Ye gods, THAT gazpacho! Lizzie and I had just walked an hour from Bo-peep carpark to our table in Rathfinny’s Tasting Room booked for 2pm. The walk was beautiful, along the top, then left and down through the vineyard valley: Eric Ravillious meets Umbria. We were talking a lot, short on time and short of breath, and the day warm. Inevitably, the starter we could neither resist, when we settled in our window table, was the ‘Iced English tomato gazpacho with Manchego croquettes’. My, was it good.
Everything about the dish made us smile – including the Instagramable “watermelon red”, as Lizzie put it, of the soup, against the small perfectly (ill-)formed white bowl, against the grey brushed metal tabletop. The fresh tomato flavour, and the island of cucumber submerged at its centre, with other chopped flavourings – mint, garlic?, further cucumber? It was deelish. A perfect dish. Such a delicate blend of refreshing flavour, punctuated immaculately by intermittent mouthfuls of the lovely, rather more decadent, crispy, cheesy croquette served on the side. Oh, yes.
But… I’m getting ahead of myself. First we enjoyed drinks and bread. Lizzie ordered the incredibly rhubarby, light and refreshing Rhubarb Crush (£3) – “bright”, she called it – while I sampled the very fine house white: Rathfinny Cradle Valley 2017 (£6.50/ glass). We ate bread – I especially enjoyed the grape and rosemary focaccia with butter (served on a stone and studded with salt): yum.
For mains, Lizzie went for the ‘Risotto of courgette & mint, courgette flower tempura, buffalo ricotta’ which she described as “unusually good, perfect rice texture, lemony”. She enjoyed the young courgette with flower still attached in a crispy batter.
I, meanwhile, plumped for the ‘Short rib of Belted Galloway cooked over coals, cep ketchup, beetroot, fennel’. The beef, with a beef jus with soya and mirin was full of flavour and texture, complemented beautifully by the sides of delicate pink and golden beetroot (my fav), fennel and sauces. The small green salad on the side also went excellently.
We opted not to try the puddings this time – tempting though Lemon posset and Brillat-Savarin cheesecake sounded. But we were sated.
While we sat eating and chatting – about far away adventures, train travel, and India – a kestrel hovered overhead. The tables are all set along a gallery-shaped space with floor to ceiling windows onto the beautiful sweeping view. Eating with a view, a bit like living with a view, brings its own special flavours. You cannot forget you’ve escaped town for the duration.
Rathfinny Wine Estate, Alfriston, BN26 5TU Lunch Menu 12-3.00 £30 for two courses; £35 for three. rathfinnyestate.com