Hidden within the tree-lined avenues of West Worthing, lies what can most fittingly be described as ‘Worthing’s best kept secret’. That secret is Orchid House. This one-of-a-kind restaurant is an amalgamation of so many ideas, yet still manages to feel so certain of itself. 

A ten minute walk from West Worthing station, and I arrive at its gates. The house peeks over- a turreted castle-like building, with a grandeur that seeps through. I am greeted by one of the owners, Alex, who guides me along the gardens filled with the bare winter branches; she assures me that soon enough it will be even more beautiful, full of flourishing flowers. 

We pass through the hallway and into the dining room which is filled with an eclectic mixture of furniture. Alex tells me it is collected from Ashee’s (or Mum as she is known by regulars) time in Switzerland, among other places. Ornate frames surround paintings and high rise windows, letting the bright winter sun glisten, breaking in. 

The table for two is laid meticulously, cut glass flutes and delicate china await the afternoon tea that has been selected for me and the spring abundance that is lacking this time of year in the gardens, is ever present via the bouquets at each table. The first thing brought to me is the wonderfully named ‘kiss from the kitchen’. This kiss takes the form of a spinach and mushroom pastry- perfectly seasoned and a delicious way to prepare my ready stomach for what is to come.  

Scones are served with Mum’s famous pineapple jam as well as its anecdote: the taste being enough to bring about an offer from a Swiss department store for a thousand jars a week when the jam was formulated. She could not take them up on the offer but their loss is our gain- and what a gain. The jam tastes like a holiday, and paired with the buttery scone and silky cream, the whole thing is a dream. Along with this, there are sandwiches, including the innovative tofu coronation chicken for vegetarians such as myself and several indulgent handmade desserts- a champagne truffle, silver moon macaron and- my favourite- the éclair with caramel cream. It is all truly heavenly. 

Yet, Orchid House is more than afternoon tea, in fact it feels as if there are no limits to what this hidden gem can offer. Wine tasting around the world in three hours is due to take place in early March, private dinners with seasonally-curated menus per request and not to mention the rooms available to stay in, kitted out with stunning views and artwork. 

I cannot say enough about Alex and Ashee, the mother-daughter duo that make it so special. It feels like their masterpiece, you can sense the dedication, care and most notably love that has gone into such an exceptional place.

Moreover, I believe that as well as the owners, you can tell a lot about somewhere from the guests and at Orchid House the familial atmosphere between them is both impossible to ignore and be embroiled in. Something Alex said to me really stuck, and it was that guests come as guests but leave as friends. This could not be more true. 

In a late evening talk with Ashee, we were discussing the fact that Orchid House doubles up as their home. She told me about the concerns from family and friends regarding opening up their house to the public. ‘People are people,’ she told me. ‘If you come you are welcome, and if you do not come you are still welcome.’. This is the kind of unique place that does not come around often, and to really understand what it is all about, you must go there and see for yourself.