REVIEW: Baker and Spice, Brighton

by - May 13, 2016

Brighton is sure the hot ticket for the London chains at the moment with Polpo, Wahaca and Franco Manca being the latest to the city. Baker and Spice is the first of the small chain's bakery cafes to be located outside of London. To be honest, until they turned up here, I'd never heard of them, but they are just a small chain of five. Starting from a small bakery and patisserie, they expanded to bunch and casual eating and Brighton will be the first of the restaurants to offer a wider menu and evening dining. Unfortunately due to the kitchen size, the cakes and pastries for this branch are not produced on-site as they are in their other branches, but delivered fresh from their Chelsea store every morning.

I've always loved this location. A foot-fall nightmare it may be, but it's a quirky, narrow little building with a charming, sun-trap courtyard to the front and three floors which keep an intimate feel. There's also a large outside space in the square to the front. Its all had a lick of paint and been tastefully refurbished throughout.

They offer a pretty extensive all day brunch menu, with some great options like French toast, plenty of egg choices and a stunning pink granola. For some reason, it may have been the sun and the sea on the walk in or the ghost of the abruptly departed Fishy Fishy still in the room, we ordered an entirely pescatarian meal from the lunch menu instead.

The Salt and Pepper Squid had a nicely crisp and light batter which was perfectly seasoned. The squid itself was a little tough and chewy but the salad was dressed and the lime mayo had the ideal sharpness to cut through the fry. I really appreciate it when the squid is scored properly too, which this was, as it makes the texture far more pleasant.

My cod fishcake was enjoyable with plenty of fresh dill. The poached egg on top was spot on and the huge salad on the side made this a really substantial feed. Unfortunately the hollandaise has congealed and cooked, having been poured on a hot fishcake and plate, or probably rested under the pass a little too long which was a shame.

My four year old son is now of an age where I let him chose what he wants on a menu and I could guarantee this fish mad boy would choose the pan fried cod (having eaten most of the squid too - I'm never taking him to an expensive shellfish restaurant!). This again was a decent portion with sauteed potatoes, cherry tomatoes and samphire. There's isn't a kids menu here, which isn't a problem for us, but they do offer smaller portions for the mains which is handy.

The food was well presented with simple, pleasant dishes and we enjoyed our meal. It was good to be able to bring my kid to a place that wasn't child focused but naturally still had plenty of options for young diners. And there are always pancakes or pastries for the little ones that are more difficult to please. This style in general does well to cater for mixed groups (it's graduation day gold for appeasing the whole family, including that really difficult aunt everyone seems to have). But Brighton seems keen on statement dishes and concept dining. Everything here seems to need a hook of some sort but I think there is always room for more relaxed options that have been nicely done.

I think what they will struggle with is confusing the diner though. There is far too much on offer and the mindset seems to still be catering for the London market or not with this location in mind. As well as brunch and lunch, another menu will soon be added for dinner. There are also takeaway displays with salads, another for their pastries and breads and another for sandwiches as well as walls of their own products for sale. There's quite a lot to take in and sometimes this works for a restaurant, capturing the all day market. But often it can bamboozle diners with too much choice. The takeaway service will really struggle here, it's just not the right space or location for it at all, despite offering healthy, fresh options to go.

Prices are just about ok. They are probably only a pound or two higher than their Brighton competitors but on some items they need to take a look. £9 for avocado on toast must be a typo.

Time will tell if Baker and Spice finds it's groove by the seaside and they seem keen to watch and learn from their diners. If they tweak their offering, this is a really attractive space with pleasant, straight-forward food.
40 East Street

I was a guest of Baker & Spice, words and thoughts, as always, are my own.

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