We took a trip to Brighton to experience the new venture from Matt Gillan, former executive chef and Michelin Star owner at The Pass restaurant at South Lodge Hotel.
Having spent most of my childhood and teenage years in Brighton, it is safe to say that this is one of my favourite places to be, however, it makes finding new places to eat at or drink at hard work. Fortunately, Brighton appears to be undergoing a bit of a foodie revolution with a swathe of new restaurant openings such as The Jetty, Etch (well, Hove actually but lets not get into all that), Pascere (which I will be making a beeline for soon enough) and our restaurant in question, Pike and Pine.
The café-by-day and restaurant-by-night can be found in Kemptown in a bright white, marble space with luscious greenery hanging from the ceiling. When we visited, the dinner choice was either a six-, an eight-, or a ten-course menu (wine flight optional), however, the restaurant has recently launched an à la carte menu for those not bothered about tasting menus. We go straight down the middle and plump for the eight-course menu and two wine flights.
Canapés are brought out to us by one of the chefs who explains what we will be eating; a slightly confused mix of salmon nigiri, sumac shortbread with hummus, tapioca crisp with sorrel mayonnaise, and a tomato sphere with a minuscule crumb of goats cheese. All delicious in their own right (I have to say, the tapioca crisp with sorrel was a stroke of genius), however, the combination of cuisines and cooking techniques appeared to be more of a showcase of skill rather than a well-though out combination of flavours.
Individual malt and onion bread loaves were placed in front of us with a homemade miso butter. Still nice and warm from the oven, this bread and butter combo went down a treat. The first course then appeared: a beautifully constructed and vividly coloured salad of tomatoes, broad beans and yellow peppers, making us reminiscent for long hot summers on Brighton Beach. The chef pours over a highly concentrated chilled tomato consommé and the dish is complete. Tasty, fresh and very pretty to look at – the first course was a winner.
Then we get to the interesting course of ox tongue. Again, the kitchen team manage to pull off an absolute stunner of a dish, in spite of the fact that we are looking at a thinly sliced piece of tongue with the tip cheekily bobbing out from under its dressing. A fried quail’s egg sits at the other end and, while there is no denying the cuteness of this addition, I’m not entirely sure why it was there. The star of this dish was without a doubt the celery sorbet. Not having had any particularly strong feelings about celery before this encounter, I now find myself wishing that I could pop into a local supermarket and pick up a tub of this bad boy – yes, it really was that good.
My favourite course of the night had to be the “carbonara”. Sick to death of seeing this Italian classic butchered on menus with the addition of cream and other ingredients that have no right in being there, I was looking forward to seeing what it was about this dish that required the use of quotation marks. Well, the absence of any pasta whatsoever probably plays a big part in that. A large slice of parma ham encircled what turned out to be enoki mushrooms (those ones with the really long thin stems) which replaced the spaghetti, while a sous-vide egg yolk sat proudly on top. Break through this yolk and the whole dish comes alive. You dare to mess with this Italian classic? If you do it like this, then all is forgiven.
The next dish featured one of my favourite fish; pollock. It goes without saying that presentation was bang on again. The pollock was accompanied with charred, roasted and puréed broccoli – the last of which was unbelievably velvety and smooth in texture – and tiny translucent balls of lime caviar provided a burst of citrus relief. This delicious dish was, however, ruined slightly by the extremely greasy UFO (unidentified fried object) lurking underneath the whole thing.
Chicken and sweetcorn made up the last of the savoury dishes; a combination that always puts me in mind of Daniel Clifford’s banquet winning main course from Great British Menu. Chicken may be the humdrum, safe and easy go-to-option for many people, but cook a chicken right and you have one of the tastiest things on the planet. Crispy, salty skin; moist, succulent meat – this dish really sung, the cocoa nib sauce added an earthy element and the sweetcorn did exactly what it said on the tin, providing a sweet contrast to the fabulous chicken.
Despite having a slightly worrying addiction to cheese, we decided to pass on the optional cheese course and instead moved on to the pre-dessert. A variation of peach flavours and textures, we enjoyed a refreshing sorbet, gels, fresh and poached slices, and a white chocolate ice cream. I have to admit that my love of desserts has steadily faded as my number of years has increased, and while this was delightfully refreshing, it failed to spark much excitement on my part.
Our meal was rounded off with another fruity dessert offering. The promise of a raw pumpkin seed pesto caught my attention and added an intriguing element to this tasty pairing of raspberry and lemon.
All in all, a very enjoyable visit. The staff were all friendly and seemed very knowledgeable about the food; our sommelier deserves a special mention for her attempts to pronounce the wines on our flight in the accent of each country of origin. It was also great to see the chefs and the man himself interacting with the customers instead of just being stuck in the kitchen. So if you’re heading to Brighton for a couple of days, I would definitely recommend adding Pike and Pine to your to-do list.