Review: English’s of Brighton, Restaurant and Oyster Bar

There’s numerous places in Brighton claiming to be one of the city’s ‘institutions’, but celebrating 70 years in business this year, I think that as the oldest seafood restaurants in Brighton, English’s have more than earned their stripes.

My parents came here for their wedding breakfast, with me in tow, actually, but in all honesty, I never really thought to come here. It was on my ‘list’ but always overlooked in favour of the next new opening or a less formal place to eat, I’m pretty sure this may be the case for others too, but we all need to think again.

In recent years they’ve had to up their game, with the likes of Fishy Fishy and Riddle & Finns appearing on their doorstep, this once formal place of somewhat stuffy reputation has loosened its top button and given their branding a bit of an overhaul to boot.

Their Spring tasting menu, which several other Brighton bloggers and I were invited* down to try, was designed and executed to help reposition the restaurant, as somewhere for informal dining too, rather than just a special occasion or a Birthday meal for your Gran.

 

  I remember lusting after this bottle of Tabasco at their event in the Summer, my feelings haven’t changed, it truly is a thing of beauty and I would love to have one for my flat! Huge Tabasco fan, in all its guises.

Johnathan (above) manned the marbled topped bar effortlessy and solo. He served us our oysters and talked us through all the dishes and their garnishes as they came out, and also monitored our glasses to ensure they were always full to the top to the good stuff. He was the perfect host.

We started off with some raw oysters with Tabasco and/or shallot vinegar, and they were just as brilliant as the ones that’d blown me away at their party in the summer. Between £1.85 and £3 each, they are are pricey, but definitely worth it. If you’re new to the world of oysters, I’d suggest opting for one of the cooked options rather than going all in with a raw one on your first go.

Oysters Kilpatrick

Tempura oysters

The Kilpatrick were my favourite of all, they were like a chunky Bloody Mary and bacon mix over the lightly steamed oysters. Just lovely.

I was a fan of the tempura version as well, these too were lightly cooked enough that they’d retained their texture, but not shrivelled up and gone rubbery as can happen with just a little too long in the fryer.

We  had everything but the ceviche

The menu menu reads really well, and there wasn’t anything that I wasn’t looking forward to trying. £35 is an excellent price for it too as the portion sizes are reasonable, leaving you satisfied rather than uncomfortably full.

Obviously not one for those who aren’t fish fans, in fact I’d probably suggest another restaurant altogether, as English’s are all about the fresh fish and shellfish, bar a couple of token steak options.

Tuna carpaccio, salad Niçoise, tapenade, egg mimosa

  • Using sustainable tuna, this was like the best salad nicoise you’ve ever had, but fun size and being a show off- in a good way.  Rather than a traditional hard boiled egg, they’d made an egg mayo mixed with herbs and then piped it back in to the white and I loved the fact that they’d used fresh white anchovies, rather than their canned and far saltier relations

King scallops, spiced butternut, samphire

The scallops were from just up the road at Beachy Head and were perfectly cooked. They were grill for 30 seconds on each side, but still carried on cooking during their journey to the table, or in this case, marble topped bar. I love samphire too, it reminds me of my friend Jenna, and this added a nice bite to it, which contrasted beautifully with the spiced butternut purée and helped to bring out the natural sweetness of the scallops’ flesh.

This was just as good as the scallop dish from Gingerman that I raved about a few weeks ago. I’ve never been mad about them really, but my last two experiences have been literal food for thought.

I need to give them a big up for being so clued up on the provenance of all their fish, even producing a laminated list of every type they sold and where it came from. A nice, and reassuring touch I thought. Big tick.

Cod, asparagus & pancetta, cockle & shrimp sauce

I hardly ever order cod in restaurants, I love it, but it’s never really my first choice. This however, appealed to me immediately when I clocked it on the menu.  The shellfish sauce was concentrated in flavour and broth like, and the cockles which were served in their shells, were super sweet tasting and plump. If there was asparagus in the dish I didn’t notice it, I think it’d been substituted for kale, which I was fine with, especially if the alternative would’ve been asparagus from outside of the UK. The piece of cod was about the size of a pack of cards, and the soft, bouncy flesh was a lovely contrast to the shard of crisp and salty pancetta that rested on top of it.

