REVIEW: Blackbird Tea Rooms, Brighton

A visit to Blackbird Tea Rooms really is a must if you adore that quirky vintage vibe served along with your tea. It's really difficult to pull off without being too gimmicky or themed but they do it with such style and authenticity, as well as a contemporary twist in the food they offer. So far from stuffy or quaint.

I particularly like that the areas of their interior give you a different experience. The gorgeous, formal tea room upstairs would be nice for a special occasions but there is a more casual, yet splendidly vintage cafe at the front. And a real rarity in Brighton town centre is the hidden gem of the garden for a peaceful pit stop. (And check out the outside loo!)

Huge cakes are housed in vintage glass cases and they are well known for their sweet treats but their latest chef has brought in a new brunch and lunch menu...and why my focus for this visit wasn't the afternoon tea (which is handily on display - look how lovely it is!)

So, back to the job in hand, I started with the homemade granola. It was really nicely presented, topped with plenty of varied fruit and had two layers of yogurt, one that was blended with fresh fruit. The granola itself was an interesting mix with a lot of ingredients too. Portion-wise, this would set you up for the day, possibly even a mountain trek.

I love panzanella for a light, summery lunch. Normally the bread is stale and soaked in the juices of fresh tomatoes but this version came in the guise of croutons. There was a generous full buffalo mozzarella here, which when you think about the £5.40 price tag is pretty amazing. A nice touch was that the red onions had been pickled to take the edge off them and the colourful mix of heritage tomatoes were not fridge cold. Hooray!

The smashed avocado with feta on granary toast is somewhat of a "signature" dish here. For me, feta and avocado is an odd yet not unpleasant marriage, my main issue is the similar mushy texture. The toast was decent bread but suffered from the heavy loading and dressing and became a little soggy. Poached egg was a good addition and you can have bacon added too. This one wasn't for me but apparently customers love it and does make for a hearty breakfast/brunch alternative. Strangely this dish with bacon tots up to £9.80 which, when you consider the price point of the rest of the menu, seems a bit on the high side too. Not sure what that lemon was doing either!

But this I did like! A Moroccan twist on sausage and beans. Underneath the vivid green herb breadcrumbs were baked chickpeas in tomato sauce and spices. The chef's links to NZ and love of fusion food were apparent with the addition of a goat cheese bon bon, chorizo sausage and poached egg. Can't say I've had anything like it before but I really did enjoy it.

The service here is attentive and just adorable. The lovely ladies are dressed in vintage clothes but as per the interior, doesn't come across as themed or gimmicky. They have struck a very difficult balance to achieve and honestly felt transported back in time for an hour or so.

Cakes themselves were sublime and I couldn't leave without a little taste. The chunky carrot cake was moist and not over frosted which is a pet hate. The chocolate option was decadent, rich and fudgy. My favourite was the orange and almond though, the lighter option of the bunch. I loved the unfussiness and quality of these cakes, think of the best upscale nanna cake you'll ever have in your life. That. 

The presentation and craft of the full afternoon tea is very good and at £14pp is much better value than some of the more generic teas served in the city. That is certainly the case for the hotels who charge far, far more for less.

So, the food now goes beyond just the (very good) cake and tea you automatically think of with Blackbird tea rooms and on the whole the prices make it a viable option for a quick workday lunch as well as a special occasion. It's a gem and one that's made my Brighton Black Book listing for being somewhere different in the city.
30 Ship Street

I dined as a guest of Blackbird tea rooms. Views, as always, are my own.