There’s something quite iconic about Brighton’s seafront, isn’t there? Whether it’s the pier, the bandstand, the beach huts down in Hove or the juxtaposition of ultra-modern British Airways i360 against the iconic ruins of the West Pier, there’s truly something for everyone.
Fortunately, the team behind The Salt Room agree, and have based their entire restaurant around it. Overlooking the promenade, the restaurant offers panoramic views, and is close enough that in the summer you can even smell the sea from the terrace. It’s just as well, then, that they also serve almost exclusively seafood, their menu and surroundings working together in perfect unison. It’s this consistency – and head chef Dave Mothersill’s excellent vision – which earnt them Seafood Restaurant of the Year 2017. Which is why it’s even more shocking that I had never dined there until this month.
I visit on a busy Sunday afternoon, where the tradition of Roast Sunday Lunch is in full swing. Luckily, we’re here to try the fish, which is just as well as the roasts were all sold out by around 2.15pm anyway.
It’s windy outside, so the terrace is closed – probably for one of the first days since April – but we’re shown to the closest table to the sea, which is about as good as it gets. I start by ordering the raw scallop ceviche (£14), a summer staple given an autumnal twist with pumpkin and bacon cream, lifted by the Japanese citrus flavours of yuzu. It arrives on the plate looking fresh and colourful, a precursor to its flavour (read: delicious), offset by my crisp Chenin Blanc (Olifantsberg Breedekloof, South Africa, £8.25/175ml). My dining partner opts for the octopus (£11), which is served with lentils, chorizo and red wine; a heavier choice that is perhaps more satisfying in the cooler weather.
We both finish our starters incredulous with the food – such complex flavours working together in unison, rather than battling against one another. While awaiting our mains, I order one of the ‘oyster pearls’, which had taken my attention on the drinks menu. For £4.25, I was to be served a fresh oyster paired with my favourite spirit. An interesting concept which quickly became essential dining as soon as I saw gin was one of the options. Pairing an oyster with RR Daring Dry Vermouth, samphire and lemon seems a little adventurous for even the more acquired of tastes, but this was a treat – the salt of the oyster taking the edge off of the straight gin perfectly, and vice versa. I was impressed to find I didn’t even flinch – as I usually do with oysters. It was delicious.
I was in anticipation for the mains to come, though. I’d ordered the monkfish (£23), which came with smoked aubergine, carrot, chilli and preserved lime. I opted against any additional potatoes, as monkfish is quite meaty and heavy for a fish – and was absolutely right to have, as I found myself stuffed by the end of the meal. My companion ordered the whole bream (£22), a theatrical piece of sorts where the fish is deboned at the table.
Seaweed and saltbaked, and served with harissa, garlic, lemon and potatoes, I’m told it was a delicious dish, made even better by the house red: a Héraldique, Rouge from Pays d’Oc (£5.25/175ml).
We left the restaurant stuffed, but with a vow to return. Our final bill cost £110.98 – a little more pricey than a usual Sunday, but a worthwhile treat all the same. And I must mention our wonderful waiter Sylwek, who was a gentleman all afternoon and only added to our experience.
The Salt Room is at 106 King’s Road, Brighton.
This review was first published by the author at BN1 Magazine.
Images: All Paul Winch-Furness