Given my obsession with food, people are often surprised that I don’t watch Masterchef, but I’m just not into it (other than in 2014 when I had a cringey crush on one of the contestants #bumchin). This meant that the first I’d heard of Steven Edwards was that he was opening a hotly anticipated fine dining restaurant, in my home town.
etch. opened its doors six weeks before my visit, but I’d seen a whole lot about it all over social media, all positive. So when the invitation* to come and review landed in my inbox, I rounded up one of my foodiest friends and followed the almost deafening buzz down Church Street, into deep Hove, to get my self a piece of the action.
Despite the dark colour palette, the interior is a lovely bright space with stylish fixtures and fittings – fancy without being intimidating, and a mixture of cosy booths and tables with a full view of either the bar or the pass. The perfect blend of high-end and smart casual – I can’t really imagine anyone disliking it.
I would’ve been surprised if etch. hadn’t had an open kitchen. Having spent a day cooking in the one at The Set, I can safely say I would much rather do so behind closed doors, but it’s seems to de rigeur with the new wave of chefs cum restaurateurs coming to Brighton – they want an audience!
64 Degrees was one of, if not the first restaurant in Brighton I’ve visited with the cryptic four word menu description listing only main ingredients. Many others have replicated this (Isaac At and The Set to name a couple) and I’ll be honest, it’s not a format I’m fond of – just tell me what I’m going to be eating and how, please.
etch. take it one step further listing a mere two, with not so much as a hint to how they might be served. But what they lack in detail word count wise, the waiting staff make up for in verbal explanations of the dishes, as well as the source of ingredients used.
About their strapline though… me no like- incongruous, jarring and adds an air of pretentiousness not present in any other aspect of their dining experience.
Truffle and donut – two words guaranteed to make me happy. Filled with duxelles and deeply infused with truffle oil, they entirely lived up to my sky-high expectations. I thought the cream cheese topped biscuits to pale in comparison, but they were a very welcome follow up to their cakey counterparts, and made me excited for the rest.
The bread was so good it deserved two pictures to ensure it was captured in all of its glory, just look at the shine on them there buns!! Their signature bread, a marmite brioche with a marmite glaze came with Southdowns butter that had been turned through with some dehydrated seaweed and served with a pinch of salt . Incredible, so much so that I could forgive them for the fact it was served on a slab of tree trunk and a pebble.
I don’t often get excitable about soup, however this vivid green, wild garlic and Jersey Royal one was something very special. Syphoned to ensure maximum creaminess and aeration, it had a base layer of creme fraiche and diced potato, a scattering of chives and wafer-thin (said in a terrible French accent) Jersey Royal crisps, with a slick of that truffle oil. It put most soups I’ve had in restaurants of a similar standard to shame.
Cooked salmon is my least favourite fish, however, raw or cured, is a bit of me. The fillets had been blowtorched with sugar and salt, It reminded me of a skin-on version of the salmon pastrami at 64 Degrees, of which I was a big fan. Served with baby onions which had been roasted and stuffed, then finished off with chive oil – absolutely lovely and a really good portion size too.
I’ll just come right out and say that I wasn’t a fan of this course, but this is almost entirely down to the fact that I’m not a beetroot lover at all and in this instance it was served in 4 different guises! Beetroot tartare (aka raw) wrapped in beetroot jelly with Orange icecream, ginger crumb, pickled beetroot, baby beetroot and blow torched orange segments and beetroot leaves. It certainly packed a substantial punch flavour-wise, just not one I could really get behind.
The meat course was breast of a guinea hen. I asked the waiter about this and he said it should be fowl but they refer to it as hen because it sounds nicer. Fair enough. The breast was served with guinea hen crumb and the leg had been poached and wrapped in parma ham, both sitting in a puddle of jus. The duo of meat came with a trio of asparagus – puree, chargrilled and raw – all fabulous. One of the main highlights of the meal, for me.
I was very slightly gutted not to see the rhubarb and custard dessert I’d been drooling over on Instagram on the menu, but pistachio and rhubarb dish, billed as a ‘Pre-dessert to refresh the palate’ was far from a let down. The fluffy sponge was as deeply flavoured by the nuts as it was coloured, and the tartness of the rhubarb served three ways (poached, pureed and a rhubarb) – delivered on its palate cleansing promise.
The main dessert was a chocolate marquis, a squidgy, intricate layer cake – which was just as sumptuous as it looks. Complemented perfectly by the Earl Grey notes in the icecream and crunchy milk tuille it was scattered with, it was a fabulous combination, flavour-wise, and everything one could possibly want from a chocolate dessert.
Yes, that loo does do what you think it does, and yes I did test out its functionality – twice. Bit creeped out by the heated seat (feels like someone has had a long session on there before you) but there’s no denying that it is a serious bit of kit – a quick scan of google tells me it must have set them back a cool 4k+.
Our meal and glass of fizz were comped and we paid for additional drinks as agreed with the PR. I never usually talk about the gratuity side of things, mainly because it’s a given that I tip generously every time and assumed anyone else in my position would, so I’ve never felt the need to mention it. However, recently, I’ve seen a lot of talk about food writers/bloggers not tipping, and I just wanted to make it crystal clear that I’m not one of them. Not just because I was a waitress for 10 years, but because it’s the decent and well mannered thing to do, and completely separate to anything I get for free through a PR/restaurant owner.
Menus change weekly with an option of 4 (£40) 6 (£50) or 8 (£60) set courses, available during both lunch and dinner services. These price points won’t necessarily be accessible enough to people for it to become a regular haunt, but I think for a fine dining restaurant offering local sourced produce, to such a high standard – it actually represents very good value.
All in all I was pretty blown away by my meal at etch. What they’ve done in such a short time of being open is remarkable and they’re easily going to be able to punch their weight against well loved and long established restaurants in the city. I’ll definitely be going back for dinner as a paying customer- it might take a while though, they’re fully booked in the evenings until the summer!
Have you been to etch.? Where’s your go-to for fine dining in Brighton and Hove? Hit me up in the comments section or on all manner of social networks (links below).
*any meals which were free of charge are clearly stated or marked with an asterisk, you can read my full disclaimer here.