Saturday, 16th March 2018 – Cassons, Tangmere
There are areas of the country that seem very bleak from a culinary point of view. Sussex, thankfully, is better than most counties in this respect, so while we were not exactly spoiled for choice when we went down to Goodwood, we did at least have a decent handful of choices. We opted for the nearest place to our Airbnb, which turned out to be Cassons. It took a little bit of locating on a snowy night, more down to the flakiness of satellite navigation systems than anything else, but we battled our way into their carpark, getting as close to the building as we could given the weather.
Every so often you come across a restaurant that you’d really like to have on your doorstep. This turned out to be one of them, and reminded me massively of the late lamented Roade House, now just a distant fond memory after Chris and Sue finally achieved their dream of retirement. We miss them badly! If I lived in Chichester I reckon Cassons would probably see me as much as the Roade House used to.
From the outside it looks like many another gastro-pub and you walk into a warm, cosy bar area where the welcome seemed to be very warm as well. A glass of Champagne was topped up on the grounds that “there was only a little left in the bottle”! Shortly after that there was a small plate of wonderful amuse bouches, delivered to the table while we considered the menu carefully. These were cheese biscuits, a tomato “soup” with a basil foam on top and two wonderful black pudding bon bons.
It was looking good so far. There was nothing startlingly avant-garde, but this was just solid classical cooking done very well indeed if the amuse bouches were anything to go by. Having made up our minds as to what we wanted to eat, we ordered a half bottle of Franz Haas’ Pinot Grigio from the Alto Aldige in Italy, not something very often seem in the UK and were taken to our table.
The starters were lovely, again well-executed and tasty. They were also pretty big, at least to our way of thinking these days. Here’s the goat’s cheese flan, with a cheese croquette and honeycomb-balsamic figs (sticky and wonderful), with toasted walnuts adding some crunch, and baby leaves. It was a lovely, cheesy thing and on a cold, snowy night was just the thing to start with.
The other starter was a seafood special, a platter with a Selsey crab croquette (brilliant), maple-cured salmon (mildly cured and gentle) and a tempura scallop that was cooked to perfection. Each of these were served with their own individual garnishes, and I could happily have eaten a couple more of each as a main if you’d asked me.
The half bottle of pinot grigio now gone, and two big meaty mains in the offing, we switched to a Portuguese red, Duas Quintas Douro 2015 from Ramos Pinto and very good it was with what followed. The roe deer fillet could have been cut with a spoon it was so tender, and the accompaniments of a celeriac choucroute, wild mushrooms, a cep emulsion, cavolo nero and game chips were very well matched. It was fabulous meat but we couldn’t manage all of it.
The same was true of the other main, a slow-cooked beef Bourguinon, served with shallots, mushrooms, lardons, carrots, courgettes a fabulously smooth potato puree, with a red wine jus. This was the only dish I had any argument with, finding it slightly too salty for my tastes. The offender seemed to be the lardons… It didn’t stop me enjoying it, but I would have preferred slightly less salt. We also couldn’t finish this.
We admitted defeat, asked for the meat remains to be packed up so we could take them home (it was no trouble for them), and finished the wine. We couldn’t have managed a dessert though the ones we saw on other tables looked great. Anyway, once we’d finished, we had a bit of a chat with the chef and her partner (he does front of house), and found out that they had been planning to close and retire but their plans had fallen through, and they’d be staying on for the foreseeable future. This was very pleasing news for us, because we’re going back to Goodwood in September and we would really like to eat there again. After we paid the bill we booked for our next stay, despite how far off it currently is.