Restaurant Interlude, The New UK Gem By SA Chef Jean Delport
Every foodie in Cape Town will be familiar with Chef Jean Delport, the mastermind who created exceptional dish after exceptional dish at Benguela on Main in Somerset West. The foodie world shed many tears when news hit us early this year that Chef Jean would be leaving the Western Cape to head up a new restaurant in the UK … but luckily I am currently in the UK, and, even more lucky, Chef Jean’s new restaurant, Interlude, just opened its doors and I was one of the first ones to go visit.
Interlude is situated on the Leonardslee Gardens grounds, which I unfortunately didn’t get the chance to see as the sun sets ridiculously early and by the time I arrived it was pitch black. But only 6pm. Kassandra and I caught the train from Victoria to Horsham, and Leonardslee is about a 30-minute bus ride from there – but probably best accessed by car because dinners tend to run late and the bus service ends early.
Even though I missed seeing the actual gardens, I did get to experience Restaurant Interlude in all its splendour, welcomed by the self-playing piano that SA diners may remember from Benguela on Main. Leonardlsee is owned by the same family, and those familiar with Chef Jean’s South African history will find many commonalities in the new Restaurant Interlude – from pairings with Benguela Cove to biltong dishes. But other than that, dishes at Interlude are very much rooted in the British land – and all dishes on the menu are inspired by ingredients found within Leonardslee, from almonds and chestnuts to estate rabbits and deer.
Ready, Set, Go … A World of Starters
We had 18 courses as part of the set menu, so grab some coffee, maybe a snack, and buckle up – you’re about to go on a culinary journey of note! I won’t go into too much detail on each course, but will try to give you as much as possible so that you can get a full experience of the evening.
Dinners at Restaurant Interlude start with ‘Untraditional’ Crackers with Seeds and Stones. In a nutshell, this is a beautifully presented ‘tree’ of crackers with a beautiful pebble – which is actually made of the most divine fish paste. There are a handful of crackers available – from seed to chicken to squid ink – but my fave were definitely the squid ink. In addition to this, there was a stuffed chestnut cone, deliciously creamy and melt-in-your-mouth.
Rabbit Eats Carrot
This was followed by a dish called Rabbit Eats Carrot – a rabbit / carrot doughnut with dip. Even though I’m not much of a doughnut fan and my sister will literally hate me for eating rabbit, this was one of my favourite dishes of the evening. It was beautifully presented and filled with sublime flavours.
Rabbit-carrot goodness was followed by another one of my favourite dishes of the evening. Don’t worry, even though I want to say all 18 rocked my world, the ones I’m drawing special attention to put the cherry on top of my foodie experience on the night. This was a dish called pumpkin pine – slices of pumpkin with the most divine pine mousse, certainly a flavour I have never tasted before but would go back for again and again. The first time I ate at Benguela on Main, Chef Jean served a dish called Seasons of Pumpkin. Sabine still remembers this as one of her favourite dishes ever, so it seems Chef Jean has a special skill of making pumpkin amazing.
Freshly Baked Buns
We took a slight break from the unique dishes with a bread dish – freshly baked buns with a collection of seeds from the Leonardslee Gardens. This was served with an onion butter and a chervil butter, both beautiful to look at and beautiful to munch on.
Scallop With Green Almonds
Next up was a dish of Scallop, Green Almonds, Apple, and Nettle. I’m absolutely in love with scallops, and any scallop dish will literally rock my world. This one was especially yummy – particularly due to the addition of green almonds, which I had never had before. I love almonds, and the fresher taste of the young and green ones definitely worked really well with the lightness of the scallops. You may be surprised by the nettle addition of this, but really it just added a little bit of extra flavour to the dish – and no ‘stinging nettle’ nightmares were had!
Eggs and Soldiers
The next dish – I’ll be honest – didn’t quite seem to fit in with the rest, but it was so divinely delicious that I don’t think anyone would mind. You’re presented with a giant (fake) ostrich egg for a Interlude take on eggs and soldiers with potatoes and Exmoor caviar. It was rich and creamy and absolutely delicious, and I hope that Interlude will be serving breakfast coz I’d want this for breakfast every single day!
Mushrooms and Deer Biltong
You’d think by now we’d be moving on to mains, but, alas, the starter side of things lasts quite a while if you’re eating 18 courses. For me, that’s a good thing. I’m obsessed with starters. I love the intricacies of the dishes, the simple flavours, unique combinations, and petiteness. So obviously I was still cruising along foodie heaven highway.
The next stop was one of Kassandra’s favourite dishes of the evening: Mushroom slices with biltong jam, made from deer from the estate. I loved the fat pieces of biltong and the mushrooms were certainly unique (they’re the yellow-white slices in the pictures), but the jam was a little too sweet for me. Obviously a personal preference as Kassandra is still raving about this dish.
Bacon Custard with Sweetbreads
The next dish on the menu was probably the weirdest one. And certainly the one I’m still most confused about. I liked it, I liked it a lot, and that’s probably why I’m confused. Bacon custard with sweetbread. Say what? Exactly! It definitely looked like custard and had the texture of custard, yet the taste was entirely not custard – which was weird and delicious and confusing and yum all at the same time. I don’t generally like sweetbreads either, but this one just worked so well, and I loved the whole dish.
