The perfect setting for a special meal day or night, with spectacular seafood dishes on the picturesque promenade of Brighton.
If you ask a Brightonian to think of their favourite ‘household name’ restaurant that has stood the test of time, a few names will come up. Riddle & Finns is one that I hear time and time again, and although it has only been around since 2006, it seems like they have been a big part of Brighton’s abundant foodie scene forever! Their flagship restaurant in the lanes is the first place that usually springs to mind if my wife and I want to eat out for a special occasion. We just love the not too overly-polished New York Glamour vibe with its shiny tiled walls, beautiful candelabra, dimmed vintage chandeliers and gleaming marble table tops, not to mention the quality of the food being always top notch and as fresh as can be, literally exceeding our expectations on every visit.
Until now, I have never been tempted to visit their second restaurant set in the arches on the beach. Despite Riddle & Finns in the lanes being our ‘go to’ treat restaurant. I guess I just had it in my head that the beach location seemed best left for the tourists. On a particularly lovely warm September day, I found out my preconceptions were completely off-kilter when I decided to take my wife for a nice alfresco lunch and she insisted we give it a try!
After a lovely stroll along the promenade taking in the last of the summer sun we arrive and are greeted by restaurant manager Jacob who we instantly warm to while we chat about our day before choosing our table.
We still opted to sit outside unperturbed by the breeze that had picked up and the sight of other diners struggle with menu’s and serviettes blowing away. The sun was still blazing and the wind-breaks surrounding the patio sufficient enough, along with careful positioning of cutlery, to keep everything in place. Our waiter Marco swiftly presents us with the menus and a basket of sourdough by Brighton’s artisan Flour Pot Bakery, accompanied by some seriously tasty butter and shredded mackerel pate with horseradish, garlic, and seafood sauces. We tuck in and wash it all down with aperitifs of Aperol spritz and a nice dry and herby glass of Fino Fernandez De Castillo.
Our appetites now well and truly woken, choosing our lunch seemed a daunting task as everything on the menu looked incredible. Thankfully Marco was to hand and helped us by re-affirming our choices. I play it safe with the old-faithful calamari, drawn in by the accompanying peanut and ginger dipping sauce to start. For my main I am torn between the catch of the day, which happens to be my favourite fish, Sea-Bream, which Marco has described as a 600g “monster,” and Malaysian style whole wok fried crab. The Sea-Bream wins as I decide the crab could be too messy and could not be bothered with the hassle of cracking shells. My wife opts for Tuna Sashimi to start and smoked haddock fillet as a main, one of their more popular dishes which has survived six years on an ever evolving menu. With Marco’s help we select a charming Muscadet with honey and grapefruit notes to accompany the dishes.
As we wait for our starters, I get up to have a look inside. I pass the specials board which also lists the options available from the catch of the day. The open plan kitchen on the ground floor is in full swing and it is mesmerising to watch the chefs expertly going about their craft. The upstairs dining room seems to have a more informal and relaxed atmosphere than its counterpart in the laines, with window front tables offering great views of the sea, a massive plus during autumn and winter months where you can dine with sea-views whatever the weather. A private dining room to the rear of the arch for functions and special events looks intimate and suitably impressive all at once, with similar décor and vibe to the laines restaurant.
I return from my nose around just in time for our starters to arrive and I am pleased to say I made a good choice. My calamari was plentiful, cooked to perfection with a lovely light crisp batter and the peanut dipping sauce had a lovely spiced oriental flavour which complimented the delicate flavour of the squid. My wife’s sashimi, which she begrudgingly let me try, was on another level however! Juicy thick slices of tuna topped lardo that the chef torches slightly to bring the flavour of the fish out even more, were scattered with light and fluffy tempura edamame and drizzled in a sublime miso truffle dressing that set this incredible dish off with a bang!
Our mains were equally impressive.
My catch of the day Sea-Bream was indeed a monster of a fish, expertly oven-baked and smothered in a herby shellfish butter emulsion which really highlighted the distinctive slightly sweet flavour of the firm white meat which I absolutely love. Served with a leafy salad, this was all I needed as a side due to the fish being so weighty. My wife was a little more generous when allowing me to try her haddock, preparing me a forkful or two piled high with the accompanying colcannon, poached egg and crispy prosciutto. The tender fish delicately smoked so as not to overpower the lean sweet meat and the lovely champagne sauce with a hint of truffle really complimented. This was a lovely well rounded dish which was easy to appreciate how it has managed to keep its spot on the menu for so long.
When you visit Riddle and Finns, please do make sure you save some room for dessert. The incredibly well thought out dessert menu was just too tantalising to ignore, and as we could not make our mind up, Marco insisted we have “homemade desserts to share”… a platter of all the desserts with a whole warm ginger parkin smothered in salted caramel and clotted cream ice-cream taking centre stage. My wife’s eyes lit up when it arrived, whereas I wondered how on earth we were going to manage it all! Wild Strawberry sorbet, mini chocolate orange doughnuts, champagne marinated summer berries, shot glasses of coulee and fruit compote and chocolate and salted caramel truffles thrown in for good measure. This was all served up on a slate and spattered with icing sugar for effect. It really has to be seen to be believed, and with so many wonderful flavours and textures, every mouthful was an adventure.
We absolutely demolished the lot!
That, dear readers is how you do lunch in Brighton! My only regret is not having any of their famous oysters, but I’ll be sure to go crazy on them next time, as from memory of our previous visits, they are some of the best I have tasted. All in all, our experience at Riddle & Finns on the beach was every bit as good as our previous visits to their lanes restaurant. Everything from the food to the service was immaculate. Our visit to the seafront restaurant has reaffirmed my adoration for a restaurant which I think has earned its status as a Brighton institution and I cannot wait till next time.