“ Address: High Street / Chilgrove / West Sussex / PO18 9HX / Tel: 01243 519 444 „
*** SADLY, THE FISH HOUSE WENT INTO ADMINISTRATION IN APRIL 2011 ***
It was put up for sale and has now been rebranded and reopened under the name of The White Horse
"One man's fish is another man's poisson"
With my birthday approaching, my partner asked me if I had had any thoughts on what I wanted to do. Rather dangerously, I suggested that he surprise me with a meal out somewhere we hadn't tried before. Now normally, without explicit instructions, himself does tend to flounder....but credit where credit is due, on this occasion he came up trumps and passed the "surprise me" test with flying colours. He prolonged the suspense by refusing to tell me where we were off to, just instructing me to dress up. He then proceeded to take me on a cross-country drive via several outlying villages, in order to confuse me even more. I must say it took me a while to work out where we were going to be dining...not helped by his pulling in several pub / restaurant car parks enroute in order to prolong the agony.....my face must have been a picture in the car park at our local Beefeater...but luckily we moved on.
~~~ THE FISH HOUSE ~~~
I'd been wanting to dine at The Fish House since it opened its doors last year, as it's located in such a lovely building in a glorious downland location. I'd visited the building before in its previous incarnation as The White Horse - the pub like name being rather misleading as it was certainly not pub like in any shape or form - it was fine dining and super extensive (and expensive) cellars all the way. Although The Fish House is expensive, it is certainly a lot more welcoming and friendly than The White Horse ever knew how to be!
The Fish House offers sumptuous dining in a lovely old 18th century coaching inn situated in a remote downland location. It's a long, narrow, low slung white building which looms up at you almost in the middle of nowhere. It's beautifully lit both inside and outside, and looks like a most welcoming haven, which of course it would have been for those 18th century coach travellers.
Inside, The Fish House is both luxurious and comfortable. The predominant theme is oak with a beautifully carved oak hewn bar, and matching curved bar stools all nestled underneath ancient ceiling beams. The bar is inset with an oyster bar, which was filled with lemon garnished lobsters and oysters on a bed of crushed ice when we dined there. The fishy theme is apparent in the décor as well as the menu, with the walls adorned with coiled ropes, metal hooks and such like...not to mention the lobster pots than decorate the outside of the building. Curtains and cushions are also decorated with fish or seafood motifs.
The bar area is dotted with lots of low slung raffia style sofas and chairs, and it's a lovely place to sit and enjoy an aperitif and peruse the menu. We dined there on a Thursday night, and the place was at least 85% full. Despite there being no space on the sofas in the bar area, we perched ourselves on a couple of surprisingly comfortable bar stools and looked over the menu. We were offered drinks as soon as we arrived, and I partook of a rather delicious Pimm's with all the correct trimmings, and himself let the side down by ordering a pint of lager (but luckily didn't request any pork scratchings).
The restaurant is divided into two areas - the Fish Bar and the main restaurant - both serving the same menu. The Fish Bar is ideal for a lighter meal and is more casual. You can watch the chefs at work in the kitchens by way of a huge fish tank that forms part of a glass wall between the restaurant and kitchen. The furniture is all oak tables and chairs.
The main restaurant is more sumptuously decorated and has comfier chairs. When the restaurant manager took our order, he asked us if we'd prefer a table in the Fish Bar or in the main restaurant. Not having dined there before, I wasn't sure what the difference was, but he informed me that the restaurant was more "comfy".....at which point I was tempted to launch into the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch of "Oh no, not the comfy chair"...but felt it would have been rather inappropriate in such a place.
~~~ THE MENU ~~~
As you'd expect from the restaurant name, the menu has a definite seafood and fish theme to it. This could strike you as rather odd, as The Fish House is most definitely inland, with the nearest port some 15 or so miles away. However, all fish is ordered and delivered daily from local sources. The Fish House also plays the organic card, and most of their dishes are sourced as locally as possible.
