Pascere – sophisticated, fine dining in the centre of Brighton
Brighton is amassing quite a collection of fine-dining restaurants. First, we had Pike & Pine in Kemptown, then etch., west side in Hove and now the newest to the foray – Pascere.
Housed in one of Brighton’s oldest buildings on Duke’s Street, Pascere is a small restaurant that operates over two levels with counter-top seating upstairs and alfresco dining on the terrace out front.
Inside, the elegant interior design feels both homely and refined. The colour scheme is a mix of teal, blue and yellow ochre, complemented by brass fixtures, leather banquettes and plush velvet seating. It definitely isn’t style over substance though – the chairs are dangerously comfortable and in preparation for chilly evenings, the doorway has thick floor-length velvet curtains to exclude drafts.
If you’ve grown tired of the tasting menu trend, you’ll be pleased to discover at Pascere it’s optional. Priced at £65pp, plus £35pp if paired with a wine flight, it’s ideal for a special occasion like an anniversary dinner. However, if you’re just peckish, the small plates menu will satisfy you and is available all day long. For something in between the two, there are the á la carte lunch and dinner menus with the choice of either one, two or three courses. If that wasn’t enough, on Sunday there’s a brunch menu too.
I popped in twice last week, once on an invitation and the other, not. On both occasions the service was excellent: warm, friendly and professional. You definitely won’t find anyone clearing the table before everyone has finished eating (a real pet peeve of mine).
Our dinner visit began with a glass of bubbles and rather than the familiar glass of Prosecco, we were offered a Spanish cava: La Vida al Camp Cava Brut. A biodynamic wine, made using the same method as champagne but without the hefty price tag. Full of bright citrus flavours, as well as toasty brioche ones and lots of fizz – it didn’t take long before our flutes ran dry.
Miniature bread rolls followed: one with a savoury saison beer & onion infusion, one a sweeter stout and treacle mix. On the side, a foam-like chive butter, topped with rock salt and brown sugar. The rolls were deliciously doughy and moreish.
Then two more snacks: the portland crab tart – £7.50 and the butternut squash cracker – £6, and another glass of white wine – the Spanish Albariño – full of crisp citrus notes and slightly perfumed. The crab tart came served in a wafer-thin case, stuffed full of sweet white crab meat and various bits of shellfish in a creamy, rich custard. The butternut squash crackers were just a little more than a mouthful in size, filled with spiralized butternut squash and sweet butternut squash purée – a lovely light bite.
– My guest opted for lamb sweetbreads with ewe’s milk panna cotta, ewe’s curd and sorrel ice cream –
The mackerel – £8, which was cured and blow-torched, turned out to be visually stunning with little round slices of rose pickled kohlrabi and ribbons of cucumber topped with frozen horseradish and edible flowers. I didn’t notice the flavour of the horseradish so much but there was a punchy tanginess to the dish I enjoyed, whilst the mackerel meat was silky smooth. The whole dish was very fresh like a crisp summer’s morning.
– Cured & blowtorched mackerel with rose pickled kohlrabi, cucumber and frozen horseradish cream –
Next up, new wines and main courses. For me, Amanda suggested the Sangiovese, a smooth Italian red with notes of violets and berries to go with my roast lamb breast – £17.50. My guest was brought a white Pinot Gris from Argentina to go with the confit trout – £18.50.
Breast is one of the least expensive cuts of lamb but one that is full of flavour and tender, providing it’s cooked slowly. My breast was so soft even the fat that topped and tailed it tasted good enough to eat. A vivid green watercress purée and samphire accompanied the dish, along with some seriously indulgent pressed potatoes. I say indulgent because after chatting with our lovely waitress she revealed Johnny’s recipe involves unhealthy amounts of butter – no wonder it tasted so good.
– Roast lamb breast with watercress purée, samphire, and pressed potatoes –
As we move on to desserts and our final tipples of the evening, I am very aware I have plenty of room for them. Avoiding the temptation to have the chocolate mouse – because when does chocolate-anything ever disappoint? – I go for the buttermilk sponge – £8, which Amanda recommends. It comes served with butterscotch honeycomb chunks and ice cream topped with what looks like the remnants of a plastic bag but is in fact, dehydrated and sweetened milk. The sponge is fluffy, light and the dessert wine that’s been paired with this course completely seals the deal. The Moscato d’Asti – is a slightly unusual dessert wine in that it’s fizzy but it’s lovely and just like drinking pear drops. The peach and honey notes work really well with the butterscotch and we enjoy it so much that we have two glasses.
– Buttermilk sponge with honeycomb and milk ice cream –
PRICE: £72.50 for 3 courses for 2 people (not including wines or snacks)
RATING: Must Go | Worth a Try | Give it a Miss
With a wine list just as impressive as the food, my first recommendation is to leave the car at home. My second is to put your trust in the team and go for either the wine flight or, order by the glass and ask their recommendations based on your courses – it will crank the price up considerably but I promise it’ll heighten the whole experience.
Depending on what you order from the menu, you’ll either leave nicely satiated or still a little bit hungry; something not uncommon with these sorts of restaurants (etch. was the same). The small plates, I feel, are better suited for an after-work (or post-shop) snack and a glass of wine. Go for the chicken croquettes when you do – one plate each though as you aren’t going to want to share those. I’d also say don’t be afraid to order an extra starter/small plate (or two) to share if you’ve opted for the three course á la carte menu – just to be sure you don’t go away hungry.
It’s a very promising start for Pascere; the menu is full of creative flavour combinations and there’s a great atmosphere whether dining by day or night. Yes, it’s pricey with main courses at £18.50, but if you can afford it, it’s definitely worth the treat.
8 Duke’s Street, Brighton, BN1 1AH
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*Disclosure: I was invited to dine at Pascere but I also visited separately as a paying customer. My review is an honest view of the restaurant based on both visits.