Chichester was deprived of Woodies Brasserie, one of its few independent restaurants, for more than five months this year because of a kitchen fire which caused £250,000 of damage.
Owners the Beaton brothers (Shane, head chef, and Matt, front of house)extended the kitchen during the refurb. The restaurant and separate bar also underwent re-decoration. Alongside the changes, I also detect new life and spirit.
The large conservatory at the back of the restaurant is a natural extension of the restaurant area, the walls a fresh white with added red in the darker recesses. Beams, a chandelier, plants, flowers and art, mainly of photography for sale, are the sum of its parts as well as a lovely tongue and groove grey-painted bar and not so lovely loud music.
The on-view enlarged kitchen, seen from the conservatory, is pure theatre for those who love kitchen spectacle and energy.
Come here for simple brasserie food with classical and Mediterranean flavours. Start with maybe goat’s cheese risotto, ratatouille and pesto; butternut squash and rosemary soup with stilton fritters or filo prawns with coronation mayo. Move on to twice-cooked duck confit, braised red cabbage, apple, cranberries and juniper jus; crab, prawn and spinach fishcakes with parsley and caper hollandaise. Prices range from £5.50 to £18, most mains around £14.50.
An extensive global wine list demonstrated quality via an Oz shiraz served in a first-rate glass.
Moroccan spiced rillettes of lamb, chilli jam and crème fraiche was up first. The cumbersome but fashionable slate was a fine backdrop to beautifully moist, subtly-spiced breast of lamb with enough fat in it to give it great taste.
Served on plain lamb’s lettuce, the chilli jam enhanced the dish, but tiny blobs of crème fraiche were barely worth it.
A chargrilled piece of specialist bread would have increased its pleasures.
Funtington pork was married with classics: rosemary and garlic, a port jus and with a touch of what could be genius, black pudding and celeriac rősti.
The well-flavoured meat with those perfect additions sat on top of not a rősti – grated seasoned potato cooked in butter – but more of a puréed black pudding which overwhelmed any potato content.
Why not just make a rősti on top of crumbled pudding for both components to stand up for themselves?
Plentiful vegetables – roasted new potatoes, unbuttered, non-seasoned green veg and carrots – really weren’t necessary. Potato and potato? The plate could have used a few shards of one green, buttered, seasoned vegetable only.
Finish with panna cotta made with raspberries, hazelnut cream and Suchard sauce; banoffee parfait; ice creams and other desserts including rhubarb and ginger brûlée (my choice).
Although the custard base appeared to be cream with no eggs, the traditional way, the result was decidedly moreish, excellent rhubarb with a hint of ginger finding its way through the perfect caramel crust. Choc chip shortbread added another fine layer.
Service was simply ace and, a few culinary blips aside, there is a feeling of renewal at Woodies.
Every defeat, such as a devastating fire, contains its own lesson on how to improve and the Beaton brothers demonstrate this with zest. My bill came to £30.50 plus tip.
Woodies Brasserie, 10 St. Pancras, Chichester
01243 77 9895
Open Mon-Sat: 12 – 2 & 5.45 – 9.30 for food. Closed Sunday.
FOOD Four stars (Out of Five)
SERVICE Five stars (Out of Five)
ATMOSPHERE Four stars (Out of Five)
Disabled access: Steps are involved in part of the brasserie.
How to get there: follow the A27 to Chichester, exiting at the West Wittering roundabout. Pass the station, follow the main road to Market Avenue, continue into the one way system (St. Pancras). The restaurant is on the left.