SET menus from small, country restaurants are my choice this week.
At the Crossways Hotel, Sussex, chef and co-proprietor David Stott changes the menu every month, using local produce where possible.
When I saw the first courses on the October menu, I was struck by the amount of fruit served with savoury dishes. However, David's cooking and menu-planning was good enough to get him to the finals of the Logis of Great Britain "regional cuisine" competition.
His hedgerow cheesecake, which uses nettles from the hotel garden, sounds very good. Herbs and duck eggs also come from Crossways. Glyndleigh Level Farm, nearby at Stonecross, is the source of farm-reared beef and lamb; free-range eggs come from Bay Tree farm, Polegate; wild mushrooms from local woodlands, and fish from Newhaven and Hastings via Seafresh Fishmongers in Polegate.
A good deal of local wine is offered, including Breaky Bottom from Peter Hall, Rodnel; the Sax family's Battle Dry and Saxon Rose; and, Kit Lindler's Berwick Glebe, and the hotel's house white, English Vineyard.
Norfolk produce cooked with imagination and Norfolk-size portions, are the secrets to the success of Number Twenty Four. Since it opened in summer 1991, the Hughes have offered a £14.95 fixed-price menu, which changes fortnightly, but has not increased in price over this period.
The popularity of their food and their pricing policy has enabled them to expand the premises to the property next door, thereby doubling the capacity to 65 covers.
Fridays and Saturdays are usually full houses, and speciality menus - East meets West; a Feast of Fish; Classic English Cookery and inspiration from the Chef trip to Rungis market, boost mid-week trade.
A quarterly newsletter further encourages repeat business, with news of regular wine tastings, masterclasses, cookery demonstrations and a series of dinners based on food and wine from around the globe.
The wine list is short and well-chosen, supplied by Adnams of Southwolds, and, on the whole, well described. What about number 19 though? "1990 Pauillac Chƒteau Latour, a fine vintage from a truly great chƒteau. A wonderful classic claret. £21.50." On investigation, this somewhat misleading entry turned out to be a generic Pauillac made from young vines and declassified vats at Chƒteau Latour, the chƒteau's third wine.
The menu is simple, yet lifted out of the ordinary with unusual touches, such as poppy seed pasta served with the lamb and home-made mustard sausages served with the pork. o