the coal shed

The Coal Shed

Ever since its opening, The Coal Shed has been become the darling of the Brighton foodie scene, with outstanding reviews by not only local press, but most of the nationals; The Telegraph and The Guardian, amongst others. Named as one of the best restaurants in the UK by the prestigious Observer Food Monthly awards, The Coal Shed has been on my bucket list for some time now and so I was only too happy to accept the opportunity of reviewing it.

The Coal Shed is described as a gourmet steak and seafood restaurant and is set in the heart of Brighton, on a quiet road leading off bustling West Street (but far enough away from its mayhem as to avoid the hordes of hen and stag dos).
My husband and I decided to make our visit to the Coal Shed our first ‘date night’ since the birth of our first baby girl and so the stakes were high (excuse the pun!). I was hoping for a memorable and romantic evening of good food, wine, service and of course adult company. With the mother-in-law kindly offering to babysit, we dolled ourselves up and made our way through the crisp Friday night air and were greeted with a warm welcome by the maître d’ who took our coats and showed us to our table for two.

The restaurant is simply but very tastefully decorated with wooden floors and bar, painted brickwork and panelling and traditional looking blackboards throughout, detailing the specials of the night and featuring artistic drawings depicting the different cuts of steak. What really sets the mood in this venue is the beautiful industrial style lighting throughout, giving off a warm glow – perfect for romance on a cold night. Although a relatively small restaurant, the tables are well positioned so as to maximise the space but not have you feeling like you are sitting on your neighbour’s lap. I noticed that the restaurant had those curtains that are hung by the entrance door, keeping the cold out – so important in winter, helping ensure there are no tables that have to deal with a blizzard each time guests enter or exit (one of my biggest bugbears!).

The atmosphere was full of excitement, with table sizes ranging from romantic duos to a family party of 14 and a gaggle of 8 ladies on a sophisticated girlie night out. The Coal Shed somehow manages to be perfect for any such occasion, but what they all have in common is the occasion is a special one. This is a restaurant for celebrating, indulging, relaxing and pure luxury.

Our waiter for the night was a gentleman named Flo; a charming and very knowledgeable chap with a real passion for hospitality and food. As a die-hard organiser, when I discover a new restaurant or venue I like, I always tend to get overexcited, dreaming up the future possibilities for parties and events and quizzing the waiter for details. Flo was only too happy to indulge me, telling me all about the beautiful private dining room available for hire, the delicious sharing roasts they offer on a Sunday (possible family get together on the cards?) and the ‘bring your own bottle’ Mondays (new year school friends reunion?)

I digress – now to the food. We kick started our hedonistic night with Flo’s recommendation of a beautifully chilled glass of Prosecco each and some ‘Lobster Fritters’ for the table. Your standard olives have nothing on these little balls of seafood heaven. Perfect for sharing, these were finely bread-crumbed and melt in the mouth with a perfect ratio of potato vs lobster. Incredibly more-ish, I had to be careful not to over-indulge at the first furlong and leave room for what I then knew was going to be a meal to remember.

When it came to starters, I immediately went for a couple of Rock Lobsters – if they are on the menu, I will always have them and these were just perfect. Served perched upon crushed ice, each was a nostalgic taste of the sea. My husband went for the Soup of the Day, which on this occasion was Parsnip. Ideal for a winter’s night, the soup arrived in a jug, only to be theatrically poured into a walnut scattered bowl upon arriving at the table. Before the hubby mopped the lot, I managed to get a taster. Rich and creamy, this was packed full of flavour, with the walnuts giving the dish a good texture and a bit of a bite.

In light of The Coal Shed being renowned for both gourmet steaks and seafood, we strategically chose our main courses so that I went down the seafood root with Grilled Lobster and hubby went with a manly fillet steak. These two classic dishes were served uncomplicated but with the emphasis on the ingredients being the very finest and freshest that you could ask for. Cooked to perfection and tasting like it had travelled straight from the sea that day, direct to my plate, the half lobster was presented with a jug of incredibly garlicy melted butter, plus thick-cut chips and a horseradish garnish. The success of the fillet steak dish could be read in the contented silence that ensued upon its arrival. This was one of the finest cuts of steak my husband has tasted in a long time; from the very finest Scottish cattle and reared in the north highlands. We were told that the steaks are dry-aged for a minimum of 35 days and cooked on a real charcoal grill. All steaks are served with a roasted plum tomato and fresh horseradish garnish. As per request, it was served medium rare, incredibly tender and with a slightly smoky charcoaled edge. Once again, it was accompanied by delicious thick chips and a horseradish garnish.

To marry with our dishes, Flo recommended that I should try the house white wine Cortese Amonte Volpi, a dry and crisp wine with refreshing light citrus flavours and ideal for drinking with seafood. Argentinian Malbec was Flo’s recommendation to my husband – a classic partner to steak and one that went down a treat. The waiting staff clearly take pride in their work, are well briefed on the food they are serving and have knowledge enough to be confident in making recommendations to their guests.

When it came to dessert, our initial plan was to politely decline as we were so full from the previous courses. That was, however, until we saw what was on offer. Every option on the dessert menu was a winner! I would have been rude not to choose something, so we shared the Greek Yoghurt and Honey Panna Cotta, Thyme Sponge and Blackberry. A potentially unusual combination, I was intrigued as to how well the thyme sponge would work with the panna cotta. The answer was just divinely. Priced at £7.50 this was not only a light and delicious fusion of flavours, it was quite simply a work of art. The presentation was as beautiful as the taste.

The desserts come at a fairy high price but you really do pay for what you get in this case, and indeed with all the courses. You are paying for the sophisticated surroundings, the knowledge and accommodating waiting staff, the luxurious fresh ingredients, attention to detail and presentation of the dishes.

Thanks to the Coal Shed, date night was exactly what I had hoped it would be; full of good food, good wine, romantic surroundings and wonderful company. I highly recommend it!