Starters range from soup (Selsey Crab Bisque) at £7.50 up to £30.00 for a whole Selsey Lobster (Selsey being a local Sussex fishing port). As you'd expect in a seafood restaurant, there are a full range of fishy delights on offer. Oysters, shrimps, lobsters, mussels, crabs, prawns, scallops, salmon and cockles abound, with just about every variation possible. If you can't make up your mind on what you fancy, you can partake of a mini seafood platter for £14.50, which gives you a small selection of the usual crustacean suspects. Admittedly, if you're not into either fish or seafood then your choices are rather limited (Ham Hock and Foie Grass Terrine at £8.50), however, it's the sort of place that would probably pander to your every whim if you had a problem with the menu, and rustle you up an omelet or suchlike.
Main courses range from £13.50 (Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas and Tartare Sauce) up to £34.50 for Lobster Thermidor....or you can really push the boat out and have a Fruits de Mer Platter for two (£47.50), which consists of lobster, crab, oysters, crab, clams, prawns, whelks, crevettes, scallops and cockles. The range of seafood and fish dishes on offer is extensive and enough to satisfy the majority of diners. As well as lobster and crab cooked in a variety of different ways, The Fish House menu also offers Sea Bass, Dover Sole, Plaice, Monkfish, John Dory, Wild Brill, not to mention daily specials chalked up on the blackboard in the bar area (Turbot was on offer the night we dined there). Non-fish eaters are offered a choice of either Steak, Partridge or Venison.
~~~ OUR DELICIOUS MEAL ~~~
The restaurant manager took our order in the bar area and said he'd call us through once our starters were ready. As promised, when we were shown to our table, our starters were waiting for us. We chosen to dine in the main restaurant as we'd been tempted by those comfy chairs. The table was beautifully laid with a snow white cloth and the chairs were indeed comfy. The staff had thoughtfully placed a jug of iced water and some lovely azure blue water glasses on the table. We also had a basket of home baked bread, which was simply delicious. There were two slices of white, two of a nutty brown loaf and two of granary. We gobbled all six slices up before we knew it; it was simply delicious...and then the waiter brought us some more :o)
I initially wanted the Oak Smoked Salmon Terrine, but was disappointed to hear that it was not available that evening. I plumped instead for the Tiger Prawns with Sweet Chili Sauce (£9.50). The prawns were deep fried in breadcrumbs and served in the sweetest little metal basket - it looked like a miniature version of the metal panniers they use to fry the fish and chips in your local chippie. Alongside the teeny metal basket was a small pot of homemade Sweet Chili Sauce and a small salad garnish. The prawns were extremely succulent underneath the crispy coating of breadcrumbs, and the Sweet Chili sauce had a very nice sweet and sour kick to it. I had six medium sized prawns, which was more than ample for a starter portion. Himself decided to have Moules Marinière (£8.50). There was a choice of cooking sauce for the Mussels - you can have them either with a traditional Marinière sauce (white wine, garlic, onions and herbs) or you can warm things up a little and have a Thai Spices sauce. He chose the Thai Spices sauce which gave the mussels a little bit of a kick. The sauce was redolent with the flavours of lemongrass and red Thai curry, and was very nice indeed. The staff immediately brought out a finger bowl for him, as well as an empty dish for the discarded mussel shells. Full marks to The Fish House; I do despair when places serve a messy dish like mussels and fail to provide either a finger bowl, wet wipes or a receptacle for the dead shells - you just get into such a mess.
For my main course, I opted for a non-fishy dish as I was tempted by their description of their steak dish Prime Lancashire Rose Rib Eye Steak, Chunky Chips, Watercress Salad and Béarnaise Sauce (£22.50). I was sure that the steak would be superb, and I wasn't at all disappointed. Whenever I eat steak out, I'm inevitably disappointed by a piece of dry, old leathery meat that lacks flavour (the only exception is Café Rouge, where they always serve a superb steak). At The Fish House, I dined on the tastiest steak I can remember eating for years. I ordered it medium rare and it was melt in the mouth delicious - moist and tasty. The creaminess of the Béarnaise sauce was tempered by the addition of lots of lovely tarragon and white wine vinegar and it made the perfect foil for the steak. The chips were indeed rather chunky, as described, and once again served in one of their dear little miniature panniers. My partner chose a favourite of his, Fish Pie (£19.50). The Fish Pie at The Fish House is made with white fish, prawns, peas, scallops and, extra specially, the addition of lobster, so he had a real feast on his hands. It was made with cheese topped mashed potato rather puff pastry, so it was a rather substantial and filling meal. It was served with a goodly portion of nicely al dente French beans.
