Our excursion today takes us to a completely different level of expectation.  The Pass is situated inside the South Lodge Hotel and it features in the top 50 in the Good Food Guide with a score of 7.  Over the years we have dined at 25 of the current top 50 so we have some experience – how would this rate?

Lower Beeding is in deepest West Sussex, a quiet rural area and home to some very good food producers and some excellent local restaurants so our expectations were high.  Also we were staying overnight so could avail ourselves of appropriate liquid sustenance to match the meal.

The restaurant follows the modern style of being open to the diners; indeed in the total room more space is given to the kitchen than to those enjoying the benefits of their output.  As ladies always sit with their backs to the wall looking into the restaurant they can always see what is going on – but here I was able to look at the wall behind my wife where televisions were relaying the activities in the kitchen, so I also had some idea of what was happening.  As there were no fires or other alarums it was quiet and well ordered.  I wonder if junior kitchen staff welcome this trend of open kitchens as it means that foul mouthed chefs can no longer launch into heated tirades if the odd sauce fails to turn up at the right moment!  Here we sit at an elevated level as well, my seat was a very comfortable bar stool (with back) and my wife was at on a comfortable bench which runs along the wall.

The restaurant has three menus – all fixed.  A six course “Gournmet Experience”; the 8 course “Pass Experience”; a 10 course “Surprise Menu”.  We are not overly keen on surprises so opted for the “Pass Experience” and we decided to go for a single wine flight between us.  Experience elsewhere of these is that long before you reach the end you cannot remember simply because of the quantity of the alcohol.  This worked well for us – on two courses the sommelier forgot to halve the quantities!  I cannot give full details of the wines but will give some indication of what we received.  I might add that we still felt the impact of alcohol by the end of the meal.

This a long menu and dining takes all evening.  My readers probably do not want to take the same time to read it; so comments will be short (and sweet).

But before we start an amuse bouche of Parsnip foam, granola and cherries.  Now onto the real thing.  Then a “loaf” with four sections, two white, two brown (very clever) arrived – plus unsalted butter and three types of salt, including some from Hawaii.  Followed by some nibbly things.

I will list the menu items and accompanying wine:

Food description Wine pairing
Mushrooom/celeriac/watercress South African Chardonnay
Salmon/crab/avocado Washington USA Reisling
Bacon/cauliflower/pomegranate Alsace Pouilly Fumé
Leek/hazelnut/chocolate Burgundy Chardonnay
Scallop/rhubarb/chicken wing French Gamay
Venison/onion/red wine Argentian Malbec
Honeycomb/soy/bee pollen
Lime/mango/olive Canadian Apple wine

Size wise we are of course in “small” territory but by the end of that we were feeling pretty full. Pairing of wines and food extremely good. In particular the white burgundian Chardonnay was saying “chocolate” to my wife before the course arrived.

The opener was certainly stunning, especially as we both like mushrooms at any time.  The great piece of salmon was accompanied by a carefully constructed crab roll, tasty.  The pomegranate with the bacon and cauliflower was a spherical blob, carefully constructed to keep the liquid inside so that it runs out once cut.  Very clever application of science to achieve that as well as being tasty.

It was about now I realised that although there are a small number of waiters each course is delivered by one of the team of chefs which is one way of breaking down the barriers – they chefs have to deliver it to the table, not just to the “Pass” – and hence the meaning of the name is explained.  Also it means when my wife wants details of the exploding pomegranate bomb one of the chefs comes to the table and actually does give a very good explanation – over my head but that is no surprise!

The leek course seemed a little odd on the menu – but it entirely worked on the plate and it nicely cleans the palate as well as being something very different.  The venison is outstandingly good.  I probably should not eat either honeycomb or the olive ice cream due to the sugar content – but I would not have missed any of these.

Stunning meal.  At the moment The Pass only has one Michelin star – on the basis of this an upgrade cannot be far away.  The GFG rating is 7 defined as “High level of ambition and individuality, attention to the smallest detail, accurate and vibrant dishes”.  Certainly that and I would feel that it must be getting close to an 8.  An outstanding meal and in my view better than another Exclusive hotel restaurant which appeared higher in the GFG listing last time around.  The listings may well be reversed!

Price – the menu itself was £75, so £220 for two as we shared the wine flight.  Interestingly they offer a juice flight for £30 which may well be worth considering if (unlike us) you are not staying overnight.

As we were staying we were able to have a good look around the other public rooms downstairs and we also had a wonderful bedroom – an upgrade courtesy of a less than busy day.  The weather prevented an examination of the grounds other than from the bedroom window!  All in all a nice break and a very high class meal.