The Dining Room 2 in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, is a mirror-image of its long-established sister restaurant, the Dining Room, in Reigate, Surrey. Interiors are similar and the menus, written by Tony Tobin, executive chef of Elite Restaurants, are exactly the same.
Although the company now has 12 restaurants throughout Surrey and Sussex, including the Tortellini chain of Italian eateries, this is the first time the flagship has been replicated.
The opportunity to open Dining Room 2 at the end of January came about when Elite’s Bistro St Pierre was burnt down. “It was a chance to upgrade the restaurant in an area where nothing similar existed,” says Tobin, who now divides his cooking time between Reigate and Haywards Heath. Head chef Rob Gathercole, who previously worked with Tobin in Reigate, runs the kitchen on an everyday basis.
Menus are split between a seasonally changing à la carte, with first courses at £7.50 and main courses at £16.50, and a selection of set menus. During the week, the two-course set menu, with five starters and five main courses, costs £16.95, while the weekend set menu, offering six dishes at each course, is £18.95. All puddings are £4.95. A lunch menu, costing £10 for two courses or £13.50 for three courses, is also served.
Apart from one dish, all starters and main courses eschew dairy products, with dressings, flavoured oils and vinaigrettes being used instead. “Our food is light and healthy, but without being overtly health-conscious,” says Tobin.
A starter of spiced scallops with coconut and crab cakes, lime and ginger dressing has been a big hit and is typical of the kind of dish Tobin put together during his recent filming of a 26-part series for Carlton Food Network called Spice World. “We covered an A-Z of spices,” he says, “and dishes like this have been appearing on the menu ever since. It is important to understand how to blend spices properly and not let them overpower other ingredients in a dish.”
The one dish among the first two courses that does contain cream is constantly kept on the menu due to its popularity. For his crispy aromatic duck with creamy mustard onions and French beans, Tobin uses large Barbary duck legs from France (each weighing about 350g) to make a confit before crisping in a hot oven. The accompanying onions are cooked for three hours to a melting consistency and combined with grain mustard and a touch of cream.
Desserts such as cassata ice-cream slice in caramelised marzipan, and sponge box with lime brûlée are evidence that there is no calorie counting when it comes to the final course.
Dining Room 2, 65 The Broadway, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 3AS. Tel: 01444 417755