Despite the sheer number of restaurants in Brighton, we lack those celebrating fish. Remarkable really for a town by the sea (and I'm not counting the numerous tourist-fodder fish and chip shops on the seafront). If you know where to look, you could get a fish fix from Riddle and Finns (review up soon), Due South or even Fishy Fishy but decent fish restaurants continue to remain a bit of a minority.
However there's always been The Regency Restaurant. A bit of a Brighton institution, certainly where fish is concerned. I've been a few times now as, funnily enough, when people have visited they've taken ME there.
The Regency is really traditional. Hardly anything on the menu looks like it's changed in all the years its been there since 1965. Either this is its advantage or downfall and I haven't quite figured it out which yet.
The variety of fish and shell fish is impressive on the menu and starters around our table, like a very generous serving of Moules Marinier, Mackerel Pate, Deep-fried Whitebait and Baked Oysters with Parmesan were all given the thumbs up.
My diddy little prawns in my retro Prawn Cocktail (served in a ceramic shell - hello!) were really sweet and tender. Prices are really good too with starters ranging from £3-7.
I really enjoyed my main of Grilled Skate with Capers. I am a big skate fan though, such a gorgeous meaty fish and the sharp butter and caper sauce really cut through the sweetness of the flesh. It was crisp on the outside yest still beautifully soft in the middle. The skate in question must have been a beast as the portion was huge and again, a snip at £10.50.
There's plenty more on the menu, battered, fried or grilled options and mixed platters if you can't make up your mind. Lobster, scallops, oysters and crab are also available as well as a specials board.
I did have a proper sulk on for dessert as The Regency is seemingly the only place in the world to still have orange or lemon sorbets served back IN the oranges and lemons. Yeah, I love that and I'm not ashamed to admit it! My lip quivered when the waitress placed a plain ol' glass dish of sorbet in front of me. Apparently they don't do it like that anymore and this fact is nothing short of a crying shame! (Above shot from a former visit.)
Other than the death of retro sorbets, the main problem with The Regency is that despite the fish being fresh, well prepared and cooked, the standard accompaniments are always disappointing. Meals are served with chips or potatoes and an undressed salad (well salad garnish really). Unless I'm having battered fish, I always prefer potatoes and I have a sneaky suspicion that these are either tinned or grossly overcooked. Worse still they are served with budget hotel wrapped butter portions. Sides are available to order separately and may be better but I personally would like to see the fish dishes considered as a whole more. Would they be able to serve the vast amounts of tables so efficiently then? Would there be as much variety on the menu or the prices be as good? My guess is no, and the people who dine here probably would like to keep it just the way it is too.
If you want a considered, adventurous and memorable fish meal, then go for Riddle and Finns. But if you want a casual, simple and budget friendly fish meal right on the seafront without resorting to the chippies then The Regency 'aint a half bad choice. Just don't go with the boiled potato option.
The Regency Restaurant
131 King's Road
Brighton BN1 2HH