Review of Flank in Brighton
A pop-up restaurant with a sustainable meat & plant-based menu
There’s a new awakening happening amongst foodies – a conscious movement to more sustainable, healthier eating. Back in January, I wrote a bit on food trends for the Brighton Indy and I predicted that 2016 would see more people move towards meat-free and meat-reduced diets. (If you missed it, you can read it here).
Last week I went along to meet Tom Griffiths, the Head Chef at Flank Brighton, a pop-up restaurant in the Royal Sovereign pub on Preston Street, catering for the conscience diner through nose-to-tail and plant-based cooking.
Flank’s menu is anchored by fermented, braised and cured specialities, with creative flavour combinations. The focus is on careful cooking with meat, using sous vide techniques (water baths) and barbecued red meat.
My dining experience was formed through 6 utterly sensational courses, which Tom brought out and talked me through individually.
We began with the Cured Duck Ham – £4.50, formed from a fried, soft-boiled duck egg and seasoned with mushroom pepper. The crumbed shell was crisp and the egg yolk velvety and runny. I’d not tried a duck egg before but it’s safe to say it’s far superior to the hen variety being larger and richer in flavour. The mushroom pepper added an extra depth to the seasoning and set the whole dish off a treat.
Next on the menu was the Seared Bavette Dexter Steak – £8, with a watercress purée, Sussex mushrooms and pan jus. A dish that looked simple but was complex in layers of flavour. The steak (from the flank of the cow) was served pink and tender and had a fiery kick and stunning smokiness from the smoked hazelnut sprinkle. The watercress purée on the side lifted the dish with a welcome freshness.
Despite having Flank as its name, it’s not only meat on the menu. Cured Sea Trout in Gin – £8, followed with a cucumber ketchup with bbq cucumber and sea kale (caught fresh from Brighton beach) alongside. As Tom presented, he explained how the alcohol is the cooking value in this dish and how it’s really quite special as it cleanses and cooks the fish simultaneously, creating a very clean flavour.
By the fourth course, it was time to try some purely plant-based dishes. Out came BBQ Cauliflower – £12, with pickled cauliflower leaves, cauliflower purée, truffle, Cornish Yarg cheese, raw apple & elderflower. The dish was huge and had a wondrous charred taste, juxtaposed with sweetness from the raw apple and followed by a hint of elderflower. I’ve genuinely never seen a cauli look so beautiful and taste so rich and creamy.
Flank only serves in-season vegetables (which are cheaper) and mostly sourced from Europe, where they are foraged, instead of cultivated, and free from pesticides. Suppliers also donate imperfect vegetables that they would ordinarily chuck, which Tom transforms into plates of wonder.
Our second fish course was next, Braised Octopus – £15.50 with speck ham, smoked ox heart ash, sweet potato whip and pickled chilli blood orange dressing. A really well-seasoned dish with the octopus was surprisingly crunchy.
The sixth and final course is Flank’s signature dish, Glazed Beef Short Rib – £16 with roast baby gem, crispy shallots and bone marrow ketchup.
At this point, Tom explained that Flank’s menu changes every 3 weeks but the short rib has been on since the start. The dish took him 14 attempts to get right and the idea was to get the texture of a fillet steak but the flavour of ribeye from a cheap cut. Normally the short rib falls and breaks apart but Tom cooks the short rib for 36 hours at 62 degrees to break down the collagen and make a really pink and tender dish. The glaze for the beef is made from soy/agave and smoked on wood and it tasted incredible, just as he intended.
Tom went on to say that the quality of the meat is key to the dish’s success – it’s not just about the cut. Flank sources its meat from a farm in Berkshire, not locally, as he told me: “local doesn’t mean sh*t – you have to think about sustainability…”
RATING: Must Go | Worth a Try | Give it a Miss
PRICE: £64 (6 courses shared with 2 people, no alcohol)
You’ve got to admire a chef who spends 14 attempts perfecting a dish and makes cauliflower look and taste as incredible as he does. It’s also refreshing to see Flank doesn’t pander to the trend of “locally-sourced produce” at the expense of quality. Here’s a Chef with conviction and real knowledge of how his ingredients perform under different cooking techniques and his own unique creative flare. What really seals the deal for me is Tom’s commitment to sustainability.
Preston Street is certainly not known for its quality dining spots but with Flank and Bincho Yakitori just a few doors down, who knows what the future holds for that part of town. Whether or not it’s the beginning of good things for the row, I urge you to head down and try Flank, as it’s so far my best meal of this year!
Need to know
Next Sunday (20th March), Flank will be preparing an eight-course tasting menu showcasing the nose-to-tail and plant-based cooking style, which earned it a place in the Top 20 best restaurants in Brighton, at zero-waste Brighton restaurant Silo. And on the 1st April Flank will move to a new venue, the Cow pub, at 7 dials.
I’ll also be publishing the interview I conducted with Tom at the beginning of April, so check back if you want to hear more from the Head Chef.
The Royal Sovereign Pub, 66 Preston Street, Brighton BN1 2HE
*Disclaimer: I was invited to review Flank, but as always, my opinion isn’t swayed by freebies and you are getting my honest opinion on the whole experience.