Matt Gillan’s latest venture, since leaving Michelin-starred The Pass in West Sussex, is a café/restaurant in Kemptown offering taster menus of six, eight or 10 courses showcasing the chef’s signature intricate small plates.
Pick and Pine restaurant review
Walking into Pike & Pine, with its lush greenery hanging from a high ceiling, vast white-marble counter and spare, sleek décor, feels more swanky Balearic island than rough-around-the-edges Brighton. The welcome is attentive and friendly; and the seats to nab are at the striking eight-metre counter, bang next to Matt Gillan’s busy but harmonious kitchen, and right opposite his team as they plate up before you. The choice is between a small-plate à la carte menu and three taster menus – six, eight or 10 courses – with optional wine flights (some interesting choices here, including a pleasingly sharp-tasting Slovenian furmint).
Gillan makes beautiful-looking plates of food, tiny little details always catching the eye. However, the opening course of four ‘snacks’ – including a very ordinary sushi nigiri and a delicate yolk-shaped blob of bloody mary on a spoon –was an oddly matched medley that failed to spark the imagination. The following four plates also underwhelmed: a very pretty but too-salty, tempura-batteredoyster with scarcely detectable white chocolate; stonebass with artichoke and grapes was again pretty but flat-tasting; the carbonara’s texture verged on slimy; and the smoked beef with aubergine and girolle was a little mushy, unenhanced by a flavourless charcoal powder – in each case, none of the ingredients clashed exactly, yet none sung out either.
The next five dishes, however, were another matter entirely. Perfectly tender octopus was gloriously matched with a slice of earthy black pudding, sweet mango and slivers of peppery radish. This was followed by two cuts of pink lamb combined flawlessly with strawberries, onions, samphire and aromatic curried quinoa. Next, a slice of nutty Wigmore ewe’s milk cheese was given a new lease of life attractively adorned with cool watermelon cubes and warming drops of honey. To finish were a lighter-than-a-cloud coconut foam with raspberryice cream, followed by a fluffy chocolate mousse that contrasted pleasingly with little sweet-shop-chewy bites of marzipan and a tart cherry sorbet.
To end the meal, a velvety, deeply rich espresso sourced from the Red Roaster (the venue’s daytime coffee-shop alter ego) roastery down the road, accompanied by a cute little bowl of knockout petit-fours.
The chefs personally deliver the dishes and humbly explain their lovingly crafted plates, while the waiting staff are friendly, chatty and well versed on the wines. Despite the disappointing first half of the headline 10-course tasting menu, the latter half is exceptional – if Gillan can achieve this high level throughout he will have something special.
Menu must-orders at Pike and Pine
The octopus, black pudding and radish really sets the ball rolling after a timid first half; and a loving shout-out to the pillow-soft, chewy-crusted mini bread loaves (ask to take a couple home for breakfast).
The confused ‘snacks’ opener needs a unifying theme.