Well what a wonderful sunny August we’ve had! I’ve realised that where most people fancy a nice cold beer when its hot, I fancy a nice cold glass of fizz. Which I then proceed to guzzle as if it were beer.
I have been trying out quite a few different bottles over the month. Highlights were the excellent rose La Vida al Camp Cava from Fourth and Church which was the star of the show in an impromptu gathering on my roof terrace one sunny Friday afternoon. I also cracked open a bottle I brought back from Puglia, a sparkling wine made from the Negromaro grape – usually reserved for dark, sumptuous reds but working brilliantly here as a sparkling rose. Look out for it (they have it at Polpo) if you like smooth big reds and structured rich Rose.
My only disappointment was a bottle of the highly-regarded Hoffmann and Rathbone, another Sussex sparkler. I found it too acidic, austere and one dimensional.
Away from sparkling I also discovered what has become my favourite still Rose; Pasquiers - a Grenache/Cinsault blend from the Langedoc available from Butlers and Fourth and Church.
And so to food. Highlights were; an amazing peanut butter cake at Café Salvage on Western Road (and it did salvage an otherwise dire coffee date), and a great curry with my old boss at The Raipur in Pevensey Bay.
But two events really stand out.
First, a boozy lunch at the Saltroom. I used to go all the time until an unfortunate interaction with the owner. But I love the place too much to stay away. Service can be patchy (and on this day the waitress announced she was ‘new’ as a reason for not knowing anything about the menu) but food-wise they rarely put a foot wrong. Their early inconsistency seems to have been ironed out.
On this day, accompanied by an immensely fascinating and fun companion, our meal was faultless. We created our own tasting menu by ordering four starters. We started with a dish of Salmon, Verjus, Pickled Grapes, Celeriac, and Cob Nuts , followed by Octopus with Nduja, Almonds, Dill, and Cucumber. Third up was King Oyster Mushroom, Artichokes, Iberico Ham, Crispy Egg, and Truffle (seriously impressive) and finally Coal-Roasted Ox Cheek, Garlic, Beetroot, and Mushroom Ketchup. I don’t have the word count to describe each dish, but every part of each dish was cooked to perfection with the accompanying elements all adding flavour, texture and working in perfect harmony. Presentation was also Michelin standard. We followed all this with cheese and then a Chocolate Ganache, with Frozen Blackcurrant Meringue, Compote, Liquorice Ice Cream, and their famous chocolate ‘pebbles’.
For drinks we started with Champagne, then Pinot Noir and finally Espresso Martinis (which were overly sweet and were definitely the cause of drunken texting to an ex-boyfriend – don’t judge). We were there for five glorious hours while the rain pelted down outside. I can’t think of a better way to spend a wet Friday afternoon.
The second main highlight was dinner at Drakes. I took my wonderful parents who also both love their food and wine. Here we had excellent service from Kevin who was extremely knowledgeable and friendly but not intrusive. He kept an eye on us (and he was easy on the eye) all evening from a distance, approaching at exactly the right times to enquire if we needed things.
After a generous and delicious salmon amuse bouche and freshly made bread, I tucked into a starter of Selsey Crab with Avocado and Heritage Tomato Salsa Topped with a Gazpacho Sorbet. Inspired. Beautifully fresh and light yet full of flavour. I followed this with Locally Caught Red Mullet, Samphire, Saffron Potato Gnocchi, Mussels and Bouillabaisse Sauce, a well thought through dish and perfectly executed. An exquisite pre-dessert arrived – impressively complex. And then the finale, a Rose Soufflé , Lychee Sorbet Served on a Bed of Almond Crumbs and Poached Lychee. Rose is an unusual choice for a soufflé but it worked well – like a cloud of Turkish delight. My parents chose the beef and lamb dishes as their mains and a beetroot ravioli starter. They could not fault it.
The décor and ambience have improved since my last visit, less airport lounge and more intimate bistro. Head Chef Andy Vitex has been recognised in the 2017 Good Food Guide, achieving the highest rating for cooking amongst their Brighton listings. A fantastic and deserved achievement.
The only surprise disappointment in the month was dinner at the Jetty. While the service was excellent, the food was not. However I am confident that this was just teething problems, after all they have a great team. All good restaurants need time to bed in and I look forward to returning in the Autumn.
Im really looking forward to autumn food and wine, bring on the game and pinot noir! Read about how to do it properly in Jonny’s article on page 79.