Our Three Main Courses
Halibut with Watercress
From there we finally moved on to mains – and to a dish equally delicious but certainly less weird: Halibut with watercress and seaweed. Leonardslee has seven lakes cascading into one another, and the team has managed to grow a small patch of watercress by some of the faster running streams, which is used in this dish. I have alluded to other ingredients in the dishes that come directly from the farm, but I honestly think this is one of the best things about Restaurant Interlude. I love an emphasis on local, home-grown, and sustainable, and being on farmland allows Interlude to take this to the next level. A wonderful thing to be able to experience.
Pheasant with Blackberries and Anchovy
The next main course was pheasant with blackberries and anchovy. The anchovy was restricted to the accompanying mousse, which was a good thing as I found the taste slightly overwhelming, but overall the dish was delicious. There were many firsts for me at Restaurant Interlude, and pheasant was another one of those. Lovely.
Trenchmore Wagyu with Bone Marrow
Our last main course was my absolute favourite course of the whole evening: Trenchmore wagyu with bone marrow. It’s no secret that I’m a carnivore of note (#Namibian) and while I generally prefer game to beef, this wagyu rocked my world. It comes from an adjacent farm, priding itself on producing slow-grown Sussex-cross wagyu beef. The cut is aged for 72 days on the bone to maximise flavour, and the piece on your plate is the most beautiful melt-in-your-mouth flavour-intense beef you’ll ever have. Of course the addition of bone marrow, another favourite, catapults this dish even further to the top of the foodie heaven scale.
An Interlude At Interlude
You’d think after that every other dish would be a let down, but Chef Jean does not disappoint. The wagyu beef was followed with a meadowsweet and ginger beer palate cleanser, served in a little pebble that pops in your mouth to release the liquid. It’s fun to eat and Kassandra and I both loved it. Certainly, this was one of the coolest palate cleansers I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.
Now, On To Dessert
Now, on to dessert. I’ll be honest, by this time I was already stuffed. Even though I still have the appetite of a hungry lion, I think I may have lost some of my eating skills. But luckily for me Kassandra is also a massive foodie and she was dancing along from course to course. As an aside, which I perhaps should have mentioned before, Kassandra is dairy-intolerant. A menu such as Interlude’s is almost impossible when catering for dietary requirements, but Chef Jean did exceptionally well in making sure none of Kassandra’s dishes had diary in them, while I enjoyed them in their original state.
Sheep Milk Sorbet
This was particularly evident in the first dessert of the night. I got to enjoy a sheep milk sorbet, which sounds like it could be gross (I think I was expecting goat’s milk flavour), but was surprisingly delicious. Served with the most delicate chocolate leaf, this was a good way to start dessert. Kassandra obviously couldn’t do the sorbet, so she received a berry sorbet instead, intense in flavour and super delicious. I honestly can’t say which one I preferred. I think the normal me would go for the berry sorbet, but that sheep’s milk sorbet really impressed me.
Next up was a smokey acorn dessert, with 70% guanaja, brandy, and coffee. This was probably the prettiest dish of the evening. Judging from the presentation, you’d think you’d be biting into an actual acorn. But you’d receive a lovely surprise to find out these are perfectly crafted chocolate acorns. The actual acorn is incorporated in the smoke and in the chocolate cremaux.
Burnt Honey S’more
The last dessert of the evening – and, indeed, the grand finale of the dining experience as a whole – was the burnt honey s’more. S’mores are everyone’s childhood favourite, but this one adds some glitz and glam to the standard American treat, and you’re literally presented with a tiny grill for your marshmallow on a stick, the cookie, a chocolate dome, and a Japanese dogwood fruit treat. My auto correct just changed that to ‘dog woof’. Lol. Kassandra ate every last crumb, but I struggled to finish this. As said, I must be out of practice. A shocking embarrassment, I know.
I guess this just means I need to go back to Restaurant Interlude … again, and again, and again. They also do a High Tea, so I think I may just find myself back there to enjoy that before I skip out on winter and head back to sunny SA. It’s literally four degrees outside as I’m writing this, windy and rainy, and I’m questioning my poor life decision of being in the Northern Hemisphere right now. But, then again, if I weren’t here I wouldn’t have had a chance to try Restaurant Interlude, and that would have been a tragedy indeed.
As always, Chef Jean brings culinary excellence to every one of his dishes. I didn’t speak much about the wine pairing in an aim to not make this very long article even longer, but we had the chance to try various Benguela Cove wines. These, of course, are always delicious.
Visit Restaurant Interlude
If you’re a food-lover of any kind, you’d love Restaurant Interlude. It’s pure fine dining, it’s pure excellence, and it’s absolutely worth every penny. They’re brand new, so I’d suggest getting in there quick before their books start filling and you’ll have to make a reservation months in advance. You won’t regret it.
Address: Restaurant Interlude, Leonardslee Gardens, Brighton Road, Lower Beeding, Horsham RH13 6PP
Call: +44 1403 289490
ALL PHOTOS BY DELISH KASS.
Article Date: November 2018
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All information correct at time of publication. We do not accept any liability caused by errors, including, but not limited to, changes in price, menu, opening times, address, or other contact details.