Thursday, October 30, 2008

6. Italy: Macari's Cafe and Restaurant

78 North Street,
West Sussex,
PO19 1LQ
01243 780365

Continuing Christmas shopping ‘til we dropped in Chichester, we found ourselves visiting Macari’s looking for a hot drink and a sit down. I went in to order our hot chocolates and was very pleased to witness the care with which these simple drinks were made. A liquid chocolate was mixed with warn milk and shot through with steam and topped with real whipped cream and a shower of chocolate powder. It was just delicious.

I realised from talking to the friendly gentleman behind the counter that this was a family owned business and so qualified for inclusion as a Sussex Ethnic Eat. I had a good look at the wares in the counters, on the menu and, most importantly, on peoples’ plates. There was a good range on offer. Here’s a sample: paninnis, toasties and baguettes with assorted fillings for £3.45, pastries from 80 pence to £1.45, Lasagne and salad for £3.65 Gateaux from £1.95 to £2.45 and of course, ice creams and sundaes priced from £1.20 to £3.50, depending on how indulgent you were feeling.

Macari’s was quite busy for a weekday mid-afternoon and with plenty of local competition, I’d take this to vouch for its popularity. We’ll sample the food next time we are in Chishester.

Two yummy, warming hot chocolates were £3.60.

Ambiance: 2
Service: 3
Presentation of Drinks: 3
Quality of Drinks: 4
Value for Money: 3

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

5. France: Maison Blanc

Maison Blanc
56 South St
West Sussex,
PO19 1DS

Having seen the skilfully made pastries and sweetmeats in the window of Maison Blanc the previous day, we returned when we needed an R and R break from our Christmas shopping. The subtly decorated seating area with its Toulouse Lautrec prints, just beyond the temptingly stocked pastry counter, is a little haven of gentility and calm. There is quite an interesting menu that would appeal to most tastes. Items include Saucisson Mozzarella with thinly sliced rosette pork saucisson from Lyon, slices of mozzarella and French dressing and Fromage de Chèvre et Salade (goats’ cheese salad) both for £4.30 to Quiche Saumon et Poireaux (salmon and leek quiche) for £3.95.

We were seated very promptly. I chose a Mèditerenéen (£3.95) a puff pastry oblong with loads of sun-blushed tomatoes sitting on a thick, well-seasoned tomato sauce and topped with melted cheese and basil. It was served piping hot, was very tasty and with a fresh accompanying salad, made a very good light lunch. I particularly enjoyed the light, tarragon-laced salad dressing. Badgerman chose a cherry danish for £1.90 and it arrived lovely and warm, was intensely flavoured and packed with black cherries. We rounded off out light lunch with pots of Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea and happily paid our £9.55 bill (excluding tip) and returned to our shopping revived and fortified.

Ambience: 3
Service: 2
Food Presentation: 2
Food Quality: 3
Value for Money: 3

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

4. U.S.A.: Smith and Western

Smith and Western
Station Approach
Chichester, PO19
01243 788886

Continuing our stay in the charming town of Chichester we visited Smith and Western, just north of the train station. We were greeted warmly, ushered to our table and told our waitress’ name. Smith and Western is based on the American mid-west in the 1800s. The former train station had been transformed into a saloon, complete with cartwheel chandeliers and a jail room. The décor in fun, interesting and well thought out and is reinforced by touches such as the cactus-shaped drinks menu and the cowboy hats and sheriff’s badges for sale, but somehow does not become too clichéd.

The varied, extensive menu has something to suit all tastes and appetites from caesar salads for £7.95, chilli beef taco salad for £11.85, salmon fillet for £11.25 to 100% beef burgers priced £8.65- £11.95. At first glance the prices may look a little high- but the portions are enormous!
We shared the loaded potato skins with chilli, cheese and sour cream (£5.95) and the shell-on king prawns (£8.25) pictures right. The skins were perfectly cooked, lovely and moist. The chilli tasted home-made and was flavoursome but not too hot; the cheese was all beautifully melted and the salad was crisp and well garnished. This dish alone would be a very adequate lunch choice. The five, massive prawns, served cold with a warm ciabatta and thousand island dressing, lived up to their ‘giant’ title. They were succulent and tender and again, came with plenty of salad. Packets of ‘Hoof Wipes’, thin flannels for tidying up fingers and faces, were thoughtfully provided.

