For new restaurants, offering guests a new experience and staying true to their mission while making guests feel comfortable can be a big challenge. No one knows this better than Graham Squire, head chef at The Lickfold Inn.
When Lickfold Inn opened in West Sussex, Squire knew that he’d have to balance experimentation and classic dishes on the menu. The restaurant also had the added pressure of being in a small town, so he and the team knew that they needed to provide exceptional hospitality and a one of a kind dining experience that made guests want to travel to dine there. In short, Lickfold needed to impress their diners while making them feel comfortable. “It was difficult because we don’t serve fish and chips like a lot of the other places,” Squire says. “It was a big task to make this menu.”
The gamble has paid off for Squire and the team at Lickfold Inn. The restaurant has been awarded the “Fit for Foodies” title by OpenTable at this year’s National Restaurant Awards. The award speaks to the adventurous nature of the menu and the impressive amount of technique that each dish showcases “It’s massively difficult,” Squire says. “It’s been a huge job to change the food here to what it is today but it’s worked.” Before Squire and his team took over the space it was a pub serving simply prepared, local fare in a more casual environment. “It’s taken a while to get it to this point. When I see that the dining room is full it feels like an honor.”
In order to stay true to the humble roots of Lickfold, the team decided that the first and second floors would serve different menus and have different atmospheres. “The downstairs dining room is about seasonal, fresh produce from Sussex and it’s like a pub,” Squire says. “The upstairs dining room is a bit more formal.” Having different floors means guests can come in and have a casual meal or they can make a night of it and have Lickfold’s full tasting menu.
“We put a lot of care and technique into our menu and we want to show our diners the ingredients that they know but in a different way, with a different technique.” Some of the most popular items on the menu are dishes that are very familiar to diners but they’re served in different ways with lots of attention to detail. “Even our bread and butter are made in house and our guests love it,” Squire says. The smoked salmon is a familiar ingredient in this coastal area but at Lickfold it gets a different treatment. “Our guests have really liked our barbecued salmon dish,” he says. “We cure fresh salmon for 15 hours, then barbecue it and serve it with cucumbers, dill and seaweed.” The dish has become a signature item that guests ask for. For Squire, the dish encompasses what makes Lickfold great. “Guests can come in and try something different but still get those flavors that they love,” he explains. “We work really hard to create food that is balanced and service that’s phenomenal and I think that care comes across for our diners.”
But he’s quick to point out that at the end of the day it’s about what the diners want, not just about what the kitchen wants. “I think sometimes chefs can get carried away with the experience of dining instead of just making great food,” he says. “Some people just want to go out and have a great plate of food and that’s what we want to give people.”
Squire says that the goal for Lickford Inn is to continue to showcase seasonal ingredients from West Sussex. “We put a lot of care and technique into what we do,” he says. “We just want to keep going. We want to get the word out and keep pushing and evolving so we can get better and better.”
Photos courtesy of Lickfold Inn