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Nobles Restaurant, Battle, East Sussex

Battle, the small market town in East Sussex, is (as any schoolchild used to know) the site of the Battle of Hastings, of 1066 and all that fame. We have friends who farm nearby, and on Boxing Day we all gather in the town square to watch the annual meet of the local hunt. The sight of the huntsmen in their red coats with hounds mingling with the crowds, all against the backdrop of the Battle Abbey gatehouse is a nostalgic scene of old England. A little further down the High Street at number 17, is a fine old townhouse which houses Nobles Restaurant.

The dining rooms have been beautifully refurbished and we particularly admired the chairs, which had been made by a local craftsman. They are both elegant and comfortable. Four of us had booked in for dinner on Saturday night, and we arrived reasonably early so as to get our orders in ahead of the rush.

The three course dinner menu (£19 50) is concise, (five starters, eight mains and five puds) and much to my delight, celebrates both seasonality and local produce. It also shows off chef Paul Noble’s more specialist techniques, presumably honed to perfection at such prior London establishments as the Goring and the Landmark. He is clearly a dab hand with the smoker, and his breadmaking is very good. Although there are side orders of vegetables available, they're pretty well redundant since each dish has its own integrated selection of goodies.

A starter of home smoked haddock was full of flavour and it came with a "Gruyère baby omelette" which provided a suitably supportive canvas. I kicked off with an excellent risotto made with local Wealdway ash goat's cheese, enriched with sun blushed tomatoes. The risotto itself was delicious and its texture quite perfect, but I wasn't sure about the shaved parmesan cheese on the top which I thought was having a bit of a fight with the goat. Two of us had the "three ways duck" (£2 supp) which was really sensational. The tender pink breast revealed subtle hints of more home smoking, the slow cooked leg was shredded and schmaltzy, while the Foie Gras terrine was rich and gamey. This duck dish deserves a quack factor of nine out of ten, which is the most I ever give!

There are two vegetarian dishes in the main menu, both of which looked interesting: mushroom stroganoff made from wild mushrooms and a spinach aubergine and parsnip gateau. I was really tempted, but with local wild boar and Romney Marsh lamb and beef in close competition it proved to be only a minor flirtation. The fish mixed grill (£2 supp) was a good idea, with salmon, prawn, squid and cod all mingled with braised fennel, tomatoes and olives -- very Mediterranean. My wife pronounced it very tasty but she rather hankered after some sauce. (No, not Heinz tomato ketchup)! Both the roast saddle of Romney Marsh lamb and the chargrilled fillets of Romney Marsh beef (£6.50 supp) lived up to expectations: their garnishes had been well thought out, particularly the braised endive and shallots which added an even richer dimension to the steak while the glazed fondant potatoes were copybook examples.

Now it was my turn to have a "three ways" dish. This time it was three different parts of the progeny of a wild boar that had somehow got into the pen of a local porker! Slow cooked belly of pork has become a little hackneyed lately, but this was really to die for - almost jellylike it was so tender, and the flavour was porky and best. A noisette of roast loin, normally the piece de resistance, was actually rather overshadowed by the extreme tenderness of the humble belly. The third member of the trio was a deliciously spicy sausage, home-made of course, and revealing yet another of the chef's accomplishments.

For pudding we tried a lightly spiced crème brulée, which had a nice crunchy topping. The white chocolate cheesecake went down particularly well - yummy was the term used. Meanwhile I was tucking into an apricot bread and butter pudding, multilayered and well drenched in custard. The selection of local British cheeses was well worth the supplement of two pounds and we particularly appreciated the accompanying home made chutney.

The wine list is also concise, but well chosen; we enjoyed two bottles of a very nice rosé and then went on to a superb claret, a premier cru St Emilion from Chateau Chant-Alouette, the 2003 vintage, drinking really beautifully and offered at a bargain price of £20.60. Service was both friendly and homely – no airs and graces or attitude.

Clifford Mould, March 2008

The cost of our meal: £40.00 a head including service, supplements and three bottles of wine.

Nobles Restaurant
17 High Street, Battle
East Sussex,
TN33 0AE

01424 77 44 22


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