A Food Review, The SET Brighton
After three hugely successful years at Brighton’s trendy Artists Residence hotel, the team behind The Set have been making some exciting changes. Taking over the hotel’s entire food and beverage operation, January saw the launch of their new seasonally-focussed cocktail lounge, The Fix (formerly The Cocktail Shack), as well as the rebranding of the Set Café as The Set Bar, with a new relaxed and informal tapas-style all-day snacking menu to counterpoint the restaurant’s more formal three seasonal set menu option. In addition to this, later in the year they’ll be opening an outdoor terrace where you can enjoy all this alfresco! Plus there’s a new breakfast offering in the pipeline too!
We at Absolute got wind of all this, and in the interest of journalism figured it was our duty to go check out the new menu, and of course a couple of cheeky cocktails. Here’s how it went:
Having frequented the Cocktail Shack on occasion, I had an idea of what to expect from the latest incarnation of the Artists Residence hotel bar, and was pleasantly surprised by the venue’s facelift. The gaudy corrugated iron Caribbean inspired rum shack, and film-themed cocktail puns are no more! They seem to have gone for a trendier, cosier feel, however I was pleased to see some of the fantastic neon artwork remained. We were greeted by the bar manager Sergio, who was busy gracefully and expertly going about his craft, allowing us the chance to peruse the menu of very inventive and unusual drinks The Fix had to offer that evening. Sergio explained to us that, where possible, ingredients from The Set kitchen form the basis of the cocktail menu so as to minimise waste. That would certainly explain the “Carrot Iced Tea” and “Rhubarb Spritz”, which we simply had to try! Who would have thought having a carrot as the basis of a cocktail would be so delicious. It was heavenly to drink, and I loved nibbling on the cinnamon spiced carrot decoration! The Rhubarb Spritz was equally decadent with the rhubarb giving the drink a wonderful tang, offset by the adorning creamy foam. The best thing about The Fix menu, however, was that by using the ingredients from The Set kitchen, the cocktail menu will naturally evolve with the seasons. I can’t wait to see what spring and summer have to offer!
Finishing our drinks, feeling a bit boozy and contemplating how I’ll never tire of the fantastic view from the huge bay windows of Regency Square and the i360, we decided it was time to follow our noses and head next door into The Set Bar. The smells emanating from the kitchen were simply too hard to resist.
Settling into our seats and, by this time salivating from the delicious aromas teasing us with what was to come, we were taken through the menu by Daisy who took us who recommended we chose up to five dishes, and not to worry if we couldn’t make our mind up as she was happy to come back so we could order more. The impressive menu boasts an extensive range of hot and cold dishes, locally sourced cheeses and charcuterie, and some very tempting “puddings”. The seasonality of the ingredients apparent with root vegetables seem to form a basis of many of the choices from the hot food menu. Also apparent was how reasonably priced the dishes are. With plates averaging around £4.00, accessibility seems to have been a key consideration to this well thought-out menu.
From the drinks menu, which was equally well thought out with a select range of delicious sounding wines and craft beers, I selected a “Salty Kiss” by Magic Rock. This is a fantastic Gooseberry sour beer, bursting with flavour. My companion plumped for the house white, which was a rather superb Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. We were tempted by another cocktail, particularly enticed by the Aperitif “Buttermilk Hardshake” made with buttermilk, orange, orange blossom and rum, but decided to play it safe as I needed to remember the experience for this write-up, and was already feeling a little woozy from the cocktail we had next door in The Fix.
We ordered, and the first dishes came out within minutes. It had been a while since we had eaten oysters so were pleased when they were first to arrive, and more so when presented with some of the plumpest, most flavoursome oysters I have ever tasted. Matt, the chef who appeared from the kitchen to deliver our food explained they were from Maldon and specially selected for quality and flavour. Drizzled in Ponzu to further enhance the taste, which really stops with you. We were ready to order some more when the second plate arrived. Which I am pleased to say made us forget about ordering more oysters, as we were presented with another winner! Raw slithers of fresh trout flavoured with orange and fennel. Tangy and refreshing, with the orange not overpowering the fish, further enhanced by the aromatic fennel.
As we waited in anticipation of our hot food choices, we had the chance to take in our surroundings. They seem to have gone for an “urban chic” style with furniture made from salvaged wood and pipes. The huge fireplace drips with candle waxicles and particular attention is paid to the lighting which was cosy and well thought out, casting interesting shadows on the grey wood panelled walls. Daisy seemed lost in conversation with a couple from the adjacent tables about the fantastic artwork on display from Dave White’s acclaimed “animal” series. We felt relaxed and at home.
The first of our hot dishes arrived; the “Squid Bun” which was basically a squid burger, but with a fantastic earthy roast garlic aioli which smelt and tasted divine! Served in a light malty brioche made on site, it had a salty kick and complimented the earthiness of the fresh roast garlic.
This was quickly followed by Miso leeks, which my companion selected as she is “generally not a fan” of leeks but wanted to “broaden her horizons”. I’m glad she did as this was a particular favourite of mine. The Miso softened the strong flavour of the leeks and the sunflower seeds further rounded off this dish and brought it down to earth.
The final hot dish to arrive was the Pig Cheek with Hummus, and we saved the best till last. Perfectly cooked tender and flavoursome meat melted in the mouth to release the full flavour, complimented by a wonderfully nutty hummus and drizzled with a rich tangy jus.
Dessert was a lot of fun! We decided to share a couple of malted marshmallows which were coated in a crispy sugary glaze and wonderfully gooey in the middle; a real treat which took me back to my childhood, camping with cub scouts. We also shared a rhubarb cheesecake, which was served upside down in a glass, with the rhubarb in the base, the creamy cheese bit in the middle, and topped with the biscuit and pieces of honeycomb. Having the crumbly bit at the top made it really fun and messy to eat. A great way to finish the night and made the whole evening more memorable.
All in all a lovely fun, casual relaxing evening was had. Great food, atmosphere and smashing cocktails. The Set restaurant will continue to serve up their seasonal set menus in the original 20 cover dining room, and I think regular visitors will be pleased with the new identity and offerings in The Set Bar and The Fix. I am also certain the accessibility of the constantly evolving Set bar menu will add further appeal.