'Hidden gem' - Worthing fine dining restaurant appears on Come Dine with Me: The Professionals

A Worthing chef and her business partner have become local celebrities after their independent restaurant was thrust into the national spotlight.

Ami Bistro was among three Sussex restaurants which featured on Channel 4’s Come Dine with Me: The Professionals last month.

The fine dining restaurant, which has been in Rowlands Road since 2014, was chosen as the winner of the episode thanks to their first-class menu (watch our video review at the top of this page).

Appearing on the show was chef Amy Cowen and restaurant manager Ryan Murray.

Now in its second series, Come Dine with Me: The Professionals sees three restaurants from one area compete for a £1,000 prize by hosting a three-course dinner and try to win the £1,000 prize.

Amy said: “It was a great experience, it was so much fun. It wasn’t serious, just a really good laugh.

"To win it was amazing. Going into it, I said yeah we’ll win it, we’ll be fine. But when it was happening, I was like ‘we’re not going to win’.

"I always wanted a tea shop, that’s how Ami started. Spike our head chef got involved – he’s been cooking since he has been speaking really. He was self-taught and he taught me the more dishes and the business involved to what it is now.

“The reaction has been great. Everyone has been really supportive. We’ve had new people and people who it reminded we were here.

“We’re not right in the town centre so we need people to know we’re here – now they do. We’ve gone mad over the last few weekends.

“The industry hasn’t fully recovered from Covid, especially independent ones, it’s still tough. Anything we can do to bring people to the town and to us is great.”

Ryan said winning the show ‘brought some realisation to the two of us’ that ‘actually we know what we’re doing’.

He added: “We didn’t know what to expect because we had never done anything like that before. The producers, directors and cameramen were so good.

"People coming in and saying they saw us on TV. People coming in and asking for selfies and autographs. It’s weird. You can’t get better exposure than being on TV.

"We are a small independent business that supports other independent businesses.”

In the episode, which aired on Thursday, May 23, Ami Bistro competed against Med (in Little East Street, Brighton) and Worthing’s former Fat Greek Taverna restaurant in Portland Road – which has closed permanently since the show was filmed.

What was the winning menu?

The three-course menu, which wowed fellow professionals and is currently available to customers, was:

– Ami smokey, smoked haddock and mackerel in a rich white wine and Parmesan sauce served with baked baguette (£10). There’s also the option to make this a main course for £18.

– Oven roasted rump of lamb served with fondant potato, carrot puree, peas and shallots, red wine jus and a mini lamb pasty (£32).

– Rich chocolate torte served with Irish Chantilly cream, strawberry puree, fresh strawberries and honeycomb (£10).

What else is on offer – and what did we think of our experience?

The restaurant boats a stunning range of wines and cocktails – including the white chocolate Martini, white chocolate liqueur, crème de cacao, vanilla and milk served in a shortbread rimmed glass with two white chocolate shortbread biscuits (£12).

Also offer is an array of tapas style starter dishes, including: crispy calamari (seasoned with Chinese chili salt with an Asian style salad, served with sweet chili aioli – £9.50); chicken bao buns (slow cooked shredded children breast in a homemade satay sauce, served in bao buns with spring onion, cucumber and coriander, sprinkled with dry roasted peanuts – £10.50) and McSpike’s beef meatballs (served on mini sesame blinis and lettuce, topped with melted smoked cheddar cheese and crispy pancetta, served with homemade burger sauce, tomato relish and crispy onions – £10.50).

On our visit to the restaurant, we spoke to some regular customers who come back to the restaurant time and time again, which only added to our anticipation.

Eve Willett said: “This is without doubt the best restaurant in Worthing. All the food is home-cooked and it is absolutely delicious.”

After trying the meal, food reviewer Henry Bryant said: “The chef provides incredible attention to detail that you don’t always see.

"It’s an element of luxury – another level of food and cooking. You can see why it was the winning menu.

"It’s high quality dining and it’s been a pleasure to eat here. It’s just fabulous.”

I echo Henry’s thoughts entirely. It’s a phenomenal level of food – with customer service to match. Words don’t really do this restaurant justice, so all I can say is come and try it out for yourself. It’s a hidden gem in Worthing.

How to watch the episode

You can catch up with the Channel 4 show, on demand, by visiting https://www.channel4.com/programmes/come-dine-with-me-the-professionals/on-demand

Ami Bistro appear in Series 2 Episode 14.

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