We gasped when the Combo Feast for Two (pictured) arrived! ‘Feast’ is an accurate way to describe this huge platter of hickory smoked ribs, chicken wings, spicy onion rings, corn on the cob, mushroom boats, creamy coleslaw and spicy curly fries served with your choice of two dips all for £22.55. The meaty ribs were well basted in plenty of good, not too sweet, smoky sauce and the chicken wings were excellent. All the other items on the platter were tasty and cooked well except for Badgerman’s corn which was soft and overdone.
Foolishly, we ordered a side of stuffed jallapenos. They were great, well presented with a spicy and flavoursome sauce- but greedy us- it really was too much food. We ate more than our fill and thought ourselves lucky that we had not ordered the Belly Buster dessert- a veritable goldfish bowl of chocolate brownies, ice cream, marshmallows, hot fudge sauce, M&M’s and whipped cream. Parties order this for the birthday boy or girl for £11.95 complete with a hat and balloons. It did look really good though.

Had we left enough room for dessert, we could have chosen from a superbly tempting assortment that included good old Banoffee Pie, correctly credited to have been invented in Sussex, Cherry ‘O’- a handmade waffle topped with cherries and vanilla ice cream for £4.95 and even Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. We perused the lunchtime ‘Boot Skootin’ menu with its “finger licking” bites served between 12 and 4 p.m. Again, a very good selection was on offer with a particularly good “meal and a drink” deal for £7.50.

There were a variety of party sizes from our modest table for two, to families and work colleagues to larger birthday parties for all ages. Smith and Western has been skilfully designed so that dinners have plenty of room but the restaurant, with its well placed décor, feels cosy and comfortably.

Rare for me, I had a Cactus Juice, a large tumbler of vodka, Midori, Malibu and pineapple juice (£4.50) from the impressive cocktail list. The cocktails range form £4.50 to $5.50 and with pitchers priced £17.95 for two pints and £29.50 for four pints.

Smith and Westerns is a well above average themed restaurant. It’s a family business and you can feel they are hands-on management who work as a team with their competent staff who, in turn, clearly understand the ethos and direction of the business. It was a real pleasure to eat at Smith and Westerns and chat with their staff.

Our bill for too much food- even for us big eaters, drinks, coffee and hot chocolate came to £60.25 excluding tip.

Ambiance: 4
Service: 3
Food Presentation: 4
Food Quality: 3
Value for Money:4

Monday, October 27, 2008

3. Spain: El Castizo, Spanish Tapas

El Castizo
24 St Pancras Street,
Victoria Court,
Chichester, West Sussex
PO19 7LT
01243 788988

Sometimes a bit of a search makes the discovery even more rewarding. Such was the experience Badgerman and I had trying to find El Castizo, a Spanish tapas restaurant just off the eastern side of the Chichester ring road. The restaurant, while clearly marked by and illuminated pub-style sign on St Pancras Street, is cloistered in a compound of buildings and is not immediately obvious. Look for the menu in a lit box on the wall to the right as you enter Victoria Court. The above-ground entrance looks like conservatory or summerhouse. Once inside, you immediately go down a wide flight of stairs to the restaurant proper, charmingly sited in a former wine cellar that is roomy and bright and informally decorated with Spanish artefacts. Unfortunately, it does smell a little damp and musty.

We received a friendly greeting and received very attentive service throughout our stay. As we arrived just as they opened at 6:00 p.m., we were asked if we were going to the theatre so they could make sure our food would arrive promptly. It did and we left in plenty of time to walk to the Festival Theatre for the 7:30 performance.

