Revisit & review of Isaac At, fine dining restaurant in Brighton
I can count on one hand the number of outstanding meals I’ve eaten and the first time I dined at Isaac At, in the North Laine, is one of them. 12 months after that visit the restaurant has had a refurb and gone from pop-up to permanent. On its re-opening night, I went along to see what had changed and whether the food still impressed.
Rather than the long dining table by the front door, there are now two seats at the pass and a cloakroom in the entrance, reducing the number of seats in the premises. Flat-screen TVs have also been fitted showing Isaac and his team live in action in the kitchen – a move of real confidence and bravery.
After a warm welcome, we sit down at our beautifully laid table and unroll the scrolls laid before us. Within them, is the story of Head Chef, Isaac Barlett, who is remarkably only 23 years old. As well as both drink and tasting menus there are details of the food mileage for all ingredients. The furthest, sugar, is 120.1 miles away in Petersborough and the closet, garlic, is just 0.1 miles away in Brighton.
After not much time at all Alex, the restaurant manager and drinks connoisseur, comes to take our drinks order. I’m fond of him straight away, on account of his boundless enthusiasm and ability to come across as knowledgeable but unpretentious. He convinces us to try the wine and juice flights, talking us through his pairings for each course throughout the evening and adding interesting details such as how the beetroot comes from Isaac’s mum’s garden.
Dining begins with a light bite to stimulate our appetite. It’s brought out by one of the chefs – there’s no waiting staff here, instead each chef brings you a new dish and talks you through it. An amuse-bouche of grey mullet, served with rapeseed oil mayonnaise, pickled kohlrabi and sea purslane on top of rye bread croute is presented. It has a lovely crunch and serves as a delicious teaser of what’s to come. Then comes a sharing board of freshly-baked breads, including a treacle and stout bread and shallot brioche. The smoked butter, served alongside this is completely moreish and has Simon and I fighting for the last of it.
Whilst we are nibbling away at the appetisers our first course is being prepared just a few steps away and I’m excited for the dish I see. What resembles an art attack on a plate is in fact, roasted butternut squash, yeast extract (Isaac’s version on Marmite), seeds and rosemary oil. It’s well-balanced with a lovely acidity from the pickling and crunchiness from the toasted seeds.
The second course is monkfish, cauliflower and sauce vierge. The fish is not too overdone and the flavours are delicate but it needs stronger seasoning.
The crispy pork belly and smoked broccoli is up next and the crackling is spot-on. The broccoli, on the other hand, is so lightly smoked it’s hardly noticeable.
Our fourth course comes and all is forgiven, as there is a lot to love here. The roast chicken breast is succulent and complemented well by the thin slices of crisp, salt baked celeriac and charred gem lettuce.
Mains out of the way and we’re moving on to sweeter things but before we do, we’re brought a handpicked blackberry and cucumber sorbet to refresh our pallets. If only all restaurants offered this between courses.
I find many restaurants fall down with their desserts and the options are far too heavy to manage after more than one course. However, this is where Isaac At came out trumps with its strawberries, honey pink peppercorn ice cream and milk foam dessert. On first glance, it might seem simple, but there’s a special surprise waiting for you when you start to explore it. Some (not all) of the strawberries are fizzy. The fizz comes from carbonating the fruit and it’s very clever because it’s not something you can see and it’s only when you find one and pop it in your mouth that you realise.
We are nicely full when the final course of petit fours comes out, one is a Rhubarb and Almond Cake another is a fennel and shortbread with a burnt apple topping. Alex serves a very strong liqueur with this but it’s not to my liking and I just fancy a cup of tea to wash it down and perk me up. Can that be an option, please?
RATING: Must Go | Worth A Try | Give it a Miss
In spite of the two small criticisms I mentioned, I take my hat off to Team Isaac. The synergy between the team was really impressive and everyone worked their socks off over the three hours to deliver a superb dining experience. I’ll be surprised if the restaurant doesn’t make the top 10 in the next Brighton Best Restaurant Awards (last year it came in at number 20). Special praise must also go to Alex who designed the Sussex Juice Flight for the meal. I haven’t seen anything like this in Brighton before and it really made Simon feel as though he wasn’t missing out.
Need to know:
Isaac At offers a smaller set menu for £35pp on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, as well as Saturday lunchtimes. The regular tasting menu which costs £47pp is available just Friday and Saturday evenings.
As part of OctoberBEST (on Friday 21st, Saturday 22nd, Friday 28th and Saturday 29th October) Isaac At will be providing a special £20pp menu, over lunch. Book online here to ensure a space.
2 Gloucester Street, Brighton, BN1 4EW
Have you tried Isaac At yet and how was your experience? Leave me a comment below and let me know.
*Disclaimer: I was invited to Isaac At to review so my meal with complimentary, but as always, my opinion isn’t swayed by freebies and you are getting my honest opinion on the whole experience.