After a great night of spinach and ricotta cannelloni, too much red wine and dancing round the living room with Kiki in Highgate last Wednesday night, I head south to meet up with my dad to go to Goodwood Festival of Speed in West Sussex. We’re staying in a very pretty little town with a fairytale castle called Arundel and we start with a look around to find somewhere for a bite to eat. We’re attracted to a blackboard offering scones with jam and cream at a café up a lane zigzagged with bunting, but on further investigation they’re out of scones and we settle for carrot cake instead. It’s good moist cake with tangy cream cheese and lemon icing but we conclude it’s not as good as my mum’s!
That night we eat at a promising looking pub by the river called The Black Rabbit. However, Dad is disappointed with his Sussex Smokey – basically a fish pie – and my steak and Tanglefoot (local ale) pie is perfectly good without being remarkable.
The first two mornings at our hotel I have a flinglish, my brother’s name for a full English breakfast. Bacon, sausage, fried egg, tomato, mushrooms and baked beans – fanbloodytastic.
This kind of breakfast is ample to sustain a person through until dinner time but there’s corporate hospitality to be enjoyed at Goodwood. As guests of Bonhams auctioneers we are looked after royally over two days in their courtyard within Goodwood House and then in the sponsors’ enclosure overlooking the racetrack. There are finger sandwiches with various fillings, baby quiches, smoked salmon, strawberries and cream and scones with jam and clotted cream, all washed down with magnums of perfectly chilled Veuve Clicquot, another sponsor of the weekend.
We attend Bonhams’ auction of vintage and classic cars on the Friday and have a lovely time looking at and taking photos of all the beautiful vehicles. The sale is riveting and highly entertaining to watch, the auctioneers so patient and professional yet quick and humourous – it’s pure theatre. The cars fetch a good deal more than was hoped for and it’s all going into trust for educational purposes so everyone is very happy – cue more champagne!
That evening, to avoid the traffic leaving Goodwood, we take the advice of one of the parking marshals and head for the hills, along with two of Dad’s friends, to a very nice gastropub. We do go round in a circle trying to find the right way and the Aussie navigator gets the blame, of course! At The Fox & Hounds the service is brisk and bright and despite being busy we are found a table pretty quickly. Dad has smoked haddock on mashed potato with a poached egg on top which, while a bit mean in size, is an enormous improvement in quality on last night’s microwaved (he suspects) fishy fiasco. I go for one of the specials – pan roasted duck breast with fondant potatoes, fine green beans and an orange and thyme jus. The duck is fanned into fat pink, slices with a thick layer of crispy fat; it’s rich and gamey but a touch on the chewy side. The jus is a lovely glossy gravy of reduced bitter marmalade flavours with only a hint of sweetness.
To follow most of us have raspberry crème brûlée. A wafer-thin shell of burnt sugar shatters easily to reveal a good creamy custard speckled with vanilla seeds and a layer of tart-sweet, lightly stewed raspberries at the base. My first ever crème brûlée had berries or rhubarb (I forget which) at the bottom and it’s been my preferred version of my favorite pudding ever since.
Next day we venture past the Formula 1 paddock full of priceless modern racing cars and over the bridge to the other side of the racetrack where all the auto-companies have their trade stands. Enormous multi-storey showrooms, some with balconies or roof gardens, look for all the world like permanent structures but are in fact there only for the weekend, some costing as much as half a million pounds to build! We spend a while admiring a concept Bentley four-wheel drive, solid as a tank but stunning in every detail from the radiator grill to the wheel hubs to the two-tone leather interior with matching leather picnic cases in the boot.
In the evening we’re invited to a black tie ball at Goodwood House and we arrive at 7pm, duly frocked up, for more Veuve Clicquot on the lawns served by an endless parade of pretty girls in their distinctive orange aprons. Sadly I’m feeling rather off colour and by the time we’ve moved inside to the beautifully grand, ornately gilded Regency ballroom for dinner I’ve decided the only place I want to be is in bed and organise a taxi back to the hotel. Dad and the other 1500 guests go on to enjoy a very fancy three course dinner, a performance in the vein of Cirque de Soleil, incredible fireworks and a great rock band with the sort of volume that thumps you in the chest. What atrocious timing to come down with what turns out to be just a 24 hour bug!
The Black Rabbit
Mill Road, Arundel, West Sussex
Visited 28 June 2012
The Fox & Hounds
Funtington, West Sussex
Visited 29 June 2012