The ultimate date night.
I recently had the pleasure and the privilege of being invited* to the soft launch of the re-opening of Isaac At Gloucester Street, so the boyfriend and I went happily along for the classiest date night we’ve ever had.
Initally a two night a week pop-up, the intimate restaurant has gone from strength to strength and will now be opening for full dinner service throughout the week. Isaac Bartlett Copeland opened the restaurant in March 2015 aged just 22. The ‘new kid on the block’ has been making waves through the Brighton food scene ever since.
The premise is simple: young, talented chefs with a strong passion for good food and an ethos of carbon conscious footprints. They source ingredients as locally as possible, including hand picking and foraging themselves, and develop and curate the menu weekly from there.
The menu comes alongside lists of mileages for all ingredients and drinks. The furthest afield were the whisky from Islay and the sugar from Petersborough.
The restaurant is small, recently made even smaller by Isaac and his team in a bid to ensure that each guest experiences the ‘journey’ more intimately – a rare and brave move reducing the number of covers. Not that they would refer to any of us as a cover.
We were treated to the tasting menu which purports to be a 6 course meal but there were some extras and surprises along the way which takes the grand total to 9 courses. This is not going to be a short review!
The first ‘bite’ was small cubes of red mullet with kohlrabi, mayonnaise and pickled purslane on crispy rye toast. One seemingly simple mouthful which was bursting with flavour.
Two very different but complementary breads were served with smoked and salted butters. I preferred the shallot brioche which was crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, with the salted butter.
This was, surprisingly, one of my favourite dishes of the night. The yeast extract really brought out the flavour of the butternut, the puree was super smooth and the pickled ‘spaghetti’ added another texture and depth to the dish. The highlights, however, were the rosemary oil and toasted seeds – they took the dish from being humble and elevated it to the next level.
This was the dish I was most looking forward to and it didn’t disappoint. The monkfish was perfectly cooked with a little browning to add flavour to the subtly flavoured fish, the puree was again ultra smooth and the sauce vierge was bold against the two other delicately flavoured elements. The purée needed a little more seasoning.
The pork belly, we were informed, had been in a water bath for two days to give it its intense flavour and tender finish. It came on a bed of smoked broccoli puree and accompanied by some pickled raw brocolli. The pork literally melted in the mouth. Again, the purée needed a little more seasoning.
I had spotted this on Instagram prior to attending and it tasted as good as it looked: moist roasted chicken, slightly salty celeriac and lightly burnished gem lettuce, the dish was laced with intense chicken gravy and the lettuce possibly had a hint of blue cheese? For me, the dish would have been completed with some crispy skin.
We were advised that the blackberries were hand picked by the staff themselves and they, combined with cucumber, were the perfect palate cleanser. It was earthy at first, followed by sweet and fresh.
Fresh strawberries, on a sharp strawberry gel, with a surprisingly delicious ice cream; both of us were new to peppercorn ice cream and were both surprised at how nice it was. I was expecting a wet ‘foam’ but it was dehydrated milk – think really, really light meringue and you’ve got it.
Fennel shortbread with burnt apple topping – slightly sweet, slightly savoury, shortbread with sharp, bitter, burnt apple. The rhubarb drizzle cake was next level. Granny May makes the most amazing lemon drizzle cake and this was up there.
The team operate like a well oiled machine, ne’er a cross word or raised voice was heard from the kitchen. Each member of staff took at least one turn each to bring out and explain a dish; their passion is palpable.
Everything on the plate and in the restaurant is carefully orchestrated: from the apparently ‘abstract’ Pollock-esque splash on the butternut dish, to each carefully chosen serving plate, to the re-folding of napkins when you pop to the loo.
There are two screens in the main part of the restaurant, where you can watch the main pass and the pastry section, or, if you’re lucky you can sit on the newly constructed pass seating area. You do, however, find yourself drawn into watching the masters at work so don’t go here if you’re after deep conversation with your dining partner!
The service is excellent, personally I would have chosen shorter waiting times between courses and I think some of the purees could have done with a little more seasoning, but that’s nitpicking.
The tasting menu is £47.00 per head, we were there for just under three and a half hours, had 9 courses and, although we didn’t pay on this occasion, I would say for the quality and quantity it’s actually very reasonable. Naturally, the average person wouldn’t be able to go there every week, but it’s definitely the ultimate date night destination or one for a special occasion. They are now also offering a set menu for £35.00 per person which will make it a little more accessible price wise.
I suspect very good things are going to continue to come from this place; with such a high calibre of young chefs, sommeliers and maitre’ds, it’s not just inevitable, it’s a matter of time.
Isaac At, 2 Gloucester Street, Brighton, BN1 4EW
For reservations: http://www.isaac-at.com/reservations/
* I was invited for a complimentary evening courtesy of Isaac At but I can assure you that all words, thoughts and compliments are entirely my own (and my boyfriend’s)