Yeah you heard it right a second restaurant review in one week, we’ve been treating ourselves….or have we. Read on and find out.
The Salt Room in Brighton (http://www.saltroom-restaurant.co.uk/) is a new restaurant having opened in February 2015 at a fantastic spot on Brighton seafront. Offering idyllic views of the sea and West Pier, although obstructed currently due to a pointless new seafront attraction being built, The Salt Room promises a memorable and special dining experience. It has an excellent pedigree in that it is headed by the same people behind the award winning Coal Shed steak house and grill. This is their seafood offering, although steaks are still on offer, and so has a lot to live up to. Having eaten at The Coal Shed in February and being very impressed by their food we were very much looking forward to seeing what The Salt Room had to offer. With all the signs pointing in the right direction we booked a table for Sunday evening and entered with high hopes.
The decor and atmosphere on offer are that of a modern and confident restaurant without being overly pretentious. Not too cluttered with a fairly minimal decor and lots of exposed brick it feels relaxed but in a classy way. The staff were friendly and attentive and the other diners were a mix of groups and couples with a few people enjoying cocktails at the bar. I felt happy with the atmosphere however felt a little let down by the plastic fake marble table tops. This is by no means a cheap restaurant to eat in so they should have either spent the money on proper marble or gone with something else. The seats we had were along a back wall so Yolanda was facing the wall; but we booked late and did not specify a table so cannot complain.
Before I begin on the food I have to say that I was not overly impressed by the menu when I looked online. It was not that it was bad, far from it. The way the dishes are explained has been done in such a way that it is hard to visualise the finished plate and so fails to excite the senses. I did not let that deter me but it definitely affected my mindset.
So after much deliberation we decided on our starters. Yolanda ordered the seared tuna with tartare, watermelon and pickled radish and I went for the pigeon with broad beans, truffle, wild rice, leek and hazelnut. It was only then that I realised we ordered the same starters as our visit to The Ginger Pig! Good for comparison purposes at least.
When the food arrived there was a mix of emotions. Visually both dishes were very pleasing to the eye with lots of vibrant and fresh colours. My pigeon was well cooked with a nice pink colour and there were two good sized portions of meat. There was a pleasant sweetness coming from the broad beans and leeks and these were the pervading flavours. The pigeon was a little lacking and maybe needed more seasoning and the other elements did not cry out for attention. There was a sauce served with this but it was quite watery so did not add much.
Yolanda’s tuna was lovely and fresh and very lightly seared which was great, it was however lacking in size. The tuna with the sesame was a great combination and the pickled radish adding a vibrancy. There were so little of the other elements of the dish that it was difficult for them to make an impact beyond the visual.
A bit of a mixed bag with the starters. They looked appealing and had some good flavour combinations and textures. A few of the elements were lacking a real strength of character and for my tastes they were a little too subtle. Not disappointing but not as good as expected either. Lets hope the mains have more to offer.
For the main event I picked the stone bass with Iberico ham, artichoke, clams and Spanish rice and Yolanda had the half lobster from the grill with chips and a salad. To drink we ordered a carafe of the Urra Di Mare, Sauvignon. I was not sure what to expect with my main and when it arrived it looked interesting. I was however slightly put off by the rice being served separately in a little saucepan. This sort of thing annoys me as it seems a bit of a cop out in terms of presentation, put the food on the plate if it is meant to be there. The plate looked a little sparse and there were a few small blobs of sauce to sample. The first few mouthfuls offered up a very nicely cooked piece of fish which was moist with a crisp skin. The small blobs of sauce were fruity and refreshing however lasted only a few helpings. The artichoke was nicely charred and tender as you would hope. The Iberico ham was located within the rice and added a great flavour and texture to a disappointingly tasteless rice. I was hoping for those fantastic flavours of saffron and paprika but they were lacking. The clams were nice and salty although I felt that the pickled offerings overpowered the subtle flavours of the rest of the dish.
Yolanda’s lobster arrived with the great visual effect that only the king of shellfish can bring. Great charred lines across the shell promised a combination of sweet lobster meat and smokey BBQ style flavours. This was served with some light crispy chips and a pot of garlic and parsley butter. This is a dish that is a joy to behold and one that most people would relish. This was true of The Salt Room’s offering and Yolanda happily crunched, cracked and dipped her way through it. Does this mean that theirs was exceptional or just that it is an exceptional dish no matter where you get it. I am inclined to the latter. So those were the mains, again I came away feeling like something was missing. It was by no means unpleasant but didn’t get me going either. One highlight was the wine that I really did enjoy and wished I went for a bottle rather than a carafe.
Without any of the deserts appealing to me I went for an espresso martini to finish that was really rather good. Made with actual coffee rather than a coffee liqueur it had a really enjoyable bitterness to it that went down well. Yolanda had the dark chocolate ganache with cherry sorbet and pistachio sponge which looked impressive and delivered on the main elements. Dark chocolate and cherry combine fantastically and the ganache was smooth and luxurious. A nice dessert that was not overly sweet.
Well what can I say. Throughout the meal there was one word that kept springing to mind, underwhelming. This is how I felt throughout and definitely afterwards as we drove home. This is a restaurant that we were both looking forward to going to and maybe that was partly why we felt so flat afterwards, were our expectations too high? I don’t think so. The meal cost over £100 for the two of us and this is a considerable amount of money. As such The Salt Room sets an expectation that it doesn’t quite deliver on based on this showing. The portion sizes were a little too small, flavours a little lacking and menu just not exciting enough. It is not a bad restaurant by any means and I am sure that many will really enjoy it; but I expected a lot more. All in all I feel that it was somewhat average and so score The Salt Room an underwhelming 5 out of 10