I always find it reassuring when a restaurant offers very few menu options. It signals that everything prepared will be fresh and well-prepared. Of course, I am over 50.
A friend of mine who is a professional caterer says he can always gauge the age of new clients (and by extension their guests) from their dietary requirements. If, for a party of 100, the host says that no one has any allergies or special needs, he can be reasonably certain it will be an older crowd. If there are a limited number of vegans and vegetarians, but no other special dietary requirements, this is a fair indication that the diners will be 50 plus. If, on the other hand, there is a different dietary note (lactose intolerant, Gluten sensitive, Pescatarian, Kosher, Keto, Low carb, dairy free, etc) for each guest, one can assume the party will be Gen Z.
Nestled in the charming town of Peasmarsh, in the idyllic East Sussex countryside, lies Tillingham, a restaurant that offers a truly unique dining experience based around a pared-back menu: two starter options, two main course choices, and two possible deserts.
From the moment we entered the property, the warm, contemporary design set the scene for an unforgettable culinary journey. The restaurant is situated on a 70-acre farm and vineyard, which is also home to a biodynamic winery. The owner, Ben Walgate, is passionate about using sustainable and locally-sourced ingredients, and it shows in every dish. The menu is ever-changing, with an emphasis on seasonal produce, and every course is a work of art that delights the senses.
The restaurant itself is beautifully designed, with natural materials and a mix and match of tables and chairs which look as though they’ve been salvaged from an 80s office. The large windows allow for plenty of natural light to flood in, and the far-reaching views of the vineyards and surrounding countryside create a serene ambiance. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and passionate about the food they serve, which only adds to the overall experience.
For starters, we enjoyed the burrata with fennel and blood orange, which was light and refreshing, and the earthy flavors of the beetroot with whipped goat's cheese and hazelnuts. The main courses were equally impressive, with the lamb shoulder cooked to perfection and served with charred broccoli and salsa verde, and the pan-seared sea bass with baby potatoes and a tomato and olive dressing. The flavors were delicate yet bold, and every dish was expertly prepared.
I do not drink, but our friend, Ziad confirmed that the wine list is extensive, with a wide range of biodynamic and natural wines from the on-site winery, as well as other local and international options. Ziad opted for the Tillingham Sparkling Rosé, which was crisp and refreshing, with subtle notes of raspberry and strawberry. The perfect accompaniment, he said, to our meal.
The desserts were equally impressive, with the chocolate mousse with orange and pistachio being a particular standout. The dish was presented beautifully, with delicate orange segments and crushed pistachios adding texture and flavor to the rich and decadent chocolate mousse.
One of the standout aspects of Tillingham is its commitment to sustainability and using locally-sourced ingredients. The restaurant has its own biodynamic vineyard which is at the vanguard of regenerative farming in Sussex. It is the antidote to large-scale winemaking. The farm at Tilliingham is used to grow many of the ingredients used in the dishes. The chefs also work closely with local farmers and producers to source the best possible ingredients, which support the local community and ensure the food is of the highest quality.
We drove to Peasmarsh from our house in Kent, but for those traveling from further afield, Tilligham offers 11 well-appointed rooms, in what was formerly a hop barn. There are no TVs, only a Roberts retro-styled radio and stunning views across the estate. Every room has an ensuite bathroom, well stocked with Haeckel amenities. And if you want to bring your dog, two of the rooms are pet-friendly.
In addition, Tillingham has two high spec Bell Tents within the grounds which are bookable seasonally, between May and September. All bookings include breakfast.
It’s location makes it a great base from which to explore the nearby town of Rye - a must-visit destination for those seeking to explore the country’s rich history and heritage. With a population of just over 4,000, this quaint little town boasts a rich and fascinating history dating back to the medieval period.
Rye was founded in the 9th century as a Saxon settlement and was later granted a charter by King Henry III in the 13th century, which allowed it to become an important trading port. In the centuries that followed, Rye flourished as a center for trade, particularly in wool and wine, and many of its beautiful medieval buildings and narrow cobbled streets are a testament to this prosperous era.
Despite its prosperity, however, Rye was not immune to the turbulent political and social upheavals of the time. In the 16th century, it became a hotbed of religious dissent, with many of its residents embracing the Protestant faith and rejecting the Catholicism of the ruling Tudor monarchy. The town also played a key role in defending England against foreign invasion, particularly during the Anglo-Dutch wars of the 17th century.
Today, Rye is a popular destination for history buffs, architecture enthusiasts, and those seeking a taste of traditional English life. Visitors can wander the town’s picturesque streets and admire the beautifully preserved buildings, including the imposing 12th-century church of St Mary’s, the ornate 18th-century town hall, and the historic Mermaid Inn, which dates back to the 15th century and was once a favored haunt of smugglers and pirates.
One of Rye’s most charming features is its collection of independent shops, cafes, and galleries, which offer a glimpse into the town’s vibrant artistic and creative community. From antique shops and bookstores to artisanal bakeries and contemporary art galleries, there is something to suit every taste and interest in this eclectic and welcoming town.
Overall, Tillingham is a truly special dining experience, offering an exquisite menu, stunning views, and exceptional service. The restaurant's commitment to sustainability and using locally-sourced ingredients is admirable, and the passion and dedication of the owners and staff shine through in every aspect of the dining experience. If you are looking for a unique and unforgettable restaurant with rooms in the East Sussex countryside, Tillingham should be at the top of your list.