Our waitress brought a complimentary basket of bread and some olives as she took our drinks orders. The menu, clearly set out, has over 40 tapas dishes grouped into meat, seafood and vegetable sections, all priced between £3.00 and £5.00, with English translations of the dishes’ Spanish names. We ordered Tortilla de Patata on Chorize, a traditional Spanish omelette with “ even more personality”. The light, tasty omelette, at the right of the food picture below, came in three slices topped with crispy fried chorizo (£3.00). These elements complemented each other well in texture and taste. We also had Almejas en Salsa Verdi: clams cooked in a cream, wine and parsley sauce that was a delight, Verdiras a la Parmilla on Sel Marina, a artistically arrangement of perfectly grilled asparagus, mushroom and other vegetables seasoned with sea salt. The Pimientos del Padron, a ‘new’ item on the menu, was assorted sizes of smallish green peppers that were fried in fine olive oil. They were perfectly cooked so the pepper flesh came away readily from the stalk. The menu’s warning that: “some are hot, some are not” was quite true- thought even the hottest was not too violent for most palettes. The Calamares (£4.00) were expertly cooked and made a good foil for the other higher spiced dishes. We also had a simple green salad. The undoudted highlight of the meal was the stunning Albondigas en Salsa de Tomate (£3.85), Spanish meatballs in a tomato and cream sauce. The meatballs were light, firm but crumbly and the velvety sauce stopped conversation and had Badgerman and I reaching for the bread to mop up every drop! All our dishes were traditional in format, but they were not heavy, rustic food but more sophisticated and modern in their construction, ingredients, presentations and taste.

We finished by sharing a delicious, honey-laced, baked custard called Natilla from the small dessert selection. We did not imbibe in the interesting wine list, realistically priced with bottles up to £17.00, but just had sparkling water.

Our bill with coffee and excluding tip was £32.90.

Although this was only the third Sussex Ethnic Eats review, El Castizo will go into the Top Pick section of the SEE blog, as it is, without a doubt, the best tapas Badgerman and I have ever tasted.


Ambience: 2
Service: 4
Food Presentation: 3
Food Quality: 4
Value for Money: 3

Sunday, October 12, 2008

2. Poland: Sami Swoi, Portslade, Hove

Sami Swoi
71 Boundary Road,
East Sussex
01273 420616

We found this small, family run Polish restaurant as it is near our favourite pet shop: Fishey Business, in Portslade. Having a penchant for perogies we ventured in and so enjoyed our experience, we returned with some Sussex Ethnic Eats reviewers in tow.

Sami Swoi translates to 'All Friends Here'; the atmosphere is business-like, courteous and pleasant but not over familliar. The decor is 'smart casual'- modern, clean and relaxed with some of the most comfortable restaurant chairs you'll find. A pleasant haven off busy Boundary Road.

We perused the extensive daytime ‘Café’ and evening ‘Polish’ menus with their tempting mixture of British favourites, some with a Polish twist, to traditional, hearty Polish dishes. The three vegetatians in our party were pleased with the selection from which they had to choose. They chose a traditional dish of perogies with cheese and onions, (pictured right) a hearty portion of eight for £6.00; a starter sized Krokiet, a pancake with mushrooms and cheese for £3.50 and Placki Ziemniaczane, potato fritters with mushrooms or sour cream for £6.00. All were very pleased with the quality and quantity of their dishes but found the fritters (pictured below) and pancake would have benefited from being drained a bit more before serving. The mushroom sauce with the potato fritters was a bit bland and uninspiring but the dish as a whole was tasty and “...good for a winter's day to keep you warm”. The roasted buckwheat with vegetables and polish sausage stew was extremely tasty, well seasoned and piquant and the buckwheat had a smoky flavour, lifting the taste of the grain.

Blim and I had Kotlet Mielony, beef and pork meatballs (pictured top), good portions at £6.00 each with pickled beet and your choice of four salads. We both thoroughly enjoyed these; they were well seasoned, lean and generous. The mashed potatoes, quaintly served in scooped portions, were fluffy and creamy. Blim had a classics Greek salad and was pleased with its freshness and overall taste. The Saltka Jarzynowa I chose, was a traditional salad of cooked carrots, potatoes, eggs, peas, sweet corn seasoned with gherkins, parsley and Polish mustard in a light mayonnaise. This was crunchy, well balanced and complimented the meatballs and mashed potato perfectly.

