This month I have mostly been immersed in the launch of Pascere Restaurant including the development of menus with my head chef Johnny. This involved lots of ‘tasting’ of course (courtesy of the kitchens at Etch restaurant - big thanks to Steve Edwards for letting us get in his way). I know I am biased, but wow he can cook. I’ve included a couple of photos of what’s to come at Pascere.

I have also tasted a LOT of wine for the wine list. As I type, it’s mid-June and I have calculated that when you add up all the hours spent selecting and tasting wines for the list, we have spent three entire days on it. The wonderful Jonny Gibson of Sussex Wine School very generously gave up his time to help me do this, and we are just about there. I am really pleased with it. A few have already become my favourites (like the Barbera; luscious, complex).

My love of sparkling wine means that I just couldn’t narrow it down, with most by the glass (I shall probably regret this…). Amongst them are some new discoveries - a really great Lambrusco (who’d have thought?!) and a Ferrari (which has Maarten’s name written all over it of course).

Aside from all of this I managed to squeeze in some dining experiences, most notably at L’Enclume, the review for which you can read on page 78. It was also in Cartmel that I had one of my favourite breakfast dishes of the year so far, at Rogan and Co - a fabulous giant pulled pork scotch egg on a bok choy ‘slaw’. Enough said.

Then I enjoyed a champagne set dinner at the HarBAR in the Harbour hotel, sponsored by Pommery champagne house. We sampled a variety of their Cru (including a Grand Cru) over a six course menu, designed to compliment the wines. This was part of the brilliant Brighton and Hove Food Festival that takes place twice a year at the end of May and August (which I have written about extensively in this publication).

Unusually for me, this was the only festival event I have managed to get to so far this year. Highlights were a crab benedict with a perfect hollandaise, and a quail pie that needed extra jus (but which we were given). I was surprised that Pommery allowed their champagne to be served in the hotel’s HarBAR champagne glasses, which are, frankly, weird and don’t bring out the best in the wine. Whenever I’ve visited HarBAR in the past, I’ve requested a proper wine glass for my sparkling wine, which they’ve always happily provided. Service was great.

HarBAR have recently hired Matt Denny as deputy GM, previously of Hotel Du Vin, and his warm hospitality is evident.

Speaking of Hotel Du Vin just up the road, I have been virtually living there of late, holding all my meetings, wine tastings and working lunches/dinners there. On the current menu I am particularly fond of the poussin with black pudding rosti. It appeals to my greedy, ‘rip it apart and suck the bones’ side. I have had it twice now when I’ve been really hungry. It’s a great comfort dish.

I can’t thank GM Ben Haynes enough for looking after me so well during this period, and he has some real stars in the front of house team. The Brighton hospitality community really are a lovely and supportive bunch, and I am looking forward to making my own contribution to that very soon.

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