REVIEW: Pike & Pine, Brighton

by - August 09, 2017

There's no denying that Red Roaster is one of my favourite daytime spots. Be it brunching with friends, dropping in for coffee or using it as a separate office to wow clients and a bit of freelancing; it does it all, and with serious style.

But with the lights dimmed, its evening incarnation—Pike & Pine—takes on a more intimate feel, perfect for luxury dining which oozes modern glamour. I am ridiculously seduced by a beautiful interior, visual sucker I am, and the marble surfaces and botanical features look even better by night.

There's the option of sitting up at the counter, show-side. Watching creatives at work never gets boring to me but if you want a more relaxing dinner or want to keep the beauty of the plating a mystery, without seeing the Tupperware, vac packs, pokes and prods of a working kitchen, then book a table. Interestingly, main man Matt Gillan is slightly off stage, partly behind a wall, which will be surprising to some.

You can choose from a 6, 8 or 10 course tasting menu (£55/£65/£75) which do differ rather than cutting out courses. There's also the offer of 4 courses at £40 on certain nights too.

Impressive as they were to look at, like an artists palette, I wasn't a fan of all of the snacks. The "tomato explosion"; a delicate sphere bursting with flavour and a cheeky hit of heat sparked the palate but the dehydrated pork scratchings, topped with a delicious bacon jam, needed to be crisp not chewy. I'm also not a fan of these clay coated potatoes, fun to look at and thumbs up for gut health, but quite flavour neutral.

The consommé however, was beautiful in its entirety. Concentrated summer flavours were poured over the freshness of raw asparagus and bean shoot stems, glossy broad beans and semi dehydrated tomatoes that added an intensity and punch.

A delicate slither of braised ox tongue followed, topped with raw celery and celery sorbet lending a satisfying fresh, sweet contrast to the meat. Charred onion and a quail's egg added some much needed richness to the leanness of the dish.

"Carbonara" manifested in a clever little parcel, wrapped neatly in Parma ham. Coiled inside were enoki mushrooms cooked in a miso stock, masquerading as some otherworldly pasta. Topping this was a glossy confit egg yolk for that glorious fattiness the carbonara is loved for. The only, only thing I would have liked to see is the parma ham cooked or treated somehow to mimic the rendered, slightly chewy lardons of the real deal. The Sylvanian Family sized pickled mushrooms that scattered the plate - I'd eat a whole jar of.    

A decent hunk of pollock came next with à la mode broccoli in slightly charred, raw and puree form. Hidden away inside were a surprise of tiny, opalescent lime spheres.

"Pork - Onion - Peas" dish smelt incredible, so tasty. This was more classic, simpler but didn't suffer for it. The pork, naughtily blushing, was partnered with a pea foam, freshly podded peas and an onion puree. The slight hint of anise or fennel added a lovely sweetness and fragrance to the dish.

I've never taken so many photos of a slice of cheese, but deserving the attention was a ripe Wigmore, taken to the beauty parlour and treated with honey, pollen and honey cake crumb before being adorned with compressed watermelon cubes and colourful flowers. All of those sweet notes with the farminess of the Wigmore was delightful. And so. Darn. Pretty. 

Pre-dessert was a white peach number, dotted with a fragrant peach gel and croissant crumb. And if I'm not mistaken, pieces of sweetened tomato in there which somehow really worked. They should do a daytime version of this for Red Roaster's brunch menu, it's perfect for summer.

Dessert-dessert was a dramatic ode to the mango, the hero being a silky gel topped mousse. The black olive element pinged out at me instantly on the menu. I love the weirdly brilliant use of black olives in desserts (and olive oil in chocolate based ones) so would have appreciated an even bigger hit of the flavour as the dish could have taken it. 

Wine flights are available for any of the menus and, in my opinion, if you're going to do it, do it. To keep my head, we opted to share a flight which may be an idea if you are keen to keep focused on the food. The pairings were a highlight and clearly a lot of thought has gone into this side so it would be smart to the guess work out and go with the expert selection. The dessert wines were particularly stunning - a honey rich Chateau du Levant Sauternes that I already have on order and a strong reminder to drink more Madeira.

Service has found a groove now; busy, energised, efficient and tinged with a slight coolness of the good kind. And they were confident at describing both the food and wines which is expected with this style of dining.

Of course we need to discuss price. Because it's up there for Brighton and a few years ago, a meal for two hovering round the £130 mark (£230 including wine flights), quite unimaginable for these parts. But the room was packed and lively and I saw no guns being pointed when the bills arrived. People are happy to pay for the experience and gourmet tourists will want to tick this off their list.

Food is a visual delight; it's exciting, challenging and intriguing. The style is very involved, very worked, which naturally doesn't always result in every dish being something that everyone will love. It's contentious and part art - forget the Turner Prize, the husband and I are going to be arguing about that Carbonara dish for another month. At least.

Some will relish in this and for some, it just won't be for them at all, but almost everyone will turn up with great expectations and preconceptions for this cost and profile chef. And that can be a particularly tough crowd.

Five years ago the naysayers were stating that fine dining has no place here. I disagree. Brighton dining is exciting, varied and that quality bar is going up, up, up.

Pike & Pine
St James' St

I dined as a guest of Pike & Pine. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.

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