Review – The Jolly Poacher
Situated on the site the Roundhill pub used to be, The Jolly Poacher has undergone a major refurbishment since the last time I was up that way. Standing in a bold dark grey on the corner of Ditchling Road and Round Hill Road, the pub at first glance doesn’t look overly inviting, especially in the drizzling rain. However, upon entering you’re welcomed into a light, airy, spacious pub-come-restaurant with large wooden tables, a long and inviting bar, chalkboard menus adorning the walls and a really good feel about the place.
Sat on a table for two parallel to the bar, my friend and I started on a bottle of their cheapest red, a Ponte Pietra Merlot 2010 (£16.50). The wine list overall was extensive with a worldly collection of bottles to suit deeper wallets than mine. They also offer Champagne, cocktails and the standard pub fare of lager, cider and spirits.
Our menus were presented to us along with a complimentary bowl of green olives – sadly not vegetarian so my friend couldn’t enjoy them, but I was pleased to have something to nibble on as we caught up and perused the dishes on offer. The good thing about the Jolly Poacher menu is that is caters for both vegetarian and meat eaters alike – I think for the first time I’ve seen in a pub, the starters had more vege options than carnivore!
After a good glug of wine, we eventually decided on what to order and I went for the Pan Fried Scallops – with burnt lime, sesame and coriander (£8.00) to start with and the Pan Fried Corn Fed Chicken Breast – served with cocotte potatoes, pancetta crisps, parsnip puree and black cabbage (£13.95). Complimentary bread was served onto the table, a nice idea, however the brown, wheaty wholemeal was overly salty and the crusty white seemed a tad dry and without a side plate served caused a lot of crumbs.
Putting the not that great bread to one side, we chatted and caught up whilst waiting for our starters and I began to get very hungry as there was quite a wait in-between ordering and food to table.
When the starters were presented, I couldn’t help feel a little disappointed. The scallops looked a little on the small side and the presentation was off putting – far too much going on on the plate. Sadly, the taste wasn’t too exciting either. A real distinct lack of flavour, I found the dish to be quite bland. Not a hint of lime in sight and lots of ad-hoc drizzled chilli sauce was all my pallet could indulge in. The scallops seemed a tad over-cooked and lacked the sweet taste and texture you’d usually find with such a delicate seafood. Layered on top of what I think was lemongrass and perhaps spring onion, I really wanted to enjoy the dish, but for me, it really didn’t work.
Wondering and hoping if my main would be of a higher caliber, I was pleased when it was served as it was certainly better presented than the starter. . The moist, succulent chicken breast itself was perched on top of a well cooked mound of black cabbage and both were surrounded by the parsnip puree and a jus. However, once again, the dish just didn’t work for me. The chicken was nicely cooked but the parsnip puree lacked flavour and reminded me slightly of wallpaper paste – thick and globulous.
The pancetta was ok, a crispy texture was welcomed on the plate. However the potatoes tasted slightly dry and I didn’t see anything special about them, nor the jus. It felt like it was trying too hard to be elegant, gourmet and fancy and the dish ended up coming across as rushed. The portion size wasn’t overly large and I found myself polishing off the olives afterwards to try and fill myself up.
Finishing our wine, I thought I’d give the desert menu a glance and my friend ordered an espresso. The Vanilla Creme Brûlée caught my eye and I deliberated on ordering one given the prior dishes. Convinced by my friend that a ‘why the hell not’ attitude was in order, we ended up ordering one each.
The desert was good. The crispy, burnt sugar topping cracked to reveal a creamy, vanilla custard which was tasty and I quickly wolfed down the lot. I did wonder about the presentation and serving of the desert in a large, round shallow bowl – but I think we’ve heard enough of my opinions on presentation by this point.
Overall, I really wanted to enjoy The Jolly Poacher in a sympathetic ‘I wanted it to be really good’ kind of way. Whether it’ll take a few months for the dishes to really come into their own, only time will tell.