Worth Its Salt | The Salt Room, 106 King’s Road, Brighton, BN1 2FU
Sometimes Saff and I get a little disillusioned whilst eating out. Don’t get me wrong, we still absolutely love what we do and we honestly appreciate just how lucky we are. It’s just that recently we’ve been out for a couple of fairly standard meals and were overdue a restaurant visit that would re-ignite our passion.
We try to visit at least twice a year, for a little retail therapy and some ‘us time’, in fact, Saff and I had our first proper date there. [We did? – Saff].
We parked, as we always do, at the train station, we found out (the hard way) that this is one of the cheapest and most stress-free places to park. There is always a space, only costs £7 for six hours and eliminates all that co-pilot bickering when trying to reverse into a too tight space in The Lanes.
Our first experience of dining in Brighton was, like many, at Bills. Even five years or so ago there wasn’t a huge choice of decent restaurants, there were a few hippyish veggie/vegan cafés and some very average hotel choices (apart from myhotel, of course). Add to that the usual fish ‘n’ chip and touristy joints that made finding a decent meal tricky.
Then it all changed (well for us anyway), cool little coffee shops started opening (or at least became more visible). Restaurants like The Chilli Pickle, 64 degrees and The New Club were racking up some impressive reviews. Then came the invasion from London with Meatliquor and most recently Polpo getting in on the act.
The Salt Room is a good 15-20 walk from the station, on the sea front with superb ocean views of the long derelict West Pier, and a few hundred meters from the British Airways i360 observation tower (still under construction and we’re still not sure about it.) We’ve strolled past the site now occupied by the Salt Room many times, it used to be Bar 106 at the Hilton Brighton Metropole – possibly why we didn’t give it a second glance.
Our welcome couldn’t have been warmer, after some typically British small-talk about the weather (it’s always raining when we visit the coast), our coats were taken and we were shown to our table. Decor is suitably refined yet practical – wood effect ceramic tiles on the floor, partially whitewashed walls with some reclaimed wood panelling and exposed brickwork thrown in for good measure.
There’s teal banquet seating along the far wall but we sat on a slightly raised platform next to the ceiling to floor windows that overlook the terrace and the sea. Loved the framed architectural blueprints and plans of the West Pier hung around the restaurant – nice touch!
The restaurant is headed up the team behind Brighton’s award-winning The Coal Shed, they have been open nearly a year now and it shows, the service is slick and the way the food is presented is simply stunning.
The menu is simple and fuss free, some nibbles ‘for the table’ a couple of choices from the ‘raw’ section (oysters etc), some ‘chilled’ and ‘hot’ smaller sharing plates, ‘mains’ (mostly fish), from the charcoal Josper grill and of course some side dishes. They also do an amazing value lunch and pre theatre menu – £15 for two courses and £17.50 for three.
But before we even thought about food it was time to scan the drinks offering. On the way to our table we wandered past the bar, tucked away all cosy looking in the corner of the restaurant. Remembering that the bar was well stocked with some interesting looking spirits, we decided to go for a cocktail each (not that that’s a surprise). They also have an extensive wine list, from £18 a bottle (or £4.50 a glass) for their house red/white, right up to £180 for a 2011 Sassicaia, Tenuta San Guido.
My Smoked Salt Negroni (£8.50) was a subtle slightly salted twist on the classic, a refined sipping cocktail – one I managed to make last for the entire meal. Saff’s Seven Dials (£8.50) with Amontillado Sherry was equally refined but unlike me, she doesn’t know how to make a drink last.
We decided to divide and conquer, Saff wanted to order from the ever-changing set lunch menu, and I had my eye on a couple of items from the a la carte menu. So to start I went for the Pigeon with beetroot – one of the daily specials. Such a beautifully presented plate, tender pink-in-the middle bird with a lightly charred and salted skin with beetroot four ways (five if you include the smear) – boiled, pickled, puréed and a chutney.
The combinations of gamey meat and acidic, yet sweet, beetroot was a winner, the powdery crumb and the scattering of crushed hazelnuts just upped the wow factor.
Saff’s Ox heart teriyaki, although small in size, packed a mighty punch. Two skewers of rich, dense meat covered in a sticky sweet sauce accompanied by a little pot of egg confit topped with crispy onions.
After such a delicate looking starter, I wanted to give the Josper grill a test drive. So I ordered a prime 250g slab of Black Angus rib-eye steak (£22), cooked medium rare, served with a garlic and parsley butter and a side of Salt Room chips (£3). Pink and tender with marbling and a charred edge – couldn’t fault it.
Saff is more of a fish lover than me (I got a bone stuck in my throat once and I haven’t got over it.) She ordered the Coal roasted red mullet, fennel marmalade, mussels, tamarind, chilli and coconut. The aromatic sauce adding that unmistakable Asian influence whilst not overpowering the fish, a proper winter warmer.
Time for dessert and time for another pretty looking plate of deliciousness. Saff didn’t have the option of her favourite dessert on her set menu, so I ordered the Salt caramel brulee, toffee apple and almond ice cream (£7.50) from the regular menu and I’m so pleased that I did. It was served up with little dots, blobs and balls of colour – it looked like it would be more at home in the Tate Modern.
The compressed apple (the balls) had two distinct and intense flavours, one sour-fresh-off-the-tree and the other cinnamon-sweet-apple pie-esque. The burnt toffee sauce and apple purée (the dots and blobs) added extra depth and texture was provided by the flaked almonds and dehydrated apple crisp. If you really want to indulge, try the Fairground dessert for two to share.
Saff was a little concerned her Chocolate mousse, blackcurrant marshmallow and chocolate ice cream would be a tad average. Never underestimate a chocolate mousse. This was more than worthy of being on the regular menu. Two quenelles of grown up chocolate mousse, tiny scoops of salted chocolate ice-cream, a fresh blackcurrant marshmallow topped with a crunchy brittle. It looked almost as good as it tasted, almost!
Like I said at the start of this post, we were in dire need of being wowed and The Salt Room well and truly did that. This is a restaurant that obviously has skilled chefs with the confidence to do things a little different. Everything from start to finish was superb, the quality of food and the quality of service was near faultless. Thank you so much for reigniting our passion.
106 King’s Rd, Brighton, BN1 2FU
Telephone: 01273 929488
Opening hours: 7 days a week. Lunch – 12-4pm
Dinner 6-10pm (10.30pm Friday & Saturday)
Book a table online
Nearest station: Brighton (15 mins walk)
We ate as guests of The Salt Room, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.