REVIEW: FOUR Pop-Up with Aaron Dalton



This was my second visit to chef Aaron Dalton's FOUR pop-up series. I was impressed with my last visit but there was a marked evolution in this latest meal.

What I like about this pop-up is that it still feels like a pop-up. Hosted in some sort of former print workshop, prettily adorned in fairy lights and nicely decorated tables, it's intimate, cosy but still not your average dining space. It's strange but some pop-ups feel too restaurant-like or are hosted in a standard environment. Too polished, too ordinary. A pop-up should have a little bit of an edge, a little of the unusual about it. I'm quite happy traipsing over the odd storage box or walking through a make-shift kitchen in my heels - it gets back to the roots of the illicit nature of these suppers.

However, the food here is certainly restaurant grade (Brighton boy Dalton has worked with the likes of Chez Bruce, Fera and was Head Chef at the Smoking Goat before returning to town). Dalton also has a lightness of touch to his dishes that are elegant and refined, without compromising on taste and I also noticed that presentation had been pushed that extra inch. His celebration of ingredients over unnecessary technique is a real forté, yet somehow still manages to craft intriguing plates of food. 

A bit of a shame I can't really show you this to full effect, forgetting my decent camera in a taxi related incident (I remembered the BYO though, priorities eh!). So apologies for the phone camera snaps in advance.


I'm liking all this attention to pre-dinner "snacks" and here they set the tone of the meal perfectly, particularly the tender little ox cheek croquettes topped with pickled shallots and a wild garlic mayo.


Next was a beautiful dish of monkfish carpaccio that had the wow factor. Keeping it light were tiny cubes of elderflower jelly and edible flowers. But perfect, and giving it depth, was a fish bone broth, wild garlic oil and a silky almond purée. I'm sometimes let down by raw fish dishes but this one I'd eat again with no complaints. 



Dish of the night for me was this quirky number served in an egg shell. Underneath a layer of rich, decadent savoury sabayon was a fresh, sweet and fragrant tomato consommé. The contrast was very clever, and topped with smoked tomato powder. When creativity and taste meet, that's the sweet spot for me. Impressive stuff.  


Another strong dish was the pan fried mackerel served with a delicate herb espuma, pickled walnut puree, apple and walnuts. Everything belonged on that plate and the play on textures made it particularly enjoyable to eat. 


Although lamb isn't one of my favourite meats, given a light treatment made me rethink. Sweet lamb rump was served in a pool of pickled cucumber juice with shallot puree. A really interesting addition was the chocolate mint and dehydrated lamb heart, grated on the top. Both new to me but worked very well.

I didn't get a good shot of the tray of smoked meat, somewhat a signature of Dalton's. If I'm honest, this is what I really look forward to. It's unashamedly delicious and I like to see diner's lose their politeness when this is passed round, shelving the meat onto their plates without thought to others and quite rightly so! This is probably a good place to put in a request for a smoked meat supper as I think it would go down so well. Pretty please?    


The idea of the dessert appealed to me, a honey cake with sheep milk ice-cream and honeycomb, but for me there was something missing from this dish, lacking the smart details or twists of the other dishes. Seeing as the rest of the meal was a delight, I'm not sure if I'd been a bit spoilt though!

They seem to have a good team behind the operation now, having just celebrated a year anniversary. Service is restaurant-smart and informative, sometimes this is lacking in this format but really adds to the experience.

There are a number of really great regular supper clubs around Brighton, and they form an important part of the dining scene along with our booming restaurant scene. FOUR pop-up is certainly worth the visit and at £40 per person is brilliant value for the level of cooking and ingredients. Plus, it's often a BYO venue which makes a fine dining experience much lighter on the wallet.

The next pop-up is Saturday 2nd December and the menu looks great. Full details can be found over on www.fourrestaurant.co.uk. This would actually be a brilliant Christmas do alternative if you are a small business (if they still have space!).

You can also follow FOUR over on:
Facebook.com/foursharingkitchen
@chefaarondalton

I dined as a guest of FOUR. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.