If you had told me prior to my visit to Pabellon that a stylish new independent dining spot had opened on Brighton’s North Street, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. “North Road, you mean, surely?” I’d question, imagining a little nook had opened up somewhere between Caribbean experts Bus Stop and patty maestros Burger Brothers. And yet here we are, sipping on a fishbowl-sized glass of zeco fino sherry and Fevertree tonic, in Brighton’s newest restaurant just shy of East Street.
Named for its proximity to the Royal Pavilion, Pabellon is the second helping of Senor Buddha’s restaurants, the first of which – Circo – has earnt itself a loyal local following on the ourskirts of town in Preston Circus. While the offerings at Pabellon are similar to its sister restaurant, the owners have adapted their newest to its surroundings; as such, the North Street site cooks up Spanish tapas with an Asian twist for more casual, all-day dining.
The menu is a sight to behold, with plenty of dishes I’m keen to sink my teeth into, however my dining partner and I manage to – somehow – limit ourselves to just six. We begin with the beetroot medley (£8), a generous plate of cold beets prepared multiple ways, accompanied by pumpkin, almonds and ajo blanco. A transformed salad for autumn, it’s bright and bold – the perfect reflection of our setting.
We follow this with the patatas bravas bomba withtofu aioli (£6). Arriving as two petite ‘bombs’ of potato, with crumb on the outside and the rich tomato sauce in the centre, it’s a creative take on the Catalan classic. The aioli is also powerfully garlic-y, which is both to myself and my dining companion’s taste, however those who prefer their garlic a little more understated can just as easily cut back on the quantity of aioli.
Next up is the flatiron steak with artichoke ajo blanco and coriander aioli (£9), and Iberico pork presa – pork shoulder served with romesco (£12). They’re both delicious – but, much like at Circo, the seafood tapas are really where the Senor Buddha group come into their own. A visit to Circo earlier this year saw me dubbing their salt and pepper calamari as undisputably the best I had tried in Brighton, so I was excited to try the same in Pabellon. Served with black garlic (£8), the calamari itself was just as I had remembered: soft and tender on the inside with that signature batter crunch.
The standout dish of the evening, however, had to be the pulpo pabellon: octopus with sobrassada and potato (£11). The combination of meaty octopus and Balearic sausage is a winning one within itself, and makes for one heck of a small plate (my only complaint is that the dish isn’t bigger – but then that’s not why we’re here).
We finish with the bunyols de vent (catalan doughnuts, palm sugar caramel and chilli ginger chocolate, £6) – little dough-y balls of joy which melt the second they hit the palate, ending the evening perfectly.
We opted out of another tipple due to a particularly alcohol-fuelled week, despite being tempted by the decidedly in-depth drinks menu (which contains exclusively Spanish wines, beers and gins). We reason with ourselves that we’ll definitely be returning anyway – at which point we’ll swiftly make our way through the gin list at the very least.
Pabellon is at 13 Pavilion Buildings, Brighton. Tel: 01273 720822.
Images: All XDB Photography
This review was first published by the author at BN1 Magazine.