REVIEW: Red Roaster, Kemptown, Brighton

by - May 24, 2017

crab brioche at Red Roaster Cafe Brighton

Commenting on the visual environment and design of a dining destination is not exactly uncommon on this blog, hard not to with my day profession. But I could write chapter and verse about the interior and branding at Red Roaster; the endless marble surfaces, the geometric tiling, hand painted wall art, gold metal features, coffee's a design feast, and an Instagram account's best friend. (And we haven't even seen the outside space - with a proposed atrium/conservatory and kitchen garden.)

My dining experience is generally affected by all of these visual factors, which may seem superficial. But dining out is about the whole package otherwise I'd stay at home, cook something really nice and stare adoringly at the much larger shoe collection I'd be able to afford with all the money saved, believe me.

Interior design at Red Roaster Cafe Brighton

But anyway, it's not just about the surroundings. Having been in a few times and made a decent dent in the brunch menu, I think I've experienced what Red Roaster is about. 

My first visit saw me a touch worse for wear after an evening on the tiles so the waiter, judging the bags underneath my eyes, kindly suggested the bacon dish to resurrect me.

Sat on top of a herb waffle was a pile of bacon jam; intense, sweet, savoury and well, just plain delicious. As if that wasn't enough, two rashers of streaky maple glazed bacon were there for company along with a fried egg. Batons of apple added a fresh, crisp element and it was really enjoyable. I did notice the black pudding was missing too late even though I was specifically asked if I wanted it (yes, girls eat black pudding too).

slow cooked pumpkin and tonka bean crumble at Red Roaster Brighton 
Dining companions have ordered the delicate crab on shellfish brioche, beautifully garnished with pansies and a slow cooked pumpkin with tonka bean crumble and avocado mousse, which is a decent feed and something really different for a vegetarian option.

Salmon and calimari at Red Roaster Brighton

Salmon is a particular favourite for breakfast, it always feels a bit more elegant than your sausages and bacon. But here it has been elevated as you'd expect. Again on a waffle, only slightly over seasoned, is topped by ribbons of tea cured salmon. I was a little dubious about calamari for breakfast, but as a complete dish worked very well, finely cut and lightly coated and adding another texture. Surprisingly the best element was a citrus curd, which I'd hazard a guess at the en vogue yuzu, drizzled in the waffle cavities under the fish which lifted the whole dish.  Delicious. They've made it extremely hard not to choose this on my next visit. 

On the brunch menu you'll find a number of classics reworked; eggs on toast, full cooked breakfast, pancakes, all given a fine dining makeover. Only a bacon butty is the most instantly recognisable thing on the list - but I bet even this has a little tweak. The rest is just a refreshing change from the usual. I rarely venture out for breakfast, it doesn't particularly interest or excite me but Red Roaster have spun it on its head, offering breakfasts as you could never have imagined them. Ingredients such as shimeji mushrooms, aubergine caviar and pollen all make an appearance and there's a really nice breakfast board with a collection of items if you're indecisive too. 

I've yet to try the lunch menu which is in a similar theme. Their take on the chicken kiev seems to be the one to try but again, the whole list reads well with roast scallop and truffle custard, poached stonebass and enoki noodles and steamed duck bao buns. There's a punk tiramisu, which will be mine one day soon, trust me. Prices for the whole menu hover around the £10 mark, which for the quality and detail, isn't bad at all.

coffee at Red Roaster Brighton

So far there has been nothing to complain about food-wise and I hear consistently good things. Coffee, as you would expect from Red Roaster is always good, made on their cult Kees Van Der Westen machine (RR was one of the UK's first specialist coffee shops - they still roast their beans in Kemptown and remain one of the few organic certified roastery in the country). Service however has been a little hit and miss but in my book just as vital as the food and ambiance. Thankfully on my latest visits my experience was friendlier and far more efficient than before so hopefully the niggles are getting ironed out and this area will have the same polish as the rest of the experience.

I have also heard a few people comment that the portions are on the small side but they must have typical full English fry ups in mind for comparison. If that's what you want, then there are plenty of caffs in town that can cater to that. With a Michelin starred chef at the helm, you can't seriously expect to be fed trucker banquets - I have a decent appetite and they are perfectly fine for me. Also, the fact that these brunch dishes are more considered is particularly appealing.

By evening the mood changes and the place transforms to Pike and Pine, Matt Gillan's restaurant with a choice of taster menus and somewhere very much on my to-eat list.

Yes the old much-loved Red Roaster is unrecognisable in its new form and format, but day or night it offers Brighton diners something different and helps continue to elevate the quality and diversity of city's dining scene.

coffee packaging at Red Roaster Brighton

Red Roaster
St. James's St

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