I was far too full to manage a dessert, but I had a coffee instead. True to form, it was a rather nice tasting blend, and served with some homemade chocolate sponge-like drops. Himself was tempted by a Crème Brûlée on their dessert menu - another favourite of his. This came served in dish with a lovely crispy caramelized and glazed topping, and accompanied by some fresh raspberries and a spoonful of raspberry sorbet. From memory, other desserts were Chocolate Fondant, Deep Fried Banana served with Peanut Butter Parfait, Lemon Tart, Platter of Cheeses and a couple of others.
~~~ ANYTHING ELSE? ~~~
Not having partaken of anything more than a Pimm's, a pint of lager and a glass of white wine with our meal, we didn't really explore the full range of beverages on offer at The Fish House. However, I am lead to believe that they have an excellent cellar with over 200 different wines available. Real ales on offer are Black Sheep and Harveys Best.
The service was exemplary throughout the evening. Sometimes the staff can be a little up themselves in upmarket establishments such as this, mistakenly believing themselves to be somewhat superior to the majority of their clientele. Happily I can report than there was no such behaviour here - all the staff were down to earth, welcoming and helpful. We were welcomed by the girl behind the bar, who correctly made eye contact, said good evening and that she'd be with us as soon as she'd finished serving her previous clients. The staff were, in the main, young, keen and very polite. They were all dressed rather smartly in black and white with long aprons to cover them. Nothing was too much trouble for them, and service was always with a smile. On spotting our bread basket was empty, the waiter asked if we'd like some more, and duly fully replenished the basket and the butter for us.
I didn't really need to visit the cloakroom, but for the purposes of a review, and the fact that I wanted to see if the smallest room was going to be in keeping with the rest of the venue, I made a swift visit after our main courses. The room was as opulent as the rest of the venue, with lovely Art Deco wall mirrors, Molton Brown hand wash and hand cream, as well as two huge raised bowl shaped silver hand basins. As with everything at The Fish House, it was tastefully and beautifully done.
~~~ A ROOM WITH A VIEW ~~~
The Fish House is officially described as a "Restaurant with Rooms", in that they have two wings behind the main restaurant where you can stay overnight. I'm not going to go into too much detail on this aspect of their accommodation, as I have not (nor am I ever likely to) stayed there. However, if you fancy making a weekend break of it in this part of the world, then The Fish House has fifteen guest rooms, all in keeping with the fishy theme in that they are all individually named after famous fishing ports. The rooms are evidently fitted out with luxurious touches such as Egyptian linen, teak furniture, Italian marble bathrooms, as well as all mod cons such a plasma TVs, Wi-Fi, espresso machines and mini bars.
There are also a range of Bedouin styled private hot tubs in the restaurant grounds, as well as a steam and sauna room. Room prices start from £120 (midweek) to £160 (weekend) for a double room per night. Dogs are welcome.
~~~ RECOMMENDATION ~~~
Yes indeed, I thoroughly recommend The Fish House with a full five stars. Although expensive, the food, service and surroundings were special enough to make it worthwhile. It was pricey: two starters, two main courses, one dessert, one coffee, two aperitifs and a glass of wine cost us just shy of £90.00 - about £45.00 per head. £90.00 for dinner for two isn't something we can afford to do very often, but for a special occasion or a birthday treat it was nice to push the boat out in such agreeable surroundings. The food was delicious, the service first class and the ambience most agreeable. Recommended.....and currently saving for my next visit.
~~~ FURTHER INFORMATION ~~~
The Fish House is situated in the very small hamlet of Chilgrove, which is located about 6 miles outside of Chichester. The Fish House is just off the B2141 which is the scenic downland road between Chichester and Petersfield in Hampshire. Chilgrove is a fairly remote location, with a few houses and farms but not much else, so I have no idea why they call it a High Street - as it's not in the slightest!
The Fish House
+ There is ample car parking to the side of the restaurant.
+ All major cards accepted
+ Disabled access is good with a ramp up to the entrance door
+ There is no specific dress code there, but smart casual is fine
Lunch: Monday to Saturday 12 noon - 2.30pm Sunday: 12 noon - 4.00pm
Afternoon Tea: 2.30pm - 6.00pm Sunday: 4.00pm - 6.00pm
Dinner: Monday to Saturday 6.00pm - 9.45pm Sunday: 6.00pm - 9.00pm