Yorkshire-born head chef Dave Mothersill has previously led the kitchen at The Salt Room’s sister Brighton restaurant The Coal Shed (read our full review here), as well as Hove’s well-regarded pub restaurant with rooms, The Ginger Pig.
What’s the vibe like?
The Salt Room has a contemporary, refined look, with a contrasting mixture of whitewashed, bare-brick and wood-slatted walls; marble- and wood-topped bistro-style tables (the tableware is on the formal side without going so far as white tablecloths); and curvy dark-wood Scandi-esque seats, spindle-backed chairs and dark-blue padded banquettes.
The entrance leads into a reception area with a small, smart-looking cocktail bar and a couple of high tables with stools.
The main room is well lit during the day thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windowed front (on the outside of which is a large, sea-facing terrace for al fresco dining); in the evening the lighting is low and moody.
We were brought a sharing plate of four lightly crispy, delicately flavoured salt cod fritters, with a subtle squid-ink mayo and satisfyingly chewy, salty dulse seaweed.
Which dishes should we order?
For the starters we chose, on recommendation from our amiable, helpful waiter, the octopus and asparagus. The octopus was a tender as you could hope, dressed in a smoky, vinegary bacon and cider sauce, with biteable beans and cubes of sweet apple. The asparagus was even better – thick spears with bang-on crunch were lifted to a heavenly place with a rich, buttery, wild garlic sauce.
The fish main courses are the outstanding reason to come to The Salt Room.
A beautiful lemon sole on the bone, with purple-sprouting broccoli, wild garlic, miniature capers and red grapes, was silkily soft with a buttery sauce alternating hits of salt, pepper and vinegar, each working in the fish’s favour.
A tandoori monkfish, again with seasonal wild garlic, was succulent yet meaty as you would expect, the Indian spices deftly downplayed with the fish but given full whack on the accompanying roasted cauliflower.
Sides are welcomingly simple and designed to complement not detract from the main events – we opted for iron-pumped kale drenched in a butter sauce flavoured with anchovies and garlic, and simply done knobbly new potatoes in chive butter.
What’s dessert like?
A neighbouring table had just ordered the head-turning Taste of the Pier (a show-stopping, knowingly over-the-top sharing board of butterscotch doughnut, popcorn, choc pebbles, banana mallow, coffeefudge and cookie bark) and we were sorely tempted.
Neither quite matched expectations, the pauper cake unnecessarily deconstructed, resulting in some mismatched textures and disappointing flavour combinations; the rhubarb itself was deliciously tart with a slight bite, but its accompanying whipped custard was oddly bland.
What are the drinks like?
The bar, headed by Frenchman Julien Billet, offers a creative selection of cocktails, including some very tempting botanical-focussed aperitifs.
We tried a very prettily presented flute of Sunset Sake, combining yuzu sake, pineapple, basil, prosecco and strawberry vinegar – it had a gorgeously pure, refreshing tang of citrussy yuzu underpinned with a satisfying warming kick of alcohol at the back of the throat.
Also of interest on the huge drinks menu are English sparkling wines, oyster pearls (oysters paired with spirits), on-trend kombucha and seafood-friendly reds.