I’m not a massive afternoon tea person. I’m usually at work or doing weekend stuff during that time of the day, choosing instead to get my cake fix from my friend Becky at Honeycomb Cakes. And a more than regular Waitrose salted caramel donut habit… I don’t need encouraging.
I used to be a big fan of the high tea at The Blackbird Tearoom, but the last couple of times I’ve visited it’s been lacklustre, so I kind of lost interest. This was until I received an invitation* from The Salt Room to try out theirs, then all of a sudden, my interest in eating from a tiered cake stand was piqued once again.
This was my fourth visit to the restaurant since they opened, having been for lunch, evening drinks and bar snacks, as well as a full on dinner, about which I waxed lyrical in this review.
Two years on, I’ve heard little, if any, negativity about it. It’s just quietly done its thing scooping up #8 in the 2017 Brighton’s Best Restaurant awards, as well as a recent review from Jay Rayner, which saw phone call enquiries up by nearly 300%, in the weeks after it was published.
My social media trawlings tell me that they’ve switched up the selections on the cake and savoury tiers slightly, but this menu definitely appealed to me. The only bad thing about it was that you had to pick four of the five options – don’t make me choose, not when it all looks that good, the FOMO is almost unbearable!!
Having put a fairly hefty dent in their cocktail menu in previous visits, and with the day off work too, as charming as the flowering jasmine tea sounded, there was no chance I was waiving the good stuff. I opted for a (giant) G&T, followed up by a glass of champagne, sent over by the lovely owner, Raz, which was just enough to give me that warm, daytime-drinking induced glow.
It’s just bloody lovely isn’t it. They strike the right balance between casual ‘bringing the beach indoors’ dining and high end hotel restaurant. The fixtures and fittings are all pristine, and the nautical colour palette is calming and luxe. With exposed brick and marble topped polished wood tables, it’s an an interior lover’s and Instagrammer’s paradise.
I had full intentions of getting a beautiful full length shot of the tea in its entirety, but was waiting for the candy floss to arrive. It actually didn’t (and then I forgot), apparently there was a problem with the equipment used for making it. We really didn’t mind, shit happens, but all the staff were absolutely mortified, the lovely pastry chef herself even came out to apologise which was very sweet.
Across the board the service is exemplary, as it has been on all of my visits (as a guest and paying customer). I know for a fact that having the best team, ensuring the best experience, is a big part of what they’re about, and it shows.
Seeing the truffled toasted cheese on the sample menu sent over by the PR lady was enough to inspire drunk me to head into my own kitchen, where I dug out the truffle honey from Christmas and made my own version with two types of cheese, fried in truffle oil. Possibly the best post-pub snack I’ve ever created, so The Salt Room’s had a lot to live up to. It was great, but for me, I feel it would’ve benefited from a bit longer on the grill, and didn’t quite reach the levels of decadence mine did.
Steak Tartare is one of my favourite things, and sandwiched between wafer thin strips of pastry with cured egg yolk made it about as good as it gets. The crab scotch egg and oyster bring you back to the ‘seaside’ theme, and neither let the side down, bringing the entire savoury tier together into a seriously luxurious line up.
If I had to level any sort of criticism at any aspect of it, it would be the scones. A bit small, and a bit dry, they could’ve been better, but the house-churned butter and clotted cream, with strawberry and elderflower jam, made it all alright again.
A couple of bits of scone-related trivia: I pronounce it scon – as in rhymes with ‘gone’, rather than ‘bone’ (according to a yougov survey the majority of people are in agreement with me). I am very much a jam then cream kinda gal, it makes me feel weird even thinking about doing it the other way round, butter is non negotiable too.
The chocolate pebbles which I recognised from their ‘Taste of the Pier’ dessert platter, have been declared as ‘too much’ in the reviews I’ve read. This was a view shared by my friend, who, after taking one bite of hers, bequeathed the rest to me, which I demolished as well as my own. I have an incredibly sweet tooth when the mood takes me and those truffle filled little nuggets hit the spot, as did the picture perfect macarons.
Battenburg is one of my favourite cakes, so the prospect of a pistachio and raspberry one had me really excited (literally, I am a loser). So many people seem to think marzipan is the Devil’s work, but I couldn’t disagree more, and this version, which was deeply flavoured with pistachio was incredible. The sponge itself was quite heavy and the wet side of moist, but it tasted so good, any inaccuracy in consistency was by the by.
We were advised to eat the posset last, which we did, and it was the perfect finalé to the afternoon tea experience. Delicate meringue basket housed the creamy posset, which bit back with a sharp hit of citrus and was garnished prettily with orange segments and edible flowers. Very special indeed.
Someone on my Facebook page said it is ‘the wrong side of expensive’, I don’t know, y’know. Obviously it’s not cheap, but they’re premium ingredients and booze, in a beautiful setting, with a top notch team – those things cost.
But for a treat/special occasion, for £25 – £35 (depending on what you drink), I don’t think you can go wrong. For me, it’s an easy recommendation, I loved it, and would happily go back as a paying customer.
The Salt Room’s Afternoon Tea is available daily from 14:30-16:30 and must be booked in advance which you can do through their website.
Have you been to The Salt Room? Where’s your favourite place in Brighton to have afternoon tea? Post in the comments section below or hit me up on all manner of social networks.
*any meals which were free of charge are clearly stated or marked with an asterisk, you can read my full disclaimer here.