On Sunday I was invited down to English’s of Brighton to celebrate the restaurant’s 70th-anniversary year and sample the new Spring menu. I’d never visited English’s before,but after mentioning the event to friends and family and hearing many good things, I knew I was in for a treat…
Now to give you a little history… English’s is a family-owned business and has been ever since 1945! The building which houses the fabulous Oyster Bar, dates back more than 150 years, when it operated as Brazier’s fishmongers. It is with this heritage that English’s proudly retains its reputation as offering the finest, freshest local seafood.
My exploration of the menu kicked off with a real delicacy, locally sourced oysters and a glass of 2009 Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, Sussex Sparkling Wine. (Bad move driving into Brighton as I could have polished off the whole bottle!).
Jonathan, the host, presented us with a selection of the following oysters, served on a bed of crushed ice:
– Richard Haward Oysters – rock and native oysters, sourced locally from West Mersea rocks from the river Blackwater to the west of Mersea Island Essex
– Jersey Oysters – harvested from the Royal Bay of Grouville on the East Coast of Jersey
If you don’t know the difference between your native and your rock oyster I’ll explain. Rock oysters are slightly cheaper than natives and are usually available all year round. The rock oyster reaches its palatable size in just two years (compared with four for a native).
I was lucky enough to sample a selection of both raw and cooked oysters as an appetiser. These were served with a tempura batter, lemon, red wine & shallot vinegar, Tabasco, Worcester sauce and black pepper (not all at once mind you!)
I’ve tried oysters once before, at Fishy Fishy, just across from English’s, but English’s oysters were on another level. The best way I can describe them is like a firework of flavour on the tongue! If you haven’t tried them before – do it!
I also have two tips for you:
1. Remember to detach your oyster muscle from the shell before trying to slip it in your mouth (or ask the lovely waiter to do it for you)
2. Don’t chew oysters the first time, the texture might put you off. Tip the shell up and allow the juices slide into your mouth. Savour for a moment and then allow it to glide down your throat. Once you’re accustomed to them try chewing them and see how they go down.
Now, not forgetting the fizz… Nyetimber is a highly regarded sparkling wine that’s rivalling champagne; just last year it won ‘Best Sparkling Wine in the UK‘ in the 2014 International Wine Challenge. From my point of view, I’d pick it over a Veuve Clicquot any day. And the good news is English’s sells it by the glass (and the bottle) so you can indulge a little or a lot!
Next up for sampling was the Tuna carpaccio, salad Niçoise, tapenade and egg mimosa, which is part of English’s tasting menu, at £35 per head (without wine) or £59 per head with paired wines. I couldn’t falter one thing in this dish, again really tasty, light and the perfect portion size.
The third dish to follow was: Cod, asparagus and pancetta with a cockle and shrimp sauce. A delicate dish but with a great kick of flavour from the pancetta.
The final main was my favourite of all. Succulent king scallops with a spiced butternut puree and a samphire garnish. The purée was to-die-for and the scallops so so moreish! I could definitely devour a whole plate of these scallops the next time I visit.
Last stop was the dessert platter which included samples of four different desserts. From left-to-right these were:
1. A treacle tart with clotted cream ice cream
2. Roasted peaches & almonds with cardamom ice cream and raspberry sauce
3. A white chocolate & pistachio mousse with passion fruit jelly and crème Anglaise
4. A banana & rum parfait with a pecan crumble and salted caramel
For my personal taste, I wasn’t so fussed on the sticky treacle tart. However, I couldn’t get enough of the passion fruit jelly, which was served sparingly (like gold leaf) alongside the white chocolate mousse. The roasted peaches were also perfectly dulcet and complimented by the subtle, cardamom infused ice cream.
Overall it was a truly remarkable dining experience and an absolute pleasure. The staff were wholly passionate about the menu and knowledgeable about the source and sustainability of the ingredients in the dishes – all of which are sourced only from accredited farmers. I really cannot more highly recommend English’s. It’s a Brighton gem and a must for seafood lovers.
If you’d like to try English’s for yourself ring ahead and book a spot at the marble-top oyster bar – you won’t regret it!
*Disclosure my dining experience was complimentary and I was given a bottle of Nyetimber to take away with me. However, this has not affected my review of the restaurant.