As a lover of rosé champagne, it hasn’t taken me long to become a loyal convert to English Sparkling rosé thanks to The Driver’s, who established the Rathfinny Wine Estate in 2010 near Alfriston in the South Downs of Sussex, with the express intention of producing some of the world’s best sparkling wine. I can now officially confirm, having been part of the reason their sparkling rosé has already sold out, that the quality of the wine made on their Estate is starting to rival some of the very best from Champagne.
So imagine my delight when I found out that if I went to have dinner in the Tasting Room we could order A WHOLE BOTTLE of their first production of 2015 sparkling rosé to drink with our meal because (unless I get down there again soon) they have just enough left to serve to their guests until Christmas. Then we only have a little wait until the 2016 bottles are ready.
The Tasting Room experience we had was superb. Led by Michelin Star chef Chris Bailey, the restaurant offers dining from a menu of seasonal, locally produced, modern British cuisine that changes on a regular basis.
We arrived at the Flint Barns to quickly change and be met by Harry, who works in the restaurant and was our designated driver for the night, which was a lovely touch – it’s only a ten minute walk between the two, but great to be driven door to door. The Tasting Room with its Tasting Bar and Restaurant is situated in their RIBA nominated, state-of-the-art Winery and has a friendly, relaxed elegance that sums up the Driver ethos in general. They are currently offering a six course Land, Sea or Garden Tasting Menu with a deliciously eclectic mix of fish, meat or vegetarian options, full of surprises and bursting with flavours. This is proper fine dining, appealing to a wide audience and the restaurant was full of wine lovers with a mixture of couples and groups. The presentation of the small plates were beautiful and you certainly couldn’t fault the service. The staff throughout the Estate work as one big happy family and it is a joy to experience.
This was the beauty we were mostly here to see:-
We decided to order one of the Sea and one of the Garden menu’s to share, so here we have the Squid ink, cods roe & chervil, pictured with the Beetroot crisp, quince & wood sorrel. The next course was a superb scallop dish and a red onion & olive tart with smoked burrata, bitter leaves, truffle, parsley. Followed by a delicious Seared sea trout with beetroot, daikon & yuzu together with a dish of Roasted cauliflower, yeast crumb, pomegranate, charred aubergine & goat yoghurt:-
The pudding was a riot of flavour with the mixture of roasted pineapple, coconut sorbet, lime, rum, matcha sponge and a delicate wasabi leaf:-
They are open Wednesdays to Sundays 11-6 for lunches and Fridays and Saturdays for dinner. They recommend booking: Reservation Link here
We stayed in the Flint Barns a home from home experience (well, not really as their barns are a lot nicer, cleaner and stylish than my home) but it’s very relaxed and comfortable and we decided we’d go back and stay for longer next time as it’s such a tonic if you want to escape your urban jungle for a minute.
Whether you are looking for a weekend away as a family, as a couple or walking the South Downs Way with a group of friends, the Flint Barns are the perfect place to stay. These historic buildings in the Cradle Valley lie at the western end of the Estate and have been beautifully restored and extended to the highest standard, forming a beautifully appointed “home away from home”.
A large, welcoming dining room, serving locally sourced home-cooked meals, is complemented by a separate lounge and snug, both with fireplaces, and a lovely enclosed courtyard, which makes this the ideal venue to welcome special interest and school groups, or companies looking for an unusual place to hold gatherings or meetings. A perfect and unique place to enjoy the beautiful landscape of the South Downs National Park and the rich history of the area. We had a fantastic breakfast there, followed by a lovely walk:-
Breakfast in the Flint Barns:-
The walking trail:-
Complete with wildflowers and a poignant few poppies still remaining, “Lest We Forget”:-
Truly a wonderful jewel in the crown for Sussex!