Anyone who has lived or worked in Hove for the last few years will have walked past the old Havana Spoons building at the end of Third Avenue and wonder why the once beautiful, but now sad shell of a building has been empty for so long. I myself used to enjoy a cocktail or two there when it was open and have since wondered if anyone was going to realise the potential the place had to offer.
The guys behind 23 Duke Street have done just that, and then some! I was excited to see renovations begin early in December and in what seems like a blink of an eye, they have transformed the site from a derelict husk, to a gorgeous stylish and sleek multi space venue which oozes class and sophistication, and once visited, will certainly have you going back for more.
We were lucky enough to be invited to the grand opening night way back in December along with Hove’s movers and shakers, where we were given a tour. Entering through the main entrance to the bar area, I was immediately impressed by the thought and effort that had gone into the design and layout of the place. Consisting of three areas, the bar (Bar 72), the restaurant (the Grill room), and a separate basement lounge bar for late night dancing and shenanigans and private hire. When entering Bar 72 you are immediately greeted by a grandiose bar area displaying a huge selection of wines, beers, and spirits. The mixologists behind the bar expertly crafting cocktails and chatting to the clientele. The extensive drinks menu lists an impressive range of wines, beers, Gin’s, Rum’s, Tequila, and spirits, each one simply described to aid you in your decision and tempt you in to trying something new. I was sorely tempted to try one of the “uniquely 72” premium whiskeys from the whiskey flight menu, but as it was relatively early in the evening and there was a bit of a party vibe going on, I opted to try a Brockmans Gin (intensely smooth, soft sweeter flavours) and tonic. Which perfectly described and went down a treat.
The bar leads on to a sizeable area where you can sit and chat, with enough space to have a dance, which a fair few were by this point. The DJ was excellent, playing to the crowd with delectable funky house grooves. The area surrounded by fabulous art which had obviously been especially selected to go with the tone of the décor. Faces of modern day pop icons such as Madonna, Rhianna, and Pink, Painted as busts on plinths onto large canvasses in Neutral tones of grey and white and displayed in a contemporary fashion (unframed), along with other work from the same artist featuring animal skulls, crows, and portraits, all using the same colour palette. The seductive lighting and plush leather seating added to the atmosphere, and the stylish, well dressed crowd with people of all ages having a good time was contagious. Bar 72 also has a huge outdoor west-facing wooden terrace with a separated area for smokers. Atmospherically lit of an evening with comfortable tables and chairs, I can imagine it being well used in the spring and summer months. A trip downstairs leads to the immaculate bathrooms and basement club, which was opulently decorated with an exclusive, yet welcoming feel to the area.
The champagne was flowing, the music was pumping, and the chefs had the chance to give us a taster of their culinary skills with samples from the exceptionally well thought-out and innovative sushi, bites, and platters menu that the bar area boasts, The sushi was some of the best I have tasted (and I have lived in Japan). Particular highlights where the Tuna and Avocado Uramaki with Mango and Chilli Salsa which proved extremely popular, and the exceptional Chicken Karaage with Yozo Mayo, dried chilli and fried garlic, which I couldn’t recommend more. The guys went all out to impress, and they did just that leaving us gagging for more…
… So we came back. A couple of weeks later when the venue had fully opened. This time to check out the Grill Room, which we only glanced around on our initial visit as we were having too much fun in the bar. Warmly greeted by the charming Assistant Manager Raphael (who I vaguely remembered meeting on the opening night though I might have over indulged on the Champagne by that point), who took our coats and showed us to our seats. As we took in our surroundings we were struck by how cosy and inviting the place was. Glass and steel lighting hanging from the ceiling paired with classic floor lamps gave out a warm glow, as well as spotlights proudly displaying the contemporary and interesting artwork or huge pristine mirrors above each table. With Dark wooden floors with soft grey panelled wood walls and gigantic skylights gave the room a homely feel and the transitional mixture of modern and traditional décor with plush red velvet cushioned seating meant we felt instantly comfortable and at home. No expense has been spared with the tableware, with beautiful tall wine-glasses and immaculate silverware adorning each solid oak table. We couldn’t help but notice how busy the place was for mid-January. It was positively buzzing. Word had obviously gotten around.
Once we had gotten comfortable Raphael brought us the wine list, and was happy to make recommendations. This was not necessary however, as just like the drinks list in Bar 72, the extensive menu simply describes each wine with no more than three words. Making it easy to make a choice. My partner adores Sauvignon Blanc so we plumped for a Chilean “La Garuma”, Vina Leyda which was described simply as “intense, mineral, and herbal”. It was exactly as described and did not disappoint.
