The Chard does OctoberBest

Sometimes there are those meals that you just never want to end. On our recent visit to Chard to celebrate their October Best menu it was one of those meals. An evening of communal dining from a set menu can often cause anxiety but, with the welcoming atmosphere of the team matched by the beautiful setting of Igigi it was a great evening.. and then the food, oh the food! Each course was perfectly balanced between classic and unique flavors and we all ended up eating a lot slower than normal just to ensure that we savored each bite. But enough waffling, you want to know what I ate and what it was like...

The Extra bits

We had paid in advance for our three course meal but you can’t expect three foodies to go to an amazing venue like Chard and not have a couple of extras. We decided to share two extra dishes; duck fat caramel & pecan popcorn and seeded soda bread with seaweed butter.

I am a huge fan of popcorn already so loved the idea of a new flavor; the popcorn itself was sticky but crisp with a great caramelization around the edge. It was more sweet than savory but I loved it as a nibble with the wine I ordered. (also an extra)

I realized after ordering that I have never actually had soda bread before, but I’ll definitely be ordering it again. The softer textured bread with seeds went beautifully with the salty seaweed butter. The butter itself was such a great option and I immediately regretted offering to share as I could have eaten the dish to myself (not because of the sizes, they were great for sharing, just because I loved the butter so much!)

The Starters

When we booked the meal we were given the set menu via October best and ordered ahead of time with a choice of starters between a spiced squash, confit duck and roast chickpea dish or Salt baked celeriac with roast garlic ricotta and parmesan walnut.

I went with the celeriac as I have always wanted to try it salt-baked and I was not disappointed. The celeriac was cooked through beautifully with the hint of salt to season, I loved the earthiness of the celeriac mixed with the creamy ricotta which was not overpoweringly garlic but had a great after taste. Because of my mum's nut allergy, I rarely have nuts with dishes, particularly not savory ones, but I loved the crunch of the walnut alongside the other textures.

The Mains

Full disclosure, I will never be able to explain this dish well enough to give it justice. It was perfection. The dish I chose was pork cheek with brown sauce, Jerusalem artichoke and black pudding which I opted for over the delicious-sounding Sussex Slipcote with fried pear, red onion and crispy lentils.

I’ve never had pork cheek before but it’s definitely something I’ll be trying again soon. The meat itself was falling apart and full of flavour and the acidity if the homemade brown sauce was a perfect accompaniment. I’m a new fan of black pudding and so the crispy crumbs sprinkled over the top adding another element that brought the dish to another level. The Jerusalem artichoke came as a purée and I scraped the plate at the end to get the delicious flavours!

Sofaya, one of the people I went with, was lovely enough to let me try some of her main and it was equally as stunning. Sussex slipcote is a delicious creamy cheese that they generously served topped lentils and the sautéed red onion. Again slipcote was an ingredient I’ve never tried and after tasting it and having the glowing recommendation for Mae who was serving us, I’ll keep my eye out for it in the future.

And then it was time for dessert..

I love a pudding and will often opt for a pudding over a starter so after our first two courses I was so excited for pudding. The options were a choice between a sussex cheese, pear chutney and candied pecans or a plum, almond, amaretti crunch ice cream.

Shock, it was delicious: the plums were beautifully cooked with a soft interior which mixed sweet and sour perfectly, with the slight crunch of the skin staying to add that extra texture. The dish was served with pieces of almond cake that merger beautifully with the ice cream and I loved the shards of caramelized almond on top as well and who doesn't like a few edible flowers to end a meal?

Overall the meal was stand out and a definite highlight of October best so I am not surprised to hear they won best menu this year. The service from the team was amazing throughout, with a clear passion for what they do and an obvious love for food. I loved the communal dining element which meant listening and joining in with a range of foodie conversations, which was a great touch alongside a stunning meal. I look forward to heading back soon!

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