Tristan restaurant, Horsham - a restaurant review
There's no sign of any covid-motivated lack of custom here. It's lunchtime on a midweek afternoon, and every table in Horsham's Tristan restaurant is taken.
I guess it could be because we're all just a little bit desperate by now for the comforting normality of a restaurant outing - denied us these last long months of lock-down. And so, the restrictions of our confinement having recently been eased just a little, like a flock of caged birds we've all made a dash for freedom.
So maybe that's the reason the dining room at Tristan is buzzing even on a Wednesday. But I think not... Rather, I think we're all here at this restaurant for another reason - the excellent food.
One of only two Michelin starred restaurants in all of West Sussex and the first Michelin star for Horsham, this is an eatery at which to celebrate special occasions, and we were there for exactly that reason.
Having arrived at the restaurant for our lunch booking, we took a brief seat in the downstairs reception area, which has a stylish bar-coffee shop vibe. Then we were shown to our table upstairs - nicely distanced from the others - and given a warm towel as we took our places, as well as a wax-sealed menu that we could take away with us.
The atmosphere at Tristan restaurant is warm and inviting, situated as it is beneath the solid oak beams on the upper floor of a 16th century townhouse in Horsham's city centre. The multiple exposed light bulbs hang amongst the beams overhead and cast a warm glow over the space, and together with the few pieces of modern artworks on the walls the feeling at Tristan is more authentically-cosy and less city-slick than many other modern fine dining establishments.
There are a handful of different set menu options on the Tristan menu, ranging all the way from a simple 2-course option through to a full-works 9-course tasting menu. Since we were here for lunch, we decided to go for the middle priced menu - 4 courses for £50 - excellent value we thought for a restaurant of this calibre.
Almost as soon as we'd made our drinks order, the food began to arrive. First up a boule of warm crusty bread fresh from the oven - comfort food if ever there was - accompanied by some delicious salted butter and a bowl of tapenade.
Followed promptly by the amuse-bouche, a velvety courgette and burnt garlic velouté that was every bit as delicious as it sounds.
So far, so excellent...
Then on to the main menu we went, with the first of our starters. Fois gras for the Frenchman - naturally - on an apricot crumble, which got a thumbs-up from Julien. And for me the duck - a lighter-than-it-sounds dish with pickled cherry and shavings of red kohlrabi, which was a satisfactory start to the meal - pleasing rather than mind-blowing.
Ensuite, the second of the entrées: A monkfish with a hint of India - light and flaky and served on a tandoori sauce with oyster raita. And quail and king prawn, barbequed and delicious - the quail melt-in-the-mouth tasty and the prawns suffused in that straight-from-the-fire smokiness.
Both these plates were unqualified successes, and it's becoming clear that Tristan restaurant thoroughly deserves its nod from Michelin - it is a restaurant creating modern food and delivering unique combinations of flavours, all expertly prepared.
Next up, the main courses arrived, and I've gone for the Stonebass. As it turns out, you'd better really like fish if you've ordered this one - covered in a generous layer of seaweed puree, this fish dish is full-on fishy!
Luckily, I do. Love fish, that is... The seaweed puree is like the creamiest most delicious fish paste you've ever imagined, and for a lover of the taste of the ocean this plate is worth a rave review all on its own!
It has come with an aside that looks a bit like a side salad - a very pretty salad of contrasting greens and purples that is English wasabi and beetroots. The stems and beets seem to have been preserved slightly somehow, and served with a light sauce that I can't quite identify. Either way, the flavours are unique, as well as being a surprisingly excellent accompaniment to the fish - contrasting tastes that did not overpower.
On the other side of the table Julien is making his way through a lamb niçoise, which from his review of it is spot-on too.
Main courses done, we are finishing up our glasses of wine as a little sorbet and dark chocolate-based palate cleanser arrives. The bitter-sour combination works really well, and it gets us ready for our sweet course.
Julien has gone for the seabuckthorn and carrot soufflé, his dessert still bubbling slightly from the oven as it arrives and that looks mouth-watering. It comes served with a side bowl of what looks like white powder, and turns out to be something kind-of like finely shaved ice cream - fun and a tasty addition to the dish.
For my part, I've chosen a classic English strawberries dessert to finish. The dish description says 'with burnt toast & butter', however the 'toast' is a crumble, although it is definitely buttery! Together with a smooth and nutty ice cream this one is a winner - not too sugary or heavy, and a great way to finish off what has been an amazing experience.
As we are enjoying the petits fours which follow the dessert, we agree that our meal at Tristan restaurant is some of the best food we've had during our short stay in West Sussex - quite a compliment in a region of the United Kingdom not short on great eateries.
The lunch menu price is excellent value for a restaurant of this standard, and we'd highly recommend a visit to Tristan restaurant - surely the best restaurant in Horsham.
Restaurant Tristan location -
3 Stans Way, East Street, Horsham West Sussex, RH12 1HU, United Kingdom