Review: etch. by Steven Edwards fine dining restaurant, Hove

 

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.

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12 Comments

  1. Ben
    May 9, 2017 / 6:56 pm

    Hello,

    I have a question. Do you feel you are obliged to give a good review cause it is for free. Cause they know who you are I am sure the restaurant will only serve their best food, cause you going to review it?

    I’m going to etch next Wednesday and I’ve been asking around and most reviews are average to ok… Let’s hope next Wednesday is as good as your visit.

    I’m a firm believer that of you are going to review food you should arrive unannounced in busy periods and the staff should not know who you are.

    • rosie
      May 9, 2017 / 7:56 pm

      Hi Ben,

      Many thanks for your comment. I recognise you from social media but have no idea how much of my actual blog you’ve read, but my guess is not much, if you are questioning the integrity/honesty of my write ups.

      The simple answer to your question is; no I don’t feel obliged, nor am I obliged to leave a good review ’cause it is free’.

      Without coming across as overly defensive here’s a few links to reviews, where I have had a comp bill, which are less glowing than this one, which I assume is what you wanted to see?
      https://www.rosieposiespuddingsandpies.co.uk/2017/04/review-isaac-at.html
      https://www.rosieposiespuddingsandpies.co.uk/2016/08/review-cafe-chilli-thai-restaurant-and.html
      and one where I mention the issue of authenticity of experience
      https://www.rosieposiespuddingsandpies.co.uk/2016/12/review-giggling-squid-brighton.html
      and a quote from it if you can’t be bothered to scroll
      ‘Re the service, it’s always hard to get a true sense of what’s what when you’re in on an invite*. The lady looking after us was visibly nervous – sweet, attentive and accommodating, but absolutely quaking in her boots, bless her.
      There’s nothing to suggest at all that the service wouldn’t have been fantastic had I have been an ordinary punter, but as a former waitress, it is a big factor for me, it’s one of the main reasons I only accept a fraction of the invitations I get to review. I want the same authentic experience a paying customer would have, and with the best will in the world, you’re never going to get that if your booking is strictly managed by a PR company and/or the restaurant owner .’

      As someone who has been writing about and contributing to the Brighton food scene in the form of this blog, for well over five years, it’s natural that restaurants, such as etch (and a large number of others who have invited me, whose invitations I don’t take up) should invite me in to review – I do take on board that it’s not necessarily as authentic an experience as ‘arriving unannounced during a busy period’ – but ultimately, you cannot fake excellent food, or atmosphere. I’m sure you would agree.

      If you’re still in any doubt here is my full disclaimer https://www.rosieposiespuddingsandpies.co.uk/disclaimer

      Re the mixed reviews you’ve heard and your imminent visit – I hope your experience is as fabulous as mine was! (although please note my para re not liking the menu format/strapline/the beetroot course)

      All the best
      Rosie

      • Ben spash
        May 19, 2017 / 10:45 pm

        Went this week. It was amazing…

        Keep on posting!!!

  2. Bill Rogers
    May 9, 2017 / 9:03 pm

    Hi Rosie

    Great reply, I think that would be called a TKO in boxing terms.
    Great review

    Good girl Rosie
    Best wishes

    Bill

    • rosie
      May 9, 2017 / 9:13 pm

      🙂 Cheers Bill! Thanks for reading and commenting too, pleased you enjoyed x

  3. Lorraine
    May 10, 2017 / 8:48 pm

    Great review. Will look forward to checking out. X

  4. Ed
    May 12, 2017 / 2:31 pm

    Thanks for that review Rosie, if only for explaining what one of those cryptic menus actually looks like when served.

    • rosie
      May 12, 2017 / 2:41 pm

      hahaha thanks, Ed 🙂 I am not a fan of surprises, the mystery element of these sorts of menu are definitely an acquired taste!

  5. Jon Sellors
    May 12, 2017 / 8:50 pm

    Hi Rosie

    Really good review that reflects my experience too. I had lunch last Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed it. The two standout dishes for me were the soup (broccoli with sunken goats cheese bonbon) and the duck and pea. I wouldn’t normally opt for duck on a standard menu but this really was superb, the breast was sweet and the peas a perfect match.

    I took my godson (aged 11) and he loved it all bar the mushrooms. They also made him a special non-alcoholic cocktail which was a nice touch.

    I’ll certainly be back for a second try soon.
    Jon

    • rosie
      May 19, 2017 / 10:22 am

      Hi Jon

      Really pleased you enjoyed my review, and your experience at etch. Your godson sounds super cool – cannot wait until my goddaughter is old enough to take to swish restaurants!

      Hope your second visit is as great as the first – thanks lots for commenting x

  6. Rochard Hughes
    May 12, 2017 / 9:11 pm

    Great response. Always big you up…my wcf!! Haha don’t tell the wife!

    • rosie
      May 15, 2017 / 9:49 am

      Ahhhh Richard!! That’s made me grin on a Monday morning – your secret’s safe with me! Thanks for all the Facebook love too – have a fab week xxx

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