Chard in a nutshell
A hidden Hove gem with stylish interiors, a warm welcome and deftly executed seasonal, locality-focussed plates.
This three-person family operation began life as a hugely successful pop-up at the Rust Cafe in Brighton last year. The team have since found a permanent location, sharing premises with a boutique interiors store in Hove. In the kitchen is sculptor-turned-cook Benny Sullivan, and front of house are Ciarán and the chef’s sister Mae.
What’s the vibe?
You’d barely know Chard was there if you walked past it, save for a small chalkboard propped up at the shop doorway, inviting you to ring the vintage doorbell.
Ushered past French farmhouse homewares, you ascend a candlelit spiral staircase into a small but airy whitewashed room (space enough for just 20 covers), brightened by large windows either end and pale-wood floorboards. Pine tables are simply dressed with off-white crumpled linen tablecloths and napkins, hand-thrown flower-filled vases and brass candleholders. With a long worktop, fitted drawers and a coffee machine along one wall, it feels like someone’s artfully Provençal-styled kitchen-diner (although the kitchen proper is two flights down in the basement).
Service is welcoming, informal and chatty. Chard has the hidden-gem vibe of the best kind of supper club.
What’s the food like?
The family’s roots are in Ireland and this is subtly reflected in Benny’s monthly changing dinner menu: her playful starter of dippy egg (encased in a wafer-thin breadcrumb crust) comes with pumpkin seed soda bread soldiers, a deeply smoky haddock and potato brandade and sea salty creathnach (dulse)-loaded butter. The eyebrow-raising kipper doughnut is a stunner, the fishy filling within its soft savoury casing subtle, but then lifted by a smooth, sweet beet and rhubarb ketchup, and fennel confit topping.
Both mains were wipe-the-plate-clean sublime. Half a dozen plump, butter-soft scallops (just the bases lightly caramelised), came bathed in a silky béarnaise with hints of aniseed, alongside samphire and al dente spears of asparagus. Two huge French-trimmed lamb chops (melt-in-the-mouth blushing pink meat and sweet slivers of succulent fat within) that insisted on being gnawed at the end, came with a powerhouse wild garlic dressing, a bread, basil and heirloom tomato salad, feta-like medita buttermilk and pistachio shards.
For dessert, a fun retro ice cream sandwich comes wrapped in paper, tied in string – the light cardamom ice cream sits between two giant triangles of coffee and chocolate bourbon biscuits.
A thick, creamy vanilla posset is cut through with a topping of tart stewed rhubarb, rhubarb sorbet and an almond snap.
And the drinks?
The wine list is concise – five whites and five reds, with rosé, dessert and sparkling options (including a local Sussex Breaky Bottom cuvée). Bottled kombuchas are an option for those not drinking alcohol.
At the rear of the shop is a curtained-off private dining room with a mobile drinks bar for groups who want to book ahead for a special occasion. Or pop in during the day for homemade cakes and locally roasted coffee.
Chard, I Gigi General Store, 31a Western Road, Hove BN3 1AF
Words by Dominic Martin