In an age of small plates and cross cultural cuisine how nice it is to find somewhere to dine with classical elegance, even if we did have to drive over to Eastbourne to do it. Now I am not against modern trends and styles in the restaurant world, I have experienced some genuinely delightful food experiences over my 3o or so years of writing about restaurants, seen and tasted all manner of innovations and experimentation and enjoyed, not all, but much of it. But I have to be honest here, and since the era of nouvelle cuisine in the 1980s, I have often left feeling hungry.

So off we went, Ms T and I, for a late lunch at the Garden Grill in Eastbourne’s Grand Hotel. First impression of course is one of grandeur, the hotel is so impressive from the gates through to the huge lobby and towering central lounge area. The atmosphere is calm and elegant, the staff silently gliding around the space, smiling and nodding as they go. The entrance to the garden room is Grand with a capital G and we are greeted by Martin, our waiter for the occasion, and taken to our table at the centre of the sea-facing side of the room, gentle classical piano music is playing but not intrusive, the tables are traditionally laid, generously spaced and the whole has a sense of timeless elegance. It’s quiet but we have booked a late lunch so this is no surprise.

The menu offers of course a selection of grill dishes but there are plenty of other temptations too. Ms T decides to start with mussels whilst I am tempted by the asparagus with quail’s eggs. Now mussels can arrive in such a variety of portion sizes, from the gargantuan to the parsimonious. In many a venue what arrived would have been deemed a main course, it was very generous indeed, and the plump meaty molluscs were basking in a rich and vibrant tomato sauce. I tried one and it was very good indeed, sweet and musky too and the sauce was good but not overwhelming. Ms T tucked in and mopped up with one of the rather good warm bread rolls.

My asparagus was griddled, tender and delightfully light, and thank heavens for that I thought when my main course arrived. The addition of Parmesan shavings was good and there was just enough saffron aioli. I like saffron but add to much and the overall effect is one of musty hymn books.

The roast of the day was chicken which we both dismissed but Ms T was drawn to the fish of the day which was salmon. This came with a rather tasty potato cake, a champagne sauce and was offered with broccoli. Not a fan of Broccoli she asked if she could have the creamed spinach instead. Of course she could, and why not I thought. Martin was only to happy to please. When her dish arrived we were once again impressed by the presentation but also by being served a “proper” plate of food, this was a main course that was bound to satisfy with a generous tranche of fish that was cooked to perfection. The champagne sauce was  jugged so that you could add as much or as little as you wanted, and the half lemon wrapped in muslin to avoid pips. It’s the details that make the difference and a further difference that put a smile on my face was the delivery of proper fish cutlery, now where do you see that these days?

I chose the pink salt marsh rack of lamb. “How did I want it?” Martin asked, pink I replied. Rack of lamb is a dangerous choice when not in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing, cook it too quickly and the fat does not render down and go crispy (and I’m sure I am not alone in thinking that the fat can be the best bit), cook it too slow and it’s goodbye to pink and hello to tough and dry. I was not disappointed, the three cutlets were perfect, juicy, tasty and impressively large. Look at the picture, it was a very generous portion indeed. It came with a root vegetable terrine and a courgette stuffed with ratatouille and goat’s cheese and in a small jug a minted merlot jus. It was a hearty plate but at the same time elegantly served.

After all that dessert seemed it could be a dish too far, but in the interests of being thorough, and after a short pause Ms T had the strawberry roulade which she delighted in. Being at the seaside and always interested in dishes of the day, I went for the cherry coupe. Now I love an ice-cream sundae and I love cherries that have been soaked in booze too, so what arrived put a very large and child like smile on my face, simple pleasures.

Ms T had a glass of Chablis followed by a robust espresso , I drank sparkling water.

The Garden Grill is a bit of a gem, well prepared and cooked dishes served in grand surroundings by a charming waiter, not old fashioned but steeped in traditional values, and all the better for that.

The Grand Hotel, King Edwards Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 4EQ

+44 (0)1323 412345


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