Hop on the train from Brighton Station and in just over 15 minutes you could be sitting in Limetree Kitchen, a beautiful, independent cocktail bar and restaurant specialising in top quality, locally sourced food.
After owner Alex cut his teeth at another restaurant in Lewes, he decided he wanted a project of his own to focus on. After finding the perfect venue just across the railway bridge from Lewes station, Limetree Kitchen opened its doors in 2011.
In the early days, the restaurant’s shoestring budget only stretched as far as garden chairs and a very small oven, but they’ve come a long way in the four years since then. Nowadays the interior is cosy yet minimalist, shabby chic with white wooden chairs, tables and bare floorboards. The front of the restaurant has just become a mini cocktail bar area with high tables and seats laid out in the bay window, the perfect place to watch the world go by.
The menu at Limetree focuses on local, ethical and responsibly sourced ingredients. Beef and poultry come from Holmansbridge farm in Barcombe, pork from Plantation Pigs in Godalming and fruit and veg from Sussex and Kent via Fin & Farm. As Alex says, he wants to “let the ingredients speak for themselves”.
You don’t often start a meal with pudding but to drink my colleague chooses a Tiramisu (£9.95) from the new cocktail menu. An espresso martini with coffee sorbet, Small Batch espresso, vanilla infused Stolichnaya vodka, masala and syrup de gomme. It tastes just like the real thing and presents the perfect balance between bitter coffee and sweet masala. I opt for one of their beers in the form of The Wild Beer Co Madness IPA (6.8% £6) a fruity, light yet hoppy beer with a slightly cloudy look, incredibly refreshing.
Pre-starter we are treated to an amuse bouche of Cauliflower Pakoras with Tandoori Mayo, tender, perfectly cooked cauliflower florets in a light batter with a zingy, earthy mayonnaise as the perfect accompaniment.
Starters soon follow; I go for the Salmon Carpaccio, pickled cucumber, wasabi and yoghurt dressing, cod roe (£7.50) the salmon is slightly seared but tender and fresh. The salty roe adds an element that goes well with the lightly pickled cucumber and the zingy wasabi dressing. My colleague opts for the Chicken Liver, white truffle and pistachio parfait, lychee, pea shoots, pancetta and brioche (£7.95). The lychee sorbet is a surprise element that we are at first unsure of, but as soon as we add all of the elements together, the sweetness of the sorbet along with the deep flavour of the parfait makes for an incredible duo.
For mains, I go for the Confit Holmansbridge Farm Turkey Leg, parma ham, fondant potato, glazed carrot and jus (£16.95) and my colleague opts for a Holmansbridge Rump Steak, rocket and Parmesan salad, skin-on fries and bone marrow butter (£16.95). The turkey is given a new lease of life by the confit cooking process, giving it a saltiness and depth of flavour you wouldn’t usually associate with this bird. The potatoes are light and fresh and the gravy is meaty but not heavy. I also try the steak and it honestly is one the best steaks I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Cooked to perfection, juicy and flavourful. The skin-on fries are nutty and fluffy and the aioli has just the right amount of garlic. The marrow butter gives the dish another dimension when smothered on the steak, lighter than butter but just as flavoursome.
We’re pretty full by now but that’s not going to stop us from ordering dessert, although we do decide to share one between us. We go for the Assiette of Chocolate; white chocolate and passionfruit mousse, champagne truffles and chocolate sorbet (£7.50). The champagne truffle is smooth and delicious, the chocolate sorbet is creamy but not too heavy and the white chocolate mousse with passion fruit has a nice tang. Although I’m not sure the mousse goes with the other elements on the plate, it still works well on its own.
Happy and full, we wander out of the cosy, candlelit haven into the night. If you fancy venturing away from the bright lights of Brighton then I’d highly recommend enjoying a very special meal at this wonderful restaurant.
Limetree Kitchen is at 14 Station Street, Lewes, BN7 2DA.