Check out our review of Etch in Brighton, and see if an expert restaurant critic comes to the same conclusion as an olive reader…
Our editor Laura Rowe has reviewed restaurants for more than a decade. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @lauraroweeats
Rosa Weiberle lives in Brighton, eats out once a week and is obsessed with sushi. Her most memorable meal was tucking into the maki maki platter at Sticks ’n’ Sushi.
Cool and unpretentious Etch is the latest addition to Brighton’s thriving restaurant scene. Steven Edwards, one of MasterChef: The Professionals’ youngest winners, has kept it small and intimate at his first restaurant, with 36 covers and an open kitchen. Although offering fine dining, with two weekly changing tasting menus, Etch has a distinctly casual feel to ensure that the focus is on the food.
Steve works with local producers from the surrounding Sussex countryside to pick the freshest seasonal ingredients for his intricate dishes. Expect Sussex Trenchmore beef with charred Hispi cabbage, locally caught scallops with squid crackers, and cherries filled with crème fraîche.
Depending on the day, Etch offers four-, six- or eight-course tasting menus for between £40-£60. etchfood.co.uk
Our pro’s Etch restaurant review…
Etch shouts “We’re relaxed, guys!” with its dark blue walls, bold orange leather seats, trendy neon lighting and clothless tables. Servers, too, look the part, dressed in tweed waistcoats, ankle swingers and pin rolls, and brogues. But while they were well scripted, they were also sloppy. Drinks were forgotten twice and a request for a wine list ignored. *I might’ve been recognised.
With a choice of only a four- or six-course tasting menu and sparse description, little is given away. First, a savoury surprise – a mini doughnut dusted in porcini powder, stuffed with rich duxelle and a pickled mushroom; plus, a cheesy sablé biscuit topped with cream cheese, onion seeds and chives.
Bread was the now de rigueur Marmite bread/butter combo – here a lovely light, yeasty brioche with a shiny Marmitey glaze, marred by a whipped seaweed butter served on a pebble (cue shudders as knives scrape against the rough stone).
Beetroot and horseradish came as a velvety chilled soup, with brilliant gingerbread croutons, but its horseradish sorbet was lacklustre. Courses two to four picked up. Diced Welsh sea trout mixed with tartare sauce and plated with hunks of blackened cucumber and cucumber sorbet was delicious.
Slow cooked duck egg, topped on brioche and served with poached, grilled and raw asparagus, and a light hollandaise, was so creamy it was almost spreadable. And, lamb – belly cured then sous-vide for 24 hours, incredibly tender loin – was well paired with artichoke three ways.
Desserts missed the mark – a pistachio cake was soggy, white chocolate parfait was sticky and cloying, and pistachio sorbet tasteless, while the best things on the plate of deconstructed strawberry ‘cheesecake’ with basil, were the strawberries and basil themselves.
Wine is good, when it arrives, but a heads up regarding the £12 per glass price tag for the Chinese ice wine (recommended for pud) would have been nice.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When Steven’s elegant (if a little safe) restraint works, it really works. He lets ingredients sing. Things need to be ironed out, though, especially given the hefty bill – like sharper service, better puds and brighter lights in the toilets – but there’s the making of a good restaurant here.
Total for two, excluding service: £169
Our punter’s Etch restaurant review…
The service at Etch was attentive without being overdone – exactly how I like it. Staff were enthusiastic and polite, greeting us swiftly upon arrival and showing us to our table. Each course was presented with a knowledgeable introduction and our waitress was happy to elaborate on ingredients. Chef Steven Edwards also checked in with each table at least once.
Each dish of the six-course tasting menu was described very simply with just two words, for example ‘beetroot-horseradish’. We were offered wine pairing with our meal, but we chose a cocktail each instead. These were nothing to shout about – neither the taste nor the presentation reflected the price (£9 each).
Lunch began with a cold beetroot soup with horseradish ice cream, gingerbread croutons and coriander. Although I’m not a big fan of beetroot, I felt the flavours worked well together – the sharpness of the horseradish and sweetness of the croutons complemented the earthy soup.
The standout dish for me was fresh and delicate sea trout tartare, served with salty fish roe, refreshing cucumber sorbet and a crunchy ginger crumb. Another highlight was the lamb – enticingly pink fillet and 24-hour cooked belly. Artichoke hearts and crunchy artichoke crisps, along with a rich jus and fragrant mint oil, helped to create a show-stopping dish.
The final dessert was beautifully presented – light vanilla cheesecake rolled in colourful strawberry dust served with poached strawberries and jelly. The sweetness of the strawberries was balanced by fresh basil leaves and gel.
The only slight disappointment was asparagus, hollandaise and a slow-cooked duck egg yolk. I found this over-salted and it didn’t blow me away.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Dining at Etch felt like a real treat – dishes were inventive, well thought through and presented with elegance. The atmosphere was relaxed and full of subtle aesthetic touches such as exposed filament light bulbs, unique crockery and Etch-branded cutlery.
Although it was not within my usual price range, this would certainly be a meal for a special occasion. This style of dining might just be what Brighton has been missing.
Total for two, excluding service: £134.20
Photographs | Julia Claxton
Etch Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) rating: 6/10
Chef Steven Edwardes devotes a tab on his website to ‘local’, one small sign of his passion for putting the very best ingredients Sussex has to offer on his customers’ plates. True to his word, the vast majority of the food comes from within 30 miles, with special emphasis on the meat, the beef and pork in particular. With the farms being so local Steven and his team get the chance to visit too. And like any restaurant plugged into a network of suppliers on its doorstep it’s also able to cash in on the bounty of the seasons, changing its menus every week. With some of the country’s finest winemakers in the vicinity, it’s no surprise to see a number of English wines on the list. Diners can choose seafood dishes with confidence as there’s a strict policy to only serve fish rated the most sustainable by the Marine Conservation Society.