Those of us, who wisely left room for dessert, made choices from a tempting array of familiar and traditional home-made cakes and puddings, most priced at £2.00 for good-sized portions. Blim thought his coffee and walnut cake was: “ Fit for a king and all his servants!” K. commented that it was the best she had ever tasted. The icing sugar-dusted apple cake was very good with beautifully cooked, well-seasoned, shredded apple filling sandwiched between cakey layers that were reminiscent of scones or American biscuits. One of us commented that she would be happy drive over (from Lewes) just to have coffee and one of the cakes all by herself.

I finished with a special Polish hot chocolate that was frothy, medium dark, not too sweet and full of rich cocoa taste- one of the best hot chocolates I have ever had! The coffee, served with a little chocolatey wafer roll, is of a very good, consistent quality; even the decaf is good! Worth trying is the interesting array of soft drinks: juice blends and detox mixes- very healthy, refreshing and unusual. I especially like the apple and mint juice; the mint cuts the apple’s sweetness very well.

Though this is only the second of the Sussex Ethnic Eats reviews, Badgerman and I agree that it is fast becoming one of our favourite places to eat.

With soft drinks and coffees, the bill for lunch for six came to £55.50 plus tip.

Ambiance: 3
Service: 3
Food Presentation: 2
Food Quality :3
Value for Money: 4

1. Greece: Harbourside Inn, Newhaven

Harbourside Inn
Fort Road (at Gibson Road)
East Sussex
01273 513340

Following a review in the Sussex Express newspaper, we booked to visit this establishment in the up and coming Newhaven wharf area. The newspaper article gave the reader the impression that there were many Greek dishes to choose from. There were, in reality, just a few: Moussaka, Greek Salad, Calimari and Lamb Kleftico. This really is a Newhaven pub with a few Greek dishes, so we will be reviewing a traditional Greek restaurant in the future. This issue aside, we had a good dining experience.

We recieved a warm welcome and settled down to look at the menu. There is a children's menu at £3.95. This seems to be a fairly popular place but when we arrived, there was only one other table of diners at 6:00 p.m. on a Sunday (the Karaoke starts at 7:00). Orders are placed at the bar. Our very generous plate of nachos arrived reasonably quickly and was expertly constructed with the sauce, guacamole, cheese and jalapenos lasting until we greedily gobbled the final, tangy tortilla chip. A good deal for £5.45. Blim had a quarter-pound burger with bacon, cheese and onions with chips and a salad on the side (£5.95) and just able to get that last of the lovely, chunky chips down. I had moussaka and Greek salad; a good, filling plate for £7.95. The moussaka is obviously homemade and was very tasty- not at all greasy as is often the case. The Greek salad was refreshing with some of the best feta I have tasted: not too salty and very creamy. I would, however, have liked the hot moussaka and the chilled salad on separate plates. Badgerman had the only traditional main course the Lamb Kleftico, served with tomato, mushrooms, fried onions and a choice of jacket or sautéed potatoes. He chose sautéed which were beautifully cooked and yummy. The lamb was very tender and tasty and again the portion was generous.

There is a standard, limited assortment of desserts on the menu, though the apple crumble is homemade. Badgerman and I managed to find room to share one of the special desserts, the homemade brownie in 'choccy' sauce. It was a delight! Soft, lightly cooked, packed with cocoa and smothered in velvety dark chocolate sauce, really worth saving some room for at £3.95.

The bill for three, excluding tip, was £48.95 for food and drinks- at usual bar prices.

Though the Harbourside Inn would not really qualify as a true 'ethnic eat' it certainly was well worth the drive.

Ambience: 2
Service: 3
Food Presentation : 2
Food Quality : 3
Value for Money: 3