REVIEW: Pabellón, Brighton

by - January 09, 2019

NOTE: Pabellón has now closed but their sister restaurant remains open. 

Hero are the restaurants that thrive in difficult locations. And they do...look at Chilli Pickle from their original nook in the back and beyond of The Lanes, Coal Shed just off of Brighton's nightclub strip, the mighty Bincho Yakitori in the street that was notorious for mediocre grub. Even Pabellón's original restaurant, Senor Buddha (renamed Circo) in the arse end of London Road. But build it and they will come, forks in hand.

When Pabellón revealed their location, ok, in a prime spot near the Pavilion (see what they did there?), the location still jarred for me. A pass through, a nowhere...home of newsagents, banks and bus stops. Surely not a home to prop up the bar with a glass of fino? But hat off, the fit out is a beaut. Once inside this temple to Hague Blue you forget all about the outside world. And they've added to Brighton's growing portfolio of Instagram worthy loos, reclaiming the beautiful wood panelling from the previous owners.

This is Circo's sexier, glossier sister, retaining the modern Spanish tapas with an East Asian vibe that, somehow, they've made work so well.

And they’ve made it almost impossible to choose from the small plate menu, divided neatly into plant, fish and meat. The rain can howl outside all it likes with the holiday-vibe going on on the plates here; gambas a la plancha, sardinas al ajillo, patatas bravas, albondigas…Brexit? What Brexit?  

A must order is the Iberia Pork Presa, the pig version of Wagyu. Served pink (don’t freak) it’s evenly marbled so tender throughout with a rich, juicy flavour. All other pork is ruined now and this is sure to become the signature dish here. 

The tender Pulpo Pabellón tentacle arrives dramatically curled around the plate. The char on this alone makes it another must order dish, the braised fennel working with the sweetness of the beast so well.

The volcanic chicken was a good dish to eat texturally; fire, crunch, sweetness and softness. Chicken isn't often the most inspiring meat to order but this had been given a worthy make over.

I fondly recall the spicy mojo potatoes from visits to the Canary Islands and have a lot of love for these little spuds. But these lacked the blood pressure bursting dried, salt crusted, wrinkly skins I remembered. Also, the mojo sauces could have also had more, er, mojo - with the heat being turned up a few dials.

The scallops with Iberico ham and an Asian wasabi pea puree is classic for the mash up style here that is so bizarre on paper but works so well on the plate. Heat, salt, was all there along with some scratchings made with the Iberico fat that were a clever textural detail.

The soy-blackened cod was another highlight. Sticky, sweet and unami rich with lightly pickled vegetables, seaweed and sesame seeds; just a lovely dish to eat.

The style of food here is a big hit with me, it's different, slightly quirky, sexy and intimate. It offers something unique to Brighton's food scene and the small team hit the mark on the service front too. 

Drinks have also been well considered; you'll find a new love of a fino sherry and tonic, a brilliant list of Spanish gins and that's before you've hit the exclusively Spanish wine list.

I did return for the express menu for lunch a few weeks later which was also hugely enjoyable, but one little niggle, that I found with dinner too, was that potions were a little mean in places (scallops sliced in two, I'm looking at you), and this feels particularly unnecessary where cheaper ingredients are used like in croquettes. But I'd happily return for their unique flavours and also for brunch at the weekend - Morcilla De Burgos with the Catalan-style bubble and squeak? My future hangover is looking at you kid.

There's so much to love about Pabellón, it is certainly a great addition to Brighton dining; both as a daytime haven and date night gold.

13 Pavilion Buildings

I dined as a guest of Pabellón. Words and thoughts, as always, my own. 

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