It’s a year since Isaac At went from a pop-up to permanent restaurant and to celebrate the milestone I was invited to try the restaurant’s new South Coast Tasting Menu. On it were five delicious main courses; each designed to showcase the best local produce available on our doorstep, as well as four additional smaller courses in-between the mains.
For once I wasn’t driving so I went all in and had the Sussex flight too meaning each course was matched with an English wine (plus a liqueur at the end). Here’s a rundown of what we ate, what we drunk and how incredibly good it all was.
We started with a glass of English fizz and a delicate rye bread croute topped with smoked mackerel, charcoal-infused mayonnaise, goosefoot gel (made from plants, not animals) and lemon thyme leaves. Considering its size it was quite incredible how much flavour it delivered.
Warm fresh bread rolls and homemade butter followed two varieties, a treacle and stout loaf that was and a grain brioche, which was light and puffy and sweet.
Once the nibbles were demolished we were introduced to our second wine from the flight, the Davenport Horsmonden from an organic wine estate in Sussex. This dry white wine was very fresh with elderflower notes and if you like Sauvignon this will likely go down well with you. The wine was paired with an assiette of cucumber (charred, formed into a gel and as a ketchup) besides three small nests of sweet white crabmeat, dressed with a creamy mayonnaise made from the darker crabmeat.
Next up was the fish course, with plaice caught just over nine miles away in Newhaven. The plaice was cooked to temperature in the oven and served with a Desiree potato mash, warm seawater wilted nasturtium leaves, and vivid green parsley infused rapeseed oil. It was cooked perfectly but I found it very light on the seasoning. Then, paired with this course was a white, Albourne Estate Cellar Selection from 2015 with a mix of Chardonnay and Ortega grapes and a gentle oaked flavour.
The course that followed has to be the prettiest of the evening – aubergines, pan-seared and topped with caramelised shallot petals, alongside beetroot ketchup and pickled beetroot disks. The beetroot ketchup wasn’t as strong as I expected but the mix of crunchy and smooth textures worked excellently. This course was matched with the Sedlescombe 2014 Rubellite rosé, which was fruity with flavours of strawberry and raspberry.
The previous course may have been the prettiest but the meat course that followed was the tastiest. Isaac served us lamb chump, cooked medium-rare with a rich lamb stock reduction, salt baked turnip and wilted coriander. It was absolutely exquisite and a dish I’ll go on to have dreams about.
The Lychgate red wine from Bolney was matched with the lamb and I was really surprised to find it tasted so much better than the first time I tried it on the Sussex Wine Tour. Alex, the sommelier, explained that this is due to the time he gives it to breathe before pouring (half an hour). A medium-bodied wine with blackberry and cherry flavours – it was well paired to bring out the flavours of the red meat.
After such a rich dish and accompanying wine, the team needed to reset our taste buds before dessert. Cue a refreshing blackcurrant and cucumber sorbet as our palate cleanser. Yes, you did read that right, cucumber in the sorbet – genius!
Dessert was greengage juice blended into an ice cream mix, alongside a date pureé and a pink peppercorn meringue set in a dehydrator on top of shortcrust biscuits. A special edition biodynamic dessert wine came alongside it too, from Sedlescombe again.
Traditionally dessert marks the end of your meal, but we still had a few last sweet treats before we were finished. A plate of two petit fours was brought out to end, one cylinder shaped lemon and thyme fudge perched on a burnt apple puree, and a miniature sponge cake made from almond flour with plain flour sponge and drizzled with Bramley apple syrup. Struggling to move after all the food I could take or leave the fudge but the sponge was too good to resist.
Our last tipple of the evening was a small batch elderberry liquor (similar to port) from the Blackdown Distillery in Sussex
Rating: Must Go | Worth A Try | Give It A Miss
Price: £50 + £29 for the wine flight, per person
A truly delicious meal made all the more impressive with the fact that everything on the menu is grown or made locally.
Need to know
If you’re still yet to book onto any of the OctoberBest £20 menus, Isaac At still has two spaces left for its ‘Brighton Gin’ dessert bar. Visit www.isaac-at.com to book.
2 Gloucester Street
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*Disclosure: I was invited to review Isaac At but this does not have any bearing on my review, which will always be an honest account of the whole experience.