Having dined a few days earlier at celebrated chef, Tom Aikens' new Terrace restaurant, it was an interesting contrast to be cooked for by some up-and-coming culinary stars. The Residence pop-up restaurant temporarily takes over City College's Gallery restaurant (where the college's students learn their craft by cooking for paying customers) as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival. The unusual twist with this pop-up, as well as using student chefs and waiting staff, is that at every lunch and dinner service, a different artist in residence will create a piece of artwork while you dine. As a customer you may even make it into one of the pieces, one table of diners a few days ago were unknowingly depicted naked from the waist down! As they are produced, artworks will be displayed in the restaurant and will be auctioned off at the end with proceeds going to Age Concern.
I had previously attended a tasting session of the proposed menu a fortnight before and to be honest some of the dishes required a bit of work. On returning for dinner, I wasn't really prepared for 1. the transformation of the space and 2. the finished dishes and their quality. I'd go so far as to say I was amazed actually.
At £12.50 for lunch and £16.50 for a 3 course dinner of this caliber, it is a total, utter steal. The menu is nothing innovative, remaining quite classic with a French influence. I chose to book dinner as the artist in residence for the session was the very talented illustrator, Will Scobie.
Appetites were whetted with Pear Bellini's (£4) which were glugged with no complaints. My potted Hot-Smoked Salmon served with Pickled Cucumber was divine. My only issue was the lack of bread or anything to spread the salmon on but no matter, this was the nicest salmon dish I have had in ages. The pickled cucumber was a classic and ideal accompaniment to the soft, creamy salmon.
Mr Graphic Foodie chose the Ham Hock Terrine, Rabbit Rillettes, Piccalilli & Cornichons, again this was executed beautifully, chunky succulent meats with fantastic flavours throughout.
The one dish that stood out for me at the tasting was the pan fried Smoked Pork Loin, Sage Butter, Sauté potatoes & Leeks. The smoked pork (local I believe) packed a serious flavour punch. I do regret having come home from the tasting raving about this dish as Mr. GF beat me to ordering it. As I'm one of those people that never orders the same thing as my dining companion (what is with that?), I begrudgingly chose the Confit Duck, Dauphinoise Potatoes, Red Cabbage & Red Wine Jus. I was irritated further as the smoked pork dish arrived beautifully cooked and the minor niggles with the dish from the tasting (too much butter and slightly overdone) were ironed out completely.
My little sulk was trivial as Confit Duck is actually one of my favourie dishes to order and I have sampled as many shockers as delicious versions in my time. This one, I can happily say, was one of the best yet. The dish as a whole was perfect. Salty duck, sweet, crunchy cabbage and creamy potatoes. Lovely.
Both main dishes were well worth the cost of the entire meal alone, and you would easily pay £16.50 for this in one of the high end restaurants in the city and be flipping happy with it too.
It's worth noting that the wine menu had been chosen by Henry from The Butlers Wine Cellar. We opted for the Magpie Estate ‘The Call Bag’ Barossa Valley Mourvedre Grenache. The oaky, smokey red was perfect for the strength of flavours in the main courses. Although not for the faint-hearted, I really love this ballsy wine.
Desserts were a Rum Baba with Chantilly Cream for me and a French Chocolate Cake & Vanilla Crème Fresh for Mr GF. Whilst I enjoyed the baba, I really wanted more rum. An entire pirates share of rum to be more precise. The texture of the sponge was a lot heavier and dryer than I was expecting from a baba, begging to be saturated with syrup and er, rum.
The texture of the chocolate cake was lovely, giving a dense, rich, decadent end to the meal. Desserts were washed down with a nice glass of Kracher Cuvee Auslese 2008.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and made for a very memorable meal. I have even put in a bid for a lovely piece of artwork so I shall be returning with crossed fingers for the auction night of the 22nd! And at the advertised prices, it's hardly worth turning the oven on so I'm sure to be back for another lunch or dinner too.
I appreciate it may seem a bit silly reviewing a temporary pop-up, but there is still time to pay a visit between now and the 23rd May. Go there if you can, it really is worth it. As for the student chefs and staff, there are a few established restaurants out there that could take a few pointers from these guys.
Oh and this was the illustration produced during our dinner:
1st -23rd May 2010
Residence Pop-up Restaurant
07825 508 083