Is the Arundell Arms a pub or a hotel with fine dining? It seems to do both equally well and the restaurant has held two AA rosettes continuously since 1987.
The hotel is a fishing establishment. It has fishing rights to seven local rivers and organises fishing lessons if needed, or advice and maps if not. It is also definitely a hotel – you have to walk through the main reception area to get to either the bar or the restaurant.
The dining room was traditional and formal: there were large heavy curtains, tablecloths, an illuminated chandelier and classical music playing. We could have a ‘tasting menu’ or the à la carte (which we chose). The bar area was busier than the restaurant and you could see why: the prices for this standard of food are very good for a pub – it uses the same kitchen as the restaurant and is less formal, which some people prefer. I noticed that the bar area was fully occupied.
The amuses-bouches were appreciated; my companion particularly liked her broccoli tempura. I liked the fact that as one of us was vegetarian and the other wasn’t, we got separate mini plates of these appetisers.
My companion said that there was a good choice of vegetarian dishes on the menu. She had the Vulscombe goats’ cheese with salad as a starter. This looked beautiful; the salad was delicate and prettily arranged, with the salad vegetables complementing the creamy goats’ cheese. She chose the pastry croustade of Provençal vegetables for main course – this was served with a creamy sauce that was pronounced delicious. This was followed by the lemon crème brûlée, which was served with a poppy seed shortbread. The brûlée was fragrant and there was a delicate crunch from the biscuit.
I am less of a vegetarian and chose the John Dory to start. This was delicate and well cooked. I particularly liked the crispy piece of kale perched on the top. The duck I had for main course was served pink and I was pleased to find it sitting on top of a potato galette – this went superbly with the duck and there was plenty of rich jus to go with it. Someone in the kitchen is a whizz at making sauces as they were all noticeably delicious.
For dessert I had the candied ginger parfait with sugared doughnut and poached rhubarb. The parfait was a large scoop of creamy yet tangy dessert, served at exactly the right temperature (icy cold but not too solid) and accompanied by a small beignet filled with tiny pieces of perfectly pink rhubarb. The rhubarb stems were seasonally slender, and there was a striking contrast between the rich beignet and the tender morsels of rhubarb nestling at its centre. Many of the dishes were on the smaller side of things – but they were done well and tasted good.
The bar area had quietened down as we left. This place is both a comfortable pub with very good food and a more refined hotel with restaurant – the choice is up to the lucky customer.