A lot of people tell me I need to get out of Brighton to dine more to which I normally reply with a nonchalant shrug. Eating is so good in our little city now, why on Earth travel? But our beloved The Coal Shed restaurant has a new sister in London so I was interested to see how that would translate and if it would be one Brighton restaurant that would finally prove to be a success in the big smoke.
Positioned a stone's throw from London Bridge, it's a pretty walk by the river to the restaurant itself which sits in a very shiny new development that could be argued slick or soulless depending on which side of the style fence you sit. Certainly once more of the commercial units open, it will feel less isolated. Once behind the enormous glass doors, the interior is dark and sexy, with much of the feel of their other sibling, The Salt Rooms. This is exactly what modern steakhouses should look like and the intricate bespoke art commission in the private dining room is a particular jewel.
We started with a series of snacks. A great steak tartare served on a crisp artichoke skin and topped with a generous shaving of truffle will always get my vote as will juicy deep-fried, plump olives stuffed with Iberico ham.
I can't recall ever having beef tendon treated like the en vogue dehydrated then fried crackling popping up on chef snack plates everywhere. It works well with pork fat, all of the flavour with an interesting puffed up crispy texture, but I wasn't convinced it worked so well here.
The Orkney scallops were a delicate choice for starters, sat on celeriac discs and with a seaweed, tarragon and lemon sauce poured from a height at the table. Flavours were light and complementary to the sweetness of the scallops.
We were invited up as part of a blogger event so the main course was served as a selection of their sharing plates. The highlight was definitely the kilo of prime rib, blushing pink, succulent as it gets and two firm fingers up to Veganuary. Steak this good is a joy to chew, although you have to do very little of it, but you want to savour every second whilst thanking God he created you carnivore. So. Much. Flavour. And as with all decent steakhouses, cuts are sold by weight and there's plenty to choose from on the daily chalkboards.
Steak aside, there are some tempting alternatives on the menu. The great big hunk of fleshy monkfish was impressive, served with samphire and mussels in a kelp butter.
A jewelled, Moroccan inspired, smoked goat dish would also be worth your order; deep, rich and warmly spiced and served with zatar flat breads.
Sides are ordered separately; a decadent truffled mac and cheese, crisp and fluffy beef dripping chips and some glorious pickled onion rings are all perfect for the grilled courses. A wedge salad topped with chopped egg and crispy onions, cheesy creamed spinach and fine ribbons of dressed carrots all nicely treated. The only side that failed the mark was a mushroom rarebit, good in idea but congealed and dumpy.
Desserts all read well, and offered a great selection of chocolate, fruity and creamy; something for everyone. Perker than a Jean Paul Gaultier corset though, was the Baked Alaska. Dessert should be fun and this ticked all the boxes being a reinvented retro classic and set fire to at the table. We've seen it a million times, it's a bit of a gimmick, but setting dishes on fire at the table always, AWAYS, gets an "oooohhh!". One of the main reasons I chose this was the sea buckthorn element so I was shocked by the negative reaction from others that are not fans of it at all! But to me it's delicious; exotic, tartly citrus and worked beautifully here along with a strong punch from the Curaçao liqueur.
I thoroughly enjoyed my meal here and the style, quality and ethos is still very much en famille with its siblings back in Brighton. This isn't my patch so it's difficult to know how it will fare but I imagine competition is fierce and diners are demanding in this neck of the woods. Saying that I struggle to see who could argue with a restaurant that honours quality, ingredient and finesse and does it very well with bags of style and confidence. What I particularly like about The Coal Shed and The Salt Room is that they know when to have fun or be clever with a dish and when to back away from a key ingredient and let it shine for what it is - and allowing the Josper charcoal grills do the work.
For a very Brighton-London collaboration, don't miss the 64 Degrees x The Coal Shed London event on 26th January. Michael Bremner of 64 Degrees will be creating a "Brighton Rocks" menu with The Coal Shed team featuring that amazing monkfish dish, Jerk Roasted Butternut Squash, 71 Day Dry Aged Rump of Longhorn Beef and Rum and Vanilla Coal Roasted Pineapple. More details here of this event.
The Coal Shed
One Tower Bridge