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Review of Morleys Bistro

Sea Bream at Morleys Bistro in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex

I’ve wined and dined in more Sussex restaurants over the years than I could possibly even begin to count but Morleys Bistro in Hurstpierpoint was a new one on me, writes Nick Mosley.

It was actually my sister who suggested we should head there for a supper as it was a favourite of my parents. Who’d have guessed that I’d be taking restaurant recommendations from my mother!

Morleys is one of those little secrets that seemingly doesn’t actively promote itself yet has a loyal following of locals in-the-know. I doubt any restaurant doesn’t need new customers but I think these guys are sitting pretty based on the full dining room.

It very much has the feel of a family owned and operated restaurant with a slick front-of-house team that seem to have that magic mix of friendliness and seemingly effortless professionalism that I haven’t experienced out in the sticks since my all-time favourite Jeremy’s Restaurant at Borde Hill graciously exited the Sussex restaurant scene a couple of years back.

Our coats were whipped off us before the door had even closed and within mere moments we were sat at our cosy corner table with pretty darned good espresso martinis in our hands.

The menu is pretty extensive – eight starters, eight mains plus snacks and a specials board. I wasn’t expecting to have so much choice but I can safely report that there’s a dish here for everyone whether you’re feeling in the mood for meat, fish or vegetable-based plates. As ever, I keep my eye on dietaries; whether your vegetarian, vegan, gluten free or dairy free then options are all flagged.

Scallops at Morleys Bistro in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex

To start, we ploughed through some mighty fine big and juicy mussels in a classic white wine and shallot sauce, delightfully light and crispy squid and a trio of whopping scallops that thankfully included the roe coral that – whilst not to everyone’s taste – is where all the flavour can be found.

Although I was more than happy with our sharing plates, I did cast an envious eye over the monstrous seafood platter on the neighbouring table which at £34 is insanely good value. You’d pay twice this price for a much more mediocre platter of seafood in Brighton; I’ll definitely be ordering that on my next visit.

Most of the dishes on the menu are exactly what you’d expect from bistro dining in Sussex – lamb, south coast fish, steak and vegetarian dishes including an interesting sounding butter bean and wild mushroom Bourguignon that I’d love to sample.

However, for my main I chose from the specials board which is where you’ll often find the most interesting and creative plates that the kitchen team are passionate about, not only in terms of creativity but also utilising the freshest seasonal produce from the local market.

Pork curry at Morleys Bistro in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex

Suffice to say, my pork curry was exceptional. The base of tomato, onion, garlic, chilli and spices was reduced to a tee with the only acidity coming from the addition of vinegar. The pork was beautifully cooked – soft but with remaining structure. My only criticism – and its minor – was the carrot salad; a chutney would have been a more welcome accompaniment but you say potato, I say pot-ah-to…

However, possibly the best dish on our table was the pan-fried sea bream with tarragon beurre blanc sauce. Technically – as a firm fleshed fish – this should be a simple dish for any restaurant to prepare but – in my experience – is unfortunately the case and is often under or overcooked. Not at Morley’s; the kitchen pan-fried this fillet to absolute perfection. Pipingly hot moist flesh and crispy skin served over a chunky base of crushed potato with a delicious, dramatic smear of pea puree. Although we’re only nudging at half way through the year, this specific dish will most definitely be on my end-of-year Argus top ten dishes roundup.

There wasn’t much room for desserts but the list was certainly tempting. There’s a banoffee cheesecake twist, sticky toffee and date pudding, chocolate brownie, Sussex cheese plate and a couple of lighter options including individual scoops of gelato and sorbets produced by maestro Seb Cole at Boho Gelato.

Per head, for two courses on average you’re looking at around £30-35 with well-chosen wines by the glass starting at about £7. So I’d say budget for around £45-50 per person for a meal with drinks.

In my mind, Morleys is 100% at the top of the game in terms of bistro dining in Sussex. They are sourcing incredibly good ingredients and – importantly – the kitchen are preparing and plating generously portioned dishes with utter aplomb. Add to that the effortlessly professionalism of the service team and you’ve got hospitality gold dust. I’m already booked in for a return visit in May.

Nick Mosley

Morleys Bistro, 42 High Street, Hurstpierpoint, Hassocks BN6 9RG

01273 835 000 •


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