Set in their ways these guys are are not. I don’t think any other local restaurant has been so fearless in both risk taking and adapting to the ebb and flow of dining demands. Chef and Owner Dan Kenny seemingly keeps his eye close to operations to see how things evolve, and he takes criticism like a champ and acts upon it. The Set, a stone's throw from the beach in Regency Square, hasn’t been smooth sailing, its quirky location took some getting used to and then the various reshuffles of dining formats, ownership, and restaurant layouts will have left a trail of confusion an extent. Now discarding their set menus, they are relaunching with an á la carte (are we all thinking it’s time to admit the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach to restaurant dining - let diners choose what they want on the menu…wild).
One fundamental thing I have found throughout their 4 years though, is that I’ve generally only heard positive feedback of the food and thankfully, the quirks and flair that have set their style are still evident on the new menu, where you'll find a love of Asian ingredients and nods to fast and street food rubbing shoulders with some of our best local produce.
To simplify matters further, the new menu is available from lunch through to dinner, and now you can dine here for roughly £30 for three courses. Although I'm partial to the creativity and theatre of a set or tasting menu, it can prove prohibitive to many, in terms of costs and tastes, so that it can turn out to be a restaurant’s downfall. And the tide in general seems to be turning on the trend too. The Set was certainly in the “special dining” bracket, solved in part by various more casual dining options in the front bar area, but I think it’s best to be brave, be bold, be on brand with one vision, and this menu now adapts for both blow out anniversary dinners and mid-week mate catch ups.
Choosing more vegetarian options these days, as well...chefs are doing more interesting things with them, the parsnips with burnt apple was a strong start; earthy, sweet, caramelly and perfect with the vadouvan spiced roasted chickpeas. Rosehip spheres glossed up the dish to something special.
A popular choice seemed to be the crab bao, brown crab bun, XO mayo, radish slaw. Such a crowd pleaser this; on-trend, squidgy, soft, crunchy and something to get stuck into with a classic The Set treatment to it.
Sitting at the pass I managed to grab one of the main courses, lamb from the mighty Saddlescombe Farm three ways and beautifully done it was; the best a rich ragu done like mamma likes with the holy trinity soffrito. This is a classic dish but slightly twisty and deliriously delicious. The bacon potato gratin, pass me a fork, I could have eaten a whole tray of.
But alongside the mains, there are some sharing options too. A pheasant crown, or BBQ hispi cabbage, but I opted for the whole salt baked bream. Simple, but sexed up with the details such as the seaweed in the kale, toasted hazelnuts in the ratte potatoes and a punchy BBQ lemon marmalade that someone needs to put in a call to Dragon's Den about for the marketing of. Add in the aerated Béarnaise Sauce, I defy anyone not to be happy with this dish.
The posh ode to the Maccy D apple pie may have been flying out of the kitchen and seems set to be a bit of a future signature dish, but to finish, my curiosity for the miso tiramisu got the better of me. As a typical Italian purist, I despise classic Italian dishes messed around with, but eyebrow cocked, I hold my hands up that this dessert was surprisingly good; caramel, coffee with a definite saline hit of miso to intensify the flavours throughout. Not technically a tiramisu as we know it, but a smart, sophisticated and revved up homage to the original.
As well as the á la carte, they will be introducing The Set’s Chefs’ Table, available to just two couples per evening at the pass. I think this is the only Chefs’ table experience in Brighton where the chefs will craft a bespoke multi-course menu and wine flight, designed to cater for each customer’s specific personal preferences and dietary requirements.
This is a great spot for dinner (pre and/or post drinks in the adjoining The Fix bar, of course) and the nature of the starters and snacks make it a great small plate destination for lunch. Oddly, by simplifying things, they've made themselves more versatile and this time I think they've cracked it.
33 Regency Square
I dined as a guest of The Set. Words and opinion, as always, my own.