A dining experience like no other, the Isaac At Test Kitchen is a unique, informative and spellbinding way of trying new dishes from one of Sussex’s most acclaimed restaurants.
Well and truly tucked away on Brighton’s Gloucester Street sits the award winning and critically acclaimed fine dining restaurant, which is as modest as it is proud, Isaac At. Now in its seventh year Isaac At has gone from strength to strength picking up numerous awards such as 3rd Best Restaurant in Time Out’s Brighton Restaurant Guide. Isaac At has recently announced the launch of its new exciting test kitchen series, taking place once a fortnight, where two pairs of diners have the chance to sit at The Pass and try an exclusive, never-before-tested selection of dishes. With each test kitchen run by a different Isaac At chef, the series enables the kitchen team to capitalise on the seasonal foraged produce that is fresh on the day whilst championing experimentation, innovative ideas and techniques. This sounded like an experience not to be missed so we booked ourselves in at the earliest opportunity, and I am so glad we did, as the evening was nothing short of phenomenal.
We received the warmest of greetings from the front of house manager and resident expert sommelier Alex as we walked through the door. We were the firsts guests of the evening to arrive, and the kitchen, which is the first thing you see as you walk in, was already a hive of activity, with Junior chef, and our host for the evening Cameron busily and expertly going about making preparations for the night ahead. The intimate space seats around 20, and with just two couples dining on a Test Kitchen night, the experience feels even more special than usual. We take our positions at “The Pass,” which is the perfect spot for up to two guests to enjoy the full Isaac At experience, with a direct view into the kitchen. It’s a great opportunity to see how the chefs work during service and it really feels like you’re part of the action. If you are not sat up on the pass as we were, there are two digital screens on the walls meaning you can watch the kitchen action no matter where you are sat. This small added touch makes you really appreciate the work which goes in to your food.
We start off the evening with a wonderfully crisp sparkling wine from Albourne wine estate, and no sooner than it was delivered Cameron presents us with a petite bowl of his new creation “Liquid BLT” to sip on. I must admit this didn’t sound too appetising to me but it went down a treat. In fact I could not help but to marvel at the sheer genius involved. You could taste everything from the bread, through to lettuce, tomato and of course bacon! It certainly woke up our palettes. Absolute nectar and a great fun introduction. A lovely earthy citrus organic Oxney Pinot Noir rose has been expertly selected to wash it down with as it cuts through the fat and further enhances the incredible range of taste sensations, with a flavour which does not tend to stay with you for future courses as some reds might.
As we sip our BLT and rose wine, and Cameron puts the finishing touches to the first course it is lovely to see the kitchen team encouraging him at his first Test Kitchen. Cameron is fairly new to the team having started at Isaac At November last year. Everyone gets their chance to have a go, inspiring the chefs to come up with new ideas and run with them whilst interacting with customers. It is great training for new chefs in what has always been very young team.
Our first course is inspired by a 200 year old dish which probably has not been cooked for over a century as no actual recipe’s for it exist. “Sussex Smoky.” Which Cameron read about, felt inspired and decided to go for it. It is a kind of fish-cake made with Hake, mashed potato and cheddar cheese wrapped in a crisp panco crumb carapace, which Cameron has drizzled with seaweed Hollandaise and decorated with fresh fennel. It tastes sublime. The flavour of the delicate velvety buttery flakes of hake are pushed to the forefront in this delicious hearty creation.
Next up, an incredibly rich in flavour and succulent, pork belly which was cooked to perfection, with a slither of light creamy cauliflower purée, topped with dehydrated pork ring “pork popcorn” and a dainty drizzle of Nasturtium. We are served a local organic apple cider alongside which perfectly brings it all together. A masterful dish which I am certain will make it to the main menu in the coming weeks.
We finish our test kitchen experience with an exquisite dessert which we take great pleasure in watching our light-handed host prepare in front of us. macerated strawberries are delicately placed on a light crumbly biscuit base and topped with a dollop of (almost) sweet white wine iced-cream which has a crisp seared caramel shell and a peppery basil jus. There was so much going on with flavours, textures and temperatures that every mouthful was sensational. I would describe this dish as no less than an actual masterpiece in dessert making. A glass of organic Loxwood mead is a great fun and accompaniment. My first experience of proper organic mead, simply made with honey, water and lemon. I can smell the many types of flowers that must go into the honey and the taste is heavenly!
That concludes our Test Kitchen evening, and what a fantastic experience it was! Surpassing all expectations with an exceptionally well-choreographed menu of seasonal dishes, paired alongside some first-rate English beverages, carefully sourced from vineyards across the south of the UK. A truly unique dining experience, the Isaac At Test Kitchen is a great fun, informative and mesmerizing way of trying new dishes from one of Sussex’s most heralded restaurants. This is sure to be a popular once a fortnight event so book now to avoid disappointment.