When you pull into the gated entrance to Restaurant Interlude you immediately know you will be eating somewhere that very much looks the part.

In the car park roundabout outside the manor house and restaurant there is a water feature which looks spectacular, lit up in the dark, peaceful surroundings.

Spectacular is the word for the visit.

We were welcomed inside the plush dining hall, past the huge staircase and grand piano.

We quickly chose the accompanying wines that would complement each dish. Taxi booked and all plans to drive home cancelled.

After a refreshing gin cocktail to clear the palate we were expecting the first course when they brought out a tree and placed it on the table before us.


Mia and Anya, our fantastic hosts for the night, explained that we would be experiencing a menu that takes you on an unexpected journey through the woodland gardens of Leonardslee. It is both inspired by the gardens and uses produce reared and grown there.

So what was going on with this beautiful tree?

As Mia explained, and as the helpful information cards for each course described, the first course was the “untraditional crackers” hanging from the branches, made from seeds and buttermilk.

Each course from then came at the pace we wanted. We were getting through them but each was as impressive as the last. Food as theatre, all obviously carefully thought out.

There are dishes many might never choose but served up in a special way that wins you over.

For example, have you ever eaten a chicken’s foot? This version was a tasty, foot shaped crisp – an “ashed foot” as they described it. No bones to chew on, don’t worry. Served with an amazing beef tartare taco which was a highlight of the night.

The estate egg was another highlight, from the 38 hens kept there, served with a foam created using South African rooibos tea. Paired with mugwart, hogweed seeds and myrtle from the gardens too.

Also, I’m not a big fan of oysters, but this was also a different take. A thin layer of nettles from the gardens was sprinkled delicately over an oyster cream and served with a spoonful of caviar.

My favourite course was probably “rabbit eats carrot”.

The estate rabbit was served in herbs in a ball and with an outrageously tasty chilly carrot dip. We took Mia’s advice to double dip for maximum effect.

There was wagyu beef from nearby and smoked with gorse flowers from the garden.

The menu had a very earthy feel to it, served on pieces of tree and other imaginative pieces from the garden to complete the theme and the taste.

Even the bread had nettle and dock seeds to give it that taste with the same theme.

Each dish was totally different but the theme ran smoothly through the evening. No shocks to the system, one taste sensation followed by the next.

Rarely might you have so many new food experiences in one night – for me it was all 19.

There are things you have eaten before, but not like they serve it at Interlude.

I love crab, but I’ve not had it with elderberries and juniper.

The monkfish had a barbecue glaze.

There was a dish with honey in various forms, all from the six beehives on the estate, of course.

Interlude is where you go if you want to take somebody for a real foodies’ experience.

It is a wonderful night out where the menu entertains and nourishes.

l A 14-course “garden experience” tasting menu is available for £90 while the “estate experience is £120”. Book at restaurant-interlude.co.uk

l Visitors can experience the Christmas illuminations and trails through the woods and lakes of Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens this winter.

The Leonardslee Illuminated Gardens event features light displays, music, theatre and large scale projections on to Leonardslee House. Visitors can also take a ride at the Victorian vintage funfair and dine on the seasonal food and drinks available in the artisan Christmas market.

Leonardslee Illuminated runs from December 12 to 15 and then December 19 to 22 from 4.30pm each day.

It is part of the Horsham District Year of Culture fringe programme.

Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice is the nominated charity for the event. It is the children’s hospice for East and West Sussex, Brighton and Hove and South East Hampshire and cares for 300 children and young adults from 0-19 years of age with progressive life-shortening conditions.

Tickets are available online, £15 for adults and £7.50 plus transaction fee.

There is a variety of other activities in the Grade I listed gardens and estate in December.

Children can collect an activity sheet from reception to help Santa find his reindeer, take part in a Christmas craft session, write a letter to Santa and discover where the mischievous Leonardslee Elf on a Shelf is hiding.

Arron Hendy