Kemptown in Brighton is traditionally known as the slightly more bohemian, less upmarket end of town – though always charming, all the same! But if Matt Gillan’s smart new venture Pike & Pine is anything to go by, it seems little old Kemptown may be well on its way to sharpening up its image.
The restaurant is a stunning long room tastefully decorated in greys and blacks, with exposed steel bars running across the high ceiling to provide a stage for the elaborate ferns and greenery that punctuate trough the monochrome.
The open kitchen is the heart of the action, with lucky diners taking the front row seat at the plush marble top bar that spans the length of the room. Surprisingly comfortable bar stools make the whole experience a delight. Larger groups get the table seats which are equally as beautifully presented, and probably even comfier with the long sofa that runs across the back wall.
The food is currently tasting menu only (however we’re told that an a la carte menu is to be introduced soon) in either a 6- or 8-course version, with veggie or non-veggie options available. Eight seems a lot for an early evening dinner, so we opt for six, which we are not disappointed with. We start with ‘snacks’ which in fact ends up being an entire dish in itself. Usually content with bread and butter, this smorgasbord of activity included aranchini and a cone of houmous. Certainly not your average bowl of olives!
The ox cheek we try next, which is beautifully tender and comes with celeriac, egg and a side of freshly baked bread. The sea bass is nothing other than a work of art and is served with cauliflower (which is making a huge, welcomed comeback) and, most unusually, kiwi fruit. Fish and seafood aren’t always my favourite, but for me this was the savoury highlight. The meat course is chicken, which is often overlooked in menus like these, perhaps through fear of not sounding particular exciting, and, true, chicken isn’t usually the most captivating dish on a menu. The dish comes with both breast and leg, accompanied with truffle and leek that succeed in adding interest.
Sweet course number one is top of my list for everything we eat that night. An absolutely perfect segue into dessert, the honeycomb mess (as I’m going to call it) isn’t the most attractive, but it is the most delicious. The little bowl mixes honeycomb with fennel sorbet, sponge and pannacotta. A devine blend of flavours and textures, the dish is suitably sweet enough without being overpowering. The menu ends with a lusciously rich chocolate and peanut ganache, that anyone with a sweettooth will not be able to resist.
Brighton is often referred to as London-by-the-sea, but with its high-end decor and food worthy of fine dining, Pike & Pine could perhaps be the start of Chelsea-on-the-coast.
1D St James’s Street