REVIEW: The Set Bar, Brighton

Now three years old, The Set has proved a steady contender in Brighton's restaurant scene, and has been good at adjusting and responding to the ebb and flow of local dining demands. The space, housed inside the achingly trendy Artist's Residence Hotel, now occupies the entire ground floor level and has been divided into The Set Restaurant (the original restaurant that is still serving a choice of three set menus), The Fix bar (formerly The Cocktail Shack), and The Set Bar. The latter is where I'm dining; a casual space offering breakfasts and brunches such as Arnold Bennet, pig cheek on toast, crab and eggs until noon then a tapas style menu until evening.

I've always loved the feel of the place, it's one of the cooler spots in Brighton for sure, slightly edgy, casual but stylish. I have already made good use of the new bar area and although a bit of a squeeze in the layout, is very much worth a visit. Cocktails seem to be sippers, very strong, very dangerous but have a unique twist to them. If you are dining then make time for an aperitif here first. 

Divided into hot and cold dishes, there is a decent selection to choose from on the evening tapas menu, or small plates, whatever...Dishes are tiny, but prices hover around the £4-5 mark so you can afford to make a good dent in the menu. The food is more stripped and simpler than the restaurant menus but the influence, obviously, is present.

I enjoyed all of the savoury dishes. The pillowy focaccia was delicious; served with a chunky bacon jam that had sweetness and stickiness in abundance. 

There is a good range of Moons Green Farm Charcuterie, sadly the Boozy Rabbit was sold out but the Wild Fennel Saucisson reminded me of the proper, well cured salami my family used to make. Exactly as I like it; dryer, chewy in a good way and fragrant with fennel. 

The potato dish may have seemed boring but was anything but. Roast potatoes, the innards blitzed to a puree with buttermilk and the skins deep-fried, served with a vibrant herb oil to lift the dish. 

Pig cheeks are a favourite and this gelatious, marmitey hunk was cooked beautifully, collapsing at the mere sight of the fork. Served simply on hummus, I'd highly recommend it. 

I had to Google Alexander buds (I'll save you the effort - it's a flowering plant which grows on cliff tops and in seaside hedgerows, first introduced to the UK by the Romans) cooked and dressed with a decent squeeze of lemon and hollandaise sauce, they were lovely. Also good on the vegetable front were charred leeks (above).

Trout tartare was served in a very fine, crisp pastry with teeny cubes of cucumber and herbs for freshness and to cut through the oiliness of the fish. 

Of course, I had to order the squid burger in its dramatic black bun. The squid was butter tender and the wild garlic aioli a great sauce option for it. 

We probably chose badly on the desserts; the malted marshmallows and rhubarb cheesecake probably better and although the madeleines had a nice gently tang of orange running through them, I'd have preferred them in the afternoon with a cuppa than for dessert. Chocolate I'm never going to want to end a meal with but if I'm ever sharing food, the other person is always going to order it. The chocolate mouse balls coated in a crisp chocolate layer and served with caramel would satisfy a chocaholic I imagine, but for me the ruthless sweetness of it all is too much. 

The wine list has had a good deal of thought put into it, and staff seem very knowledgeable about them, choosing us wines by the glass that were all ideal with the food. Service in general is on the good side of cool too. 

The Set Bar in the evening is handy if you are in The Fix and get hungry and just want a few dishes to nibble on. I would say for a full meal you'll need at least 10 dishes between two, maybe more. For lunch it's a good choice and less would suffice. 

For a stylish meal and one of the better spots in Brighton, The Set Bar is a decent option that's lighter on the wallet than it's bigger brother next door. I think it's a good use of the space and I like how adaptable the whole venue is depending on what sort of evening you are in the mood for.

The Set Restaurant / The Fix /The Set Bar
Artist Residence Hotel
33 Regency Square
Brighton BN1 2GG

I dined as a guest of The Set Bar. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.