever been prepared to accept. And by being number one in every part of the estate and then neatly connecting all the elements creates, in Aristotles words, a whole experience that is greater than the sum of its parts.
So its organic 12,000 acre Home Farm is the best. Farmer of the Year Tim Hassell has won countless awards.
It’s his rare breed meats, milk, cheeses combined with foraged wild produce from the Goodwood countryside that ensures the kitchen starts with the very best ingredients.
It is the ultimate example of the philosophy of farm to fork.
It’s at this stage, executive head chef Mark Forman and his team take over.
Their goal is to produce food that accentuates the quality of the farm’s produce, mixes it with the best each season has to offer, and presents it in a crisp, clean way.
The helpings are generous but the display is uncluttered. Simplicity may seem the hallmark of each dish to the eye, but this disguises the skill of the kitchen. From the jus and sauces, these are some of the most complex dishes in the region.
Kevin, the sommelier, who has built and developed the estate’s wine cellars, shares the adventure and passion of paring the wines with the food.
Great meals of course should be fun. They should challenge expectations just a little. There must be an element of theatre.
So when we visited, there were a host of welcome surprises on the plate.
On the mains, the estate lamb loin was accompanied in a baby copper pan with a delicate miniature shepherd’s pie.
The 28 day matured Sussex beef fillet was as good as it gets. Entirely free of any fat, and cooked lightly to perfection, pink and tender.
The dark chocolate consommé for dessert was a crafted dish displaying chocolate in a variety of new guises - but the consommé fairly erupted from its cocoon to infuse the whole plate.
While the parfait played on a growing trend to introduce vegetables into the final course. This one was infused with parsnip and given a vibrancy from the addition of ginger and macadamia nuts.
The dinner menu is not the cheapest you will find the region. Starters were broadly in the price range of £6.50 to £9.50; mains ranged for £17 to £28; and most desserts were £7.50.
But this is about quality and a dining experience that is supported by excellent service.
It’s easy to forget as well, that the Richmond Arms does not just serve the estate’s landmark events. It’s very much a restaurant for local people too - a clientele that is essential out of the racing season.
This is a restaurant for all seasons. The arrival of Mark has ensured it continues to evolve as one of the very best.
Note: Although the restaurant inspector was invited by the Richmond Arms to sample the food, the review is independent of any advertisement spend and is the honest opinion of the reviewer.
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