Treacle tart with clotted cream ice cream

Banana & rum parfait with pecan crumble and salted caramel

White chocolate & pistachio mousse with passion fruit
jelly and crème Anglaise


Roasted peaches & almonds with cardamon ice cream and raspberry sauce

All of the desserts were great, but my favourite was very definitely the white chocolate and pistachio mousse with passion fruit jelly, it was absolutely dreamy. The banana parfait packed a serious punch flavour-wise, the roasted peach was lovely (but not seasonal) and the treacle tart was tasty, but a bit dry. I would always opt for a dessert platter given the choice, great for those who have difficulty committing to just one choice.

Wine and Champagne aren’t my tipple of choice at all, I’ve tried, really I have, but it always ends the same, parched mouth and headache and/or indigestion. But for the wine lovers out there, I think the selection English’s have on offer will be extremely appealing.

Throughout the meal we drank Nyetimber sparkling wine, and it was lovely, they were also kind enough to give us all a bottle to take away too, so I’m saving it for a special occasion.

#toiletcam – dated but spotlessly clean 

Although it’s not exactly a sun trap, I know for a fact after coming here for their end of summer party last year, that the terrace is a lovely place to spend a sunny afternoon drinking bubbles and eating oysters.

So in summary. Interesting, delicious and great quality food with friendly and knowledgable staff. The interior may not be to everyone’s taste, but I’d say there is definitely still a place for a traditional, family run seafood restaurant, in the ever changing landscape of Brighton food.

Have you been to English’s? What did you think? Comment below or tweet me.

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6 Comments

  1. mart
    April 5, 2015 / 3:21 pm

    Been many times over past decade. Have always had superb food and service. Consistency in Brighton restaurants sometimes lacking but English's never fails to deliver imho.

    • April 6, 2015 / 10:59 am

      I totally agree re consistency, other than a few trusted favourites, it's a pretty poor show in Brighton! I loved the food, and the service- I'll definitely be back!

  2. April 5, 2015 / 8:23 pm

    Excellent review, great to know theyve got better. I walked out of there before on the only time ive been because of the dated setting and shitty stuffiness and table sharing but that menu, especially the carpaccio which looks FIT and ceviche, combined with sitting outside in the summer would definately warrant another try. Xxx

    • April 6, 2015 / 11:00 am

      Jenna you would LOVE IT, so much.Go and sit outside or even at the marble topped bar where I was, brill value and right up your street xxx

  3. July 16, 2015 / 9:29 am

    When I came to look around Brighton after the Sussex Uni' open day some 13 years ago (yikes) I had lunch in English's with my parents. I fell in love with the city and quaint and quirky English's was the icing on the cake. I returned for my 21st, my graduation, my 30th and other celebratory occasions and it has always been perfect. It's a place that makes me smile whenever I walk past on a balmy Brighton evening, especially if there is a good busker playing nearby. My friends have never 'got it' and have always opted for 'Riddles' round the corner which I think is a great shame. Their set menu is great value, their food is always beautiful and delicious and I like the fact that they include a section in their menu explaining that they include their service charge in the price of their meals. Hopefully your review will encourage others to try it as I think it deserves recognition for it's kooky charm and shouldn't get lost amongst it's trendier competitors.

  4. January 24, 2016 / 9:36 am

    I have been coming back here for over 40 years and can honestly say I have never, ever had anything to criticise unfavourably in all that time. I love the old fashioned feel of the interior and the always admirable service. Ther have been some real characters working the marble top bar and they have some great stories to tell. The food is immaculately fresh and is not over fussy – this is all good sea food needs to be. Last time I had a whole roast brill with champagne sauce which was just amazing. The wine list is concise and the Voignier is brilliant value and a perfect accompaniment to the fish . In a world of trendy, flashy, noisy and brash restaurants it is reassuring to have Englishs' to cater for a considered and luxurious dining experience. May it still be trading in another 70 years.

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