Where exactly is it? Sussex Restaurant is in the venue formerly known as Arbutus, a once-pioneering Soho joint that, along with Barrafina, pretty much revolutionised London’s dining scene in the mid-noughties.
So what goes on there? A tribute to owners the Gladwin brothers’ country roots (the pair also own half a dozen other restaurants in West and Southwest London), it’s an advocate of farm-to-fork cookery. Chef Oliver Gladwin creates seasonal British menus that follow the philosophy of “what grows together, goes together.” And we wholeheartedly approve.
What should I eat? There’s a plant-based two-course set lunch for £18 which feels like good value. But my old friend and I – on an impromptu midweek blowout – went a la carte. A verdant bowl of raw peas, broad beans, chilli and basil was summer itself, while an accompanying starter of courgette ribbons, strawberries, goat’s cheese and mint matched sweet, earth and creamy textures perfectly. And an expertly-pin-boned mackerel fillet sat prettily in vivid oils, a meaty Sicilian stew of sweet and sour peppers, capers and olives adding savoury thwack. As for the side of rosemary roasties? Exemplary in their crispness (and fluffy innards).
The must-try? A mushroom Marmite éclair (main pic, above). At just £2.50 each, topped with a gherkin, these give up an addictive hit of umami. We instantly wanted another round.
The interior: discuss. Classically elegant Soho, all wood floors and dark painted walls, with that slight feeling of a member’s bar. An atrium ceiling at the rear floods the room with natural light. It’s low-key sexiness even in daytime.
And what do I drink? A Luberon rosé was perfect on a hot day; post-prandial negronis (made with British ingredients) slipped down easily too, with their requisite kick.
What’s the vibe like? Lively. Arriving for a late midweek lunch, the room was still half full of various office groups all enjoying what looked like leisurely lunches. With a bottle of vino or two.
The verdict: Pure Soho 2022 in its blend of foodieness with clandestine interiors – and just a wink of debauchery.