Whenever I have visited this beautiful eatery I have always found that not only the food has been outstanding, but the overall experience has been pure escapism, with incredibly knowledgeable and lovely chefs and staff taking me on a food and wine journey through Spain.
If I had to pick one type of regional cuisine to live on for the rest of my days, it would be authentic Spanish tapas. I love the social aspect of going out for tapas almost as much as the food itself; it can be a romantic meal for two, a special occasion with plates shared amongst good friends, or a lunchtime meeting with a glass or two of vino. With the right mix of good quality ingredients and a knowledgeable and skilful chef, Spanish food is positively delicious and can inspire conversation no matter what the occasion! What I especially love about tapas is the variety of flavours that you can add to your meal any time, so if you fancy a little more, or have a little room left for something else, you can just order as you go. This is the most civilised way to eat in my opinion as it is never rushed.
Since it opened in 2015, Market Restaurant and Bar has been my “go to” Spanish restaurant for a variety of reasons. Whenever I have visited this beautiful eatery I have always found that not only the food has been outstanding, but the overall experience has been pure escapism with incredibly knowledgeable and lovely chefs and staff taking me on a food and wine journey through Spain. It is a testament to co-owner Kate Alleston who I have had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions and I can honestly say she is one of the most passionate and hard-working individuals in the industry.
Having neglected the restaurant for what I am surprised to recall has been well over a year, I decide it is high time I pay them another visit so I call upon a good friend one Monday lunchtime early October and do just that. As we arrive, I recognise Kate, who is busily preparing for the first night of Octoberbest, a promotion where the top restaurants in town offer a three course meal for twenty pounds.
She says they have been inundated, and are fully booked for the evening. At this time of day and week however the restaurant is relatively quiet so we are able to take prime seats in my favourite spot at the open style kitchen bar, where we can chat to the chefs and front of house staff as they go about their work. Much has changed over the years since Market opened its doors, starting off as a diner serving Anglo-Spanish cuisine, and before long evolving to being quintessentially Spanish, which is where Kate’s true passion lies. Having grown up in Andalucia, she loved going into real “spit and sawdust” tapas joints with her mother. Market restaurant and bar is actually quite beautifully decorated with Victorian green metro tiling, dazzling mirrors and rustic menu boards, yet still manages to maintain a high level of authenticity, with hanging meats and cheeses on display around workstations on either side of the bar for preparing hot and cold food. Kate introduces us Marta, who evidently shares Kate’s passion for all things Spanish and will be looking after us.
Marta begins by pouring us a lovely chilled glass of bitter Vermouth, a perfect pairing for the savoury nibbles of Padron peppers and goats cheese churros which were about to be presented. The meat and cheese counter is calling us, and while we are waiting we ask Marta to recommend her favourite cured meat for us to try. Duly obliging, she brings us a taster of Cecina de Leon, an incredible dry cured beef fillet loin which is prepared on site. The flavour is immense and immediately transports me to a tapas bar I remember from a cycling tour of the Sierra Nevada which I undertook a few years ago. The authentic Padron peppers arrive soon after, and are quickly devoured along with the wonderful savoury churros drizzled with a luxurious heavenly truffle honey, which had a unique sweet and earthy taste which we could not get enough of. This was a hell of a start to our journey which left us hankering for more!
As we sit and chat with Marta she gradually brings us more of the plates of food we have selected from the menu. The menu itself is set out as if you are in a market, with the offerings laid out under headings of greengrocer, fishmonger and butcher. First off from the fishmonger, Sardines coated in Ajo Blanco, almonds, and topped with cucumber, radish and onion which cleanse the pallet and allow for the full flavour of these naturally delicious salty fishes to shine. The dish also boasted some of the plumpest and most flavoursome mussels I have ever had. It was served up in a rich earthy sauce made from Spanish Estrella Damm beer, capers, shallots and smoked paprika which was just heavenly, and especially so when soaked up with chunks of fresh bread. This course was expertly paired with a glass of Portuguese Vila Nova which further allowed us to savour every mouthful.
Before we get to the meat and veg offerings we are recommended a glass each of Bobal made with indigenous grapes from Valencia, which has a lovely oaky and fruity full flavour with notes of blackberries and cherries that went down a treat with our remaining food choices. From the greengrocer, a melt in your mouth roasted half aubergine with a sticky yet subtle black treacle mizo glaze and sprinkled with puffed wild rice which added an extra dimension to the lovely textures evident in this dish. A King Oyster Mushroom dish followed which had some incredible intense contrasting flavours which worked exceptionally well together. The grounded earthiness of the mushroom was set off by subtle bitter notes from creamy blue cheese and drizzle with egg yolk which added an ever-so subtle sweetness to the mix.
For me the star of the show came as our final dish, which was simply described on the menu as lamb rump with shallot and pistachio. The prime cut rump of succulent lamb was perfectly cooked and seasoned, scattered with chunks of pear and crisp shallot rings, a sublime rich red wine jus and sprinkled with pistachio shavings. A complex mix of flavours and textures all worked in harmony and somehow didn’t overpower the taste of the lamb itself. On recommendation from Marta, we also ordered Patatas a lo pobre, a classic tapas consisting of spuds, green pepper, onion and garlic which translates to “poor man’s potatoes” to compliment. I am glad we did as it went perfectly with the lamb and was delicious in itself. All this combined with the incredible Spanish wine not only sent my tastebuds on a journey to Spain, but also to foodie heaven!
We finished our experience with a lovely dark and sweet Pedro Ximenez 8 sherry and a light homemade pix parfait with figs and a zesty raspberry jam to cleanse the pallet. This was another expert pairing by Marta and a wonderful way to end our journey. The team behind Market really are masters of their craft and I cannot recommend this place enough. It really does have everything you could wish for, from incredible plates of food from a menu that changes seasonally, with only the finest freshest locally sourced ingredients used, delicious Spanish wines and an exceptional level of service from friendly knowledgeable staff. An immaculately presented private dining room is available for groups of up to twenty-seven people, ideal for anything from business functions to raucous parties, and from previous experience I can tell you A Market Sunday Roast is to die for! Tony Shattell
Market Restaurant and Bar
42 Western Road, Hove, BN3 1JD, 01273823707 www.market-restaurantbar.co.uk