The evening menu consists of a lovely selection of delicious sounding starters. Meat, indulgent seafood and Sashimi platters. The mains consist of fish and vegetarian options, and as you would expect from a restaurant called “the grill room” your attention is drawn to the steak options, with a full range of cuts, including Chateaubriand, and Wagyu, supplied by the internationally renowned Aubrey Allen, which serves the very best restaurants in the country as well as being the queens choice of butcher. Cooked in a Josper charcoal Grill which is known to be the best grill in the world for cooking steaks, with the high temperature and the charcoal creating a fantastic taste and structure to the meat. The menu also displays a broad choice of sides, sauces, and add-ons (for the steaks such as lobster and prawns).
We called on Raphael to help, as we were stuck at even ordering the starter, and he suggested the Pickled Dorset Crab for my dining companion who had already proclaimed to be a seafood lover. He also suggest we try some Tuna Sashimi which he had given to some friends of his the previous night and had gone down a storm. I however was in the mood for Steak Tartare, so we ordered all three to share between us.
Raphael was right about the Sashimi, it tasted like it had been caught that day, and was served with crisp garlic shavings and a creamy wasabi mouse which brought out the freshness and full flavour of the fish. An original take on a dish I often take for granted in the Japanese restaurants.
The Steak Tartare was incredible. Served on a long thin clay plate, with beef fat Crostini, shaved horseradish and droplets of egg-yolk jam scattered amongst the tender meat. The saltiness of the Crostini and the twang of the horseradish really enhanced the flavour of steak. A real treat. Surprisingly though my personal favourite of the three was the crab which my companion had selected. The crab delicately wrapped in pickled cucumber served on a bed of rice, scattered with juicy sun-dried tomatoes, crunchy squid ink bread and avocado. Each mouthful was a delight, with juicy zingy flavour bursting out with each bite, and the squid ink bread giving a satisfying crunch. A refreshing dish with a lovely twang to invigorate the taste buds ready for the main.
As we sat and reflected on the first course I glanced around the room to take in the surroundings. Around us we could see couples enjoying romantic dates, birthday celebrations, family gatherings, and friends laughing and chatting. The background beats added to the chilled atmosphere, and I remember thinking that this place is something special. Not only is it unlike any other place I have been to in Brighton and Hove, it is cool!
Although sorely tempted by the steaks, for main I decided to go for the lamb cutlets, as I had only recently enjoyed a visit to a local steakhouse and wanted to try something different. My partner predictably plumped for the Seabass, and we shared a side of confit garlic butter creamed potato. The tender medallions of lamb were delightful, the delicate sweetness of the toasted sesame highlighted the richness of the meat, and the subtle bite provided by the Wasabi yoghurt further set the dish off. Served on a bed of tender stem broccoli and mashed Aubergine. The dish was both filling and satisfying.
The seabass was served whole. The gentle garlicy white wine sauce meant that the fantastic natural flavour of this fish was able to do the talking. The flesh light and flaky as you would expect and topped with fresh clams, mussels, tiger prawns lemon and cherry tomatoes. A seafood lover’s dream. As well as being delicious, a nice touch with the side of creamed potatoes was that it was served in a cute cast-iron pot to keep it warm.
The desert menu consists of six choices, and at first glance looks quite simplistic. However when you read the descriptions you can tell allot of thought has gone into them, we usually share a desert after a feast such as what we had just experienced, though this time we couldn’t help but to pig out and choose one each. We opted for 3 chocolate cakes, which included chocolate nemesis, chocolate truffle, chocolate and hazelnut clotted cream ice cream and honeycomb. To contrast this we also ordered the Mango and lemongrass mousse, which encompassed coconut ice cream, mango puree, BBQ mango, toasted marshmallow and shaved coconut. Both deserts appeared similar in presentation, with the various elements scattered on the plate, and both were exciting and fun to eat! With each mouthful and adventure, taking elements from each ingredient and piling them on the spoon before devouring them. Being a lover of all things chocolate my companion couldn’t stop smiling as she wolfed it down. Me, I was in my element dipping the toasted marshmallows in the mousse and ice cream. Heaven!
We finished the night by heading back to Bar 72 next door to sample a cheeky cocktail or two, after that my mind is a bit of a blur but I know we ended up dancing till the early hours.
Third Avenue has everything you could possible wish for in night out. You can tell a lot of love, passion and consideration has gone into this new venture, and I wish the owners the best of luck. I truly believe they have nailed it, because what they have achieved is seriously impressive. With two fantastic visits under our belt, we are thoroughly looking forward to heading back for more.