etch: imprint. design. impress
It’s not often the whole city is buzzing with excitement and impatiently awaiting a new restaurant opening, but back at the start of the year etch, the first restaurant from Steven Edwards, had this effect. The former MasterChef: The Professionals champion, first refined and tested his concept through pop-ups, before taking the plunge and opening a fine-dining restaurant in March this year.
Located at the end of Church Road in Hove, just around the corner from The Ginger Pig, etch. offers weekly changing tasting menus based around the seasons and celebrating produce from in and around the Sussex countryside.
There’s room for 38 diners and seating is a mixture of dining tables with cushioned, bright orange leather chairs and sofa seating in the alcoves of the windows. The walls are painted a gorgeous Aegean blue and Andy Warhol-esque portraits by artist Pure Evil provide splashes of colour. At the entrance, there’s a small square bar area where the expert mixologists whip up your cocktail of choice. Etch also has a private dining room that fits up to 8 guests with a chauffeur pick-up and dop-off service should you need it.
–Interior photography provided by etch.–
Diners can book in for lunch or dinner and choose from either a 4, 6 or 8-course tasting menu (£40/£50/£60). Although reading the menu gives little away, with just two of the key ingredients listed alongside each course and no other descriptors provided. Just go with it though, be open-minded, you never know what new loves you’ll discover.
I booked in for the 6-course tasting menu one Saturday lunchtime back in April and the restaurant was easily at full capacity when we arrived, a sign I wasn’t the only one keen to have the etch. experience.
Mushroom . Truffle
It was off to a very pleasant start with a glass of Nyetimber Sussex sparkling wine and an amuse-bouche of mushroom doughnuts stuffed with mushroom duxelles (sautéed mushrooms) infused with truffle oil, alongside miniature biscuits discs, topped with a light cream cheese and parsley cress.
Marmite . Seaweed
Next to follow were warm, puffy soft brioche buns, smothered in a marmite glaze, served on wooden tree stump, alongside butter, speckled with dehydrated seaweed and perched on a pebble (I hope you didn’t pinch that from Brighton beach Mr Edwards – we don’t want to run out). For those that needed a little more flavour (I didn’t) a sprinkling of sea salt sat on the side too. It was divine.
Wild Garlic . Jersey Royal
A wild garlic soup with a layer of minty Jersey Royal potatoes and crème fraîche followed – deliciously creamy and aerated to ensure it was light as possible. On top, little potato crisps adding a crunchy texture, a sprinkling of chopped chives and a drizzle of yummy truffle oil to build up the flavours.
Salmon . Onion
No more than 10 minutes later the fish course arrived. The catch was wild salmon from MCB Seafood in Newhaven, torched with sugar and salt, alongside pickled onion shells, roasted and blacked onion stuffed with an accompanying onion mayonnaise and dressed with a vivid green chive oil. The portion here (and with all the dishes) was small but what it lacked in size it easily made up for in flavour.
Beetroot . Orange
Next up, a beetroot tartar cannelloni with orange sorbet, ginger croutons and ginger crumb. I’m not a huge lover of beetroot so this wouldn’t have been a dish I’d have chosen, given the option. However, if you are, this is the course for you with beetroot featured in four ways, jellied, pickled, roasted with the leaves to garnish. Again the sourcing was hype-local with the beets from Tastables in Hove.
Guinea Hen . Asparagus
The next course was the dining highlight and also my first time trying fowl (FYI guinea fowl, guinea hen, pet speckled hen and original fowl are all alternative names for the bird). The guinea hen breast, from SK Hutchings Butchers in Patridge Green, came served on top of the leg which was poached, wrapped in ham and finally drizzled with mouth-watering guinea hen juices. Completing and brightening the plate was an asparagus puree, raw asparagus shavings and char-grilled asparagus stalks.
Rhubarb . Pistachio
With the savoury courses over it was time for a powerful palate cleanser, so out came our pre-dessert – a light and fluffy pistachio cake served with a pistachio crumb and tart rhubarb (as a sorbet, a gel and poached).
Chocolate . Earl Grey
The sixth course was a decadent chocolate marquise layer cake, complemented by earl grey ice cream and decorated with a crisp white chocolate tuille. I tend to skip desserts but I have a terrible weakness for chocolate and this proved to taste just as impressive as it looked.
The last time I went to a restaurant of this calibre I found my whispering all the way through our meal, such was the uncomfortable stuffiness of the dining experience. However, my etch. experience couldn’t have been further from that. I felt relaxed, a little bit merry (thanks to a superb wine list and a lethal etch-presso martini ) and the food really impressed.
The service was first-class too, with never more than 10-15 minutes between courses and a warm, smartly presented team talking through the techniques and ingredients of each dish as they served us. Yes, the price point is right at the top end and you may leave a little peckish if you go for the 4 or 6 course tasting menu, but considering the quality of the produce and technical work involved in every course, it’s certainly not over-priced. The only gripe I have is that tagline… ‘imprint . define. impress’ – it’s unnecessarily pretentious – something etch. is not.
PRICE: £158 for 2 people including three alcoholic drinks
RATING: Must Go | Worth a Try | Give it a Miss
216 Church Road
*Disclosure: I was invited to dine at etch. in exchange for an honest review.
What do you think of tasting menus – aAre you a fan or would you prefer to choose from a full menu?
Leave me a comment below and let me know.