I have said it before and I'll say it again, I am seriously impressed with restaurants and pubs in the South East of England. They continually satisfy my deep down, innate desire to consume awesome food at a good price. Marco Pierre White's Wheeler's at the Chequers Inn in Maresfield is just such a restaurant.
One thing I must note is that, to my total shame, I have never been to a Marco Pierre White restaurant. I don't know why, the hair, the bandana, the 'tude. Something about him just rubbed me the wrong way. But, he's a British institution, so, like black pudding and wellies, I had to give it a try.
The Chequers Inn doesn't look like much from the outside. I had passed it dozens of times on my way to Eastbourne and just thought, "oh, that looks like a nice building." It wasn't until I saw the name Marco Pierre White that I got interested. And my interest stayed high the entire meal. And it had little to do with the drawings of an altogether sexual nature. Note the middle picture in the second image from the top above, a man on top of a woman and a police officer shining his light on his subjects. The restaurant is adorned with all types of artwork. It was like being in a museum.
We had come for the set menu; 2 courses for £16.50. However, the fine print stated that it was only available from 6pm-7pm and our reservation was for 7pm so we couldn't partake. Which was actually a good thing. Because, instead we we served some of the best food I have had in a long time. Not since Paris have I tasted such exquisitely prepared dishes.
First up was my Panache of Foie Gras and Duck Egg, served on Brioche. And oh how glorious it was. The Foie Gras melted in my mouth like it was warm butter and the Duck Egg and Brioche was like a winter duvet that cuddles you in the night. Wrapped around my Foie Gras it took my senses by storm. But so did my wife's and mother-in-law's Parfait of Foie Gras, Raisin Sec en Gelee de Madere. My father-in-law, in true Northern style was having the Morecamb Bay Potted Shrimps with Brown Bread and Butter. And I thought him to be a silly fool. With all the choices why would one choose that? Because it was delicious, that's why.
With our starters slowly being digested and our palates completely ready to accept more, our main courses were served by a woman who had clearly just started that week and wasn't quite clued up on dining protocol. Looking the diner in the eyes and speaking clearly would be useful in the future.
My Scottish Ribeye Steak with l'Escargot and Herbs, served with Bearnaise Sauce and Triple Cooked Chips was something out of a dream. It evaporated in my mouth like water boiling over. The Bearnaise Sauce was done to an exquisite standard with just enough Tarragon. My wife's Roast Rump of Lamb a la Dijonnaise with Dijon and Chives was also a lovely dish, however, after trying the steak my tastebuds were spoiled and nothing would compare. The Dauphinoise Potatoes did let the dish down though. It was quite possibly the saltiest thing I have ever put in my mouth. Upon questioning the chef he said it was slightly over seasoned, but that it was most likely the cheese they use. Fair enough, but you might want to consider changing it to another cheese that doesn't taste like the Atlantic.
The final dish from our exceptional meal was my father-in-law's Braised Oxtail and Kidney Pudding with Swede Puree. Not much to look at, but it delivers on taste. Huge, powerful flavors in a rich, reduction sauce. A nice effort!
I'm not sure how much input Marco Pierre White actually has in his growing chain of Wheeler's restaurants. What I do know, is that if they are all like the Chequers Inn in Maresfield, this food blogger is going to be visiting a few more of these little gems. My prediction is that once people catch onto this restaurant prices will rise and it will be very hard to get into. Grab a table while you can and enjoy the meal. I did.
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