Despite the widely acknowledged beauty of East Sussex, which includes best known towns such as Brighton Hastings and Rye, you may have not yet been aware of the charming town of Lewes and so could therefore be, at this very moment, wondering why on earth I am sending you to a Chinese restaurant in the middle of the county.
Well, let me tell you a story.
Lewes in the home town of some of my former colleagues at CZWG, and so when i was organising my first wedding anniversary, back in the day, I was advised that this could be a good place to spend the weekend.
An hour from London by train from London Victoria, this very English town is famous for both its Guy Fawkes night bonfires (here) and its locally brewed Harveys beer.
I am partial to bitter and stout so take my word with a pinch of salt but the brewery has a fantastic selection of delicious beers, if like me you like other-than-lager, which you can even take home with you to enjoy or bring to someone as a special souvenir, since these are not a widely available beers. (see more here)
As well as the charming shops and summer art trail (Open house art), one of the town’s permanent displays is the dramatic Chalk Cliffs which mark a edge of the Brighton and Lewes downs biosphere reserve as defined by Unesco (here)
I am hoping that you will be persuaded, by now, to take that train and visit this town, but should you still have any doubts, I’d like to give you another reason. It is called Panda Garden and it is a local Chinese restaurant that surprised us for the quality of its food.
Last time we visited, summer 2014, our parents came with us and they too loved it. Let me show you some of the dishes we tasted.
For starters, we shared some deep fried bait and squid which were crispy and fresh, just as you would expect them to be.
Deep fried bait with chilli
Squid with pepper salt
For main courses we shared a lot of dishes including mapo/mabo tofu/doufu… unfortunately, some photographs were blurry. Never the less, I hope that the ones i have show you the quality of the cooking and the freshness of the ingredients.
We had fish, eel, seafood and delicious beef accompanied by rice and vegetables, as you would expect.
Mixed seafood with crispy noodles.
Black bean sauce eel
Beef with ginger and spring onions.
This dish took us by surprise. I have never had steak quality beef at a Chinese restaurant cooked to such a skill… and I have been fortunate enough to visit quite a few Chinese restaurants in my life.
Egg fried rice
In the spirit of fairness, I will admit to you that the red wine we had was not very nice, but there are other options that one can choose instead.
As you may expect, after eating at the Panda Garden, you will benefit from a long walk and luckily for you, based as it is at the heart of town, there are many places you can stroll around.
The use of flint (stone) in local buildings that has given the town it’s identity , provides yet another point of interest for visitors. (read more about flint here) Picturesque views unveil behind each corner and ask to be photographed and taken back home to stay in your memory for ever.
Photographs by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Text by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
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