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4:09pm Monday 2nd April 2012 in In Profile
ADVERTISING FEATURE: After the Royal Pavilion, Stanmer House, the Palladian-style home of the earls of Chichester to the north of Brighton, is probably the best known of the city’s historic houses.
But it’s all change at the stately home where once the nobility were attended by liveried flunkies as they dined on pheasant and venison.
Now it is open to the public who can enjoy a good honest meal of fish and chips or steak and kidney pudding without breaking the bank.
Since the war Stanmer House has had a variety of uses, but until it came into the ownership of Brighton businessman Mike Holland it was a building that never lived up to its potential.
Following a complete and skilful restoration programme the house opened as a conference and wedding venue in 2006, and now its future is assured.
The lease on the property was sold last year to the innovative pub chain Whiting And Hammond, who intend to continue the conference business but have had to downsize the wedding operations and late night discos will not be allowed because a new wing, currently under development, will be for residential use.
MD Brian Whiting said: “This will still be one of the most stunning wedding venues in the area, but it will be smaller.”
An advantage of the venue is that it is made up of several smaller rooms, meaning parts can easily be set aside for conferences, weddings or events, without impacting on the restaurant.
The big difference is that Stanmer House is open to the public, and although the surroundings are opulent this is a venue aimed at the middle market.
“If we were a car we would be a BMW 3 Series. We don’t want to be an upmarket Rolls Royce, or anything downmarket – we want to be right in the middle, ” said Brian.
“This building has a massive ‘wow’ factor, and once people realize they can come in for a cup of coffee in the library, or have a snack in the bar or the hall, or enjoy a three-course meal in the restaurant, all prepared by our award- winning chefs, they will want to come back again and again.
“As well as the best steaks and roast duck there will be shepherd’s pie, burgers and toad in the hole. “The house is open all day, every day from morning coffee through to evening dinner.
"Its popularity has already exceeded our expectations. People walking in the park can come in for a sandwich or a light bite and we welcome well-behaved dogs.”
Brian is a fully trained chef, having served his apprenticeship at The Savoy from which he went on to work with some of the country’s top chefs, including the Roux brothers.
He started the Whiting and Hammond chain with Chris Hammond in 2005 with the purchase of The Chaser pub in Tonbridge, Kent.
There are now six pubs in the group, three of them in Sussex, plus Stanmer House, which is in a category of its own. All the venues have a basic menu plus the chef’s own choices.
At Stanmer the head chef is Colin Gilbert who was previously at the group’s Mark Cross Inn, near Crowborough.
Brian said: “Everything is fresh, it’s all homemade and the menu changes daily to reflect what’s in season and what’s available locally.
There isn’t a children’s menu but half portions are always available instead. We offer a real family dining experience in fabulous surroundings.