I’ve been waiting for a good excuse to go to The Set, which is housed on the ground floor of the Artist Residence hotel in Regency Square, Brighton. If my last birthday in Brighton (cries) isn’t good enough excuse then I don’t know what is.
Lady K and I headed down on a quiet Tuesday evening to the ‘achingly cool’ setting, as the Good Food Guide 2017 describes it. It offers unpretentious fine dining with down to earth staff.
The Set opened around 18 months ago to much acclaim. They produce Great British seasonal tasting menus of four courses plus a few ‘surprise’ plates. Run by Dan Kenny & Semone Bonner, former head chefs of the Gingerman and Ginger Pig respectively, they bring with them a wealth of experience which shows.
The Set is on the ground floor of the hotel and is split into two halves – a restaurant and a cafe. The cafe does small plates and snacks which you can mix and match whilst the 20 seater restaurant does a carefully curated four course meal based around seasonal local produce. Having been to Isaac At recently, it’s easy to make comparisons as the two have a similar premise. It would be interesting to know their food mileage, as they do at Isaac At.
You can watch the chefs at work through the large open kitchen – you can even choose to sit on the pass, to really be in amongst the action. The rest of the restaurant is quite dimly lit so the bright kitchen is welcoming and keeps drawing the eye back to the chefs at work. One thing that really strikes you is that the chefs not only don’t shout or curse at each other, but they look really happy. It’s so refreshing to see people who love what they do – even the waitresses who served us had the same mindset and approach to serving us: with genuine passion.
I went for Set Three but swapped out the ‘Chocolate, Pumpkin, Malt’ for ‘Cereal Milk, Spelt Granola, Milk Ice Cream’. They are very accommodating to this and don’t make an issue out of it.
We were immediately brought our pre-starter snacks of ‘Caesar Salad’ and ‘Chicken Nuggets’. Neither of these were dishes as you know them. The caesar salad was an inspired anchovy panacotta topped with, I think, seaweed and crispy chicken skin. They were like little bites of the sea.
The chicken nuggets were the best chicken nuggets I’ve ever had (and I’ve eaten a lot of chicken nuggets in my time). Moist pulled chicken meat with a hint of hoisin in breadcrumbs, they were served with a homemade ketchup. I could have happily just eaten them all night.
The next ‘surprise’ plate was some homemade salty focaccia served with smoked onion butter. Next level bread and butter.
Carrot puree, carrot tartar, crispy carrot, egg yolk puree, brown butter croutons and parmesan. Who knew carrot could possibly be so exciting? This dish was delicious – the perfect balance of flavours and textures. The highlight was definitely the egg yolk puree which was so intense in flavour. I was expecting a poached egg yolk and wonder if perhaps having a runny egg yolk over the dish would improve it even more.
Pan fried fillet of pollock on a bed of burnt apple puree, interlaced with sweetcorn and topped with a deep fried, breadcrumbed, trotter. Again, the balance of smooth, meaty, crispy and crunchy worked perfectly as did the flavours. The fish was cooked perfectly and the trotter was out of this world. And yes, it really does deserve underlining.
Oxtail, slowly cooked then pulled, toasted brioche cube, pickled and crispy shallots with a toast puree (amazing), oxtail jus (delicious) and oxtail mayonnaise (my favourite). The oxtail was absolutely amazing and coming from someone who’s not really into beef, this is high praise. It was so tender and the flavour was really intense. The pickled and crispy shallots were a welcome addition to the plate and the sauce was also really tasty. For me, I would have preferred a potato element instead of the brioche which I felt didn’t really add anything other than a bit of crisp, which was already available from the shallots. The gem lettuce wasn’t flaccid or slimy and was cooked well and had a good depth of flavour.
After our mains, we were given a delightful palate cleanser of creme fraiche ice cream with melon granita. It was just what was needed and the two elements complemented and contrasted each other perfectly.
Homemade sugar puffs and granola on pannacotta with milk ice cream and dehydrated milk crisps. This was crunchy, creamy and melt in the mouth. Definitely the poshest ‘cereal’ I’ve ever eaten. I don’t think Cheerios will quite ever taste the same now. Personally, I felt it would benefit from a bit of fruit as a sharp element to cut through the creaminess – maybe some fresh strawberries or raspberries.
We were wrapping up our conversation for the evening, getting ready to leave, when the kind waitress brought over a complementary birthday cake – complete with candle – as she had seen me opening my present from Lady K. It was a Mars bar brownie with, I think, malt ice cream. I don’t actually like chocolate brownie, so I had the caramel part which was amazing and the malt ice cream worked really well with it. Lady K thoroughly enjoyed eating my birthday cake!
After settling the bill, we were given some homemade sweets for the road. Our brown paper sweet-shop style bags included homemade raspberry fruit pastilles, fudge and salt and lime chocolate. I really liked the raspberry fruit pastille (the sharp fruit I craved in my dessert), the fudge is a sweet tooth’s dream and I found the chocolate was a little too salty. Lovely gesture and idea, though.
Lady K went for Menu One and loved it all and said the highlight for her was the mackerel. I tried a little of everything and it was all really good. The pork was amazing.
Set Three is £36 and we were there for around two hours, the dishes were all good sized and impeccably cooked. I think it’s great value for money. For the quality and quantity of food, I would happily spend that again and again. In terms of flavour and size, it goes a little further than Isaac At, it’s a little cheaper too which always helps; the combined experience of the two owners evidently takes the dishes to the next level.
A special mention also needs to be made for our two amazing waitresses who were super friendly, attentive and clearly passionate about what they do.
Now I just need to try and find the time and money to go back and try the other two menus before I leave Brighton! I’m away to Google ‘ways to make quick money’ and ‘How to make your own Bernard’s watch’. Oh and their brunch menu looks banging.
Have you been to The Set? What else do you recommend?
the wee food blogger 💛
The Set, Artist Residence, 33 Regency Square, Brighton