According to Wikipedia, Rye “is a small town in the non-metropolitan county of East Sussex, which stands approximately two miles from the open sea and is at the confluence of three rivers: the Rother, the Tillingham and the Brede.” Alternatively Rye “is a grass grown extensively as a grain, a cover crop and as a forage crop”. Whilst both of these are factually accurate they are not the “Rye” that will be the focus of my column this week.
Rye is a new fine dining pop up concept that is coming to Brighton that puts the diner at the centre of the experience. The people behind Rye want to remain just that, placing the focus firmly on the food. They are passionate about hospitality, sustainability and putting some of the glamour and magic back into the dining experience. They are seeking a permanent residence in the city and will be doing a number of pop ups in the meantime allowing us a sneak peek into what they have to offer.
Their first pop up took place at Beatnik Central in central Brighton. The venue allowed us to be up close and personal with the chefs and interact with them as they took us through the evening. This is something that Rye will be looking to continue throughout their journey.
I arrive 15 minutes before the planned start time and am greeted by the team who had only just arrived themselves – traffic delays had put them severely behind schedule. Despite this set back there was a professional calmness in the room and they immediately focussed on the customers whilst busying themselves getting ready.
The rest of the guests arrive and we set to introductions and pre dinner drinks. This is one of the best things about pop up dining. In no other setting would you introduce yourself to everyone else in the room before eating.
With an eight course menu that reads like something you would expect to find at a Great British Menu banquet, I hope that they can deliver on what the menu promises.
We start with fried goats cheese with walnuts and a beetroot mouse. Despite not having the fryer with them and having to go “old school” with a pan of oil the cheese is not greasy. The tartness is well matched with a surprisingly light and sweet beetroot mousse with the nuts adding texture. It is a gentle and pleasant start to the evening.
The second fried dish (they really needed that fryer) is a crisp egg with shallots, mushroom duxelle and pickled mushrooms. This dish relies on the egg being perfectly poached and I am happy to discover a beautifully runny yolk within. A well balanced and considered dish it combines flavours and textures well and I make short work of it.
We enjoy some wine with the opening courses that they have brought from the vineyard where the Rye pop up idea began. Three Choirs are a Hampshire based vineyard with a second a site in Gloucestershire. I have been developing a taste for the local Sussex wines and it is great to sample some other English wine’s from outside my home county. The English wine scene is really exciting at the moment and I am pleased to report that Three Choirs are not letting the side down.
A very attractive mi-cuit salmon dish with pickled samphire and a refreshing cucumber salsa occupies the fish portion of the meal. I am a big fan of salmon prepared this way as the extremely gentle curing brings out the best in the fish. It is delicate light and summery and a dish that I really enjoy. Some more dishes along these lines and the Rye guys are certainly on to a winner.
The two meat dishes follow with “pressed pig, burnt apple, pickle gel” followed by “whiskey glazed short rib, caramelised corn, smoked beans”. The pork dish is a well presented and centres around a medallion of compressed pork. As with previous dishes there are different textures to keep things interesting although I felt the dish was a little too subtle in terms of flavour.
The short rib does not quite live up to expectations in that I was hoping for a succulent piece of meltingly soft meat. Instead it has been shredded and coated in bread crumb before being fried. As such it doesn’t quite pack the wow factor I was expecting. The accompanying caramelised corn is a different story and delivers a wonderful flavour, I could have eaten a bowl of that on its own.
Dessert is a strawberry, sparkling wine and mascarpone offering. Fresh succulent strawberries are matched with mousses, meringue and crumb. It is like an English summers day on a plate – a proper one I mean – and a delight.
Blue cheese ice cream with sticky red onion divides opinion, unfortunately I fall into the negative camp. Whilst executed perfectly I cannot get on with the ice cream. They give me a slice of blue cheese that has been steeped in port and all is forgiven – it is a hit of pure umami heaven.
Our final course of marmalade marshmallow has suffered following the long journey and hot kitchen so is skipped. I taste what remains and the bitter orange and gooey marshmallow battle for my attention, but in a good way.
As a first run of a pop up, and taking into account the travel issues, Rye put on a really great meal. The menu promised much and despite not quite delivering in all areas the potential was plain to be seen. The space was not ideal but they coped well with this and their focus on the customers was excellent. I very much look forward to seeing what they do in the future as with a bit of extra seasoning and punchier flavours the dishes would have been excellent. Keep any eye out on the Tabl website where their next two pop ups are already listed and for just £36 a head they are phenomenal value.
This review first appeared in the July 8th edition of the Brighton and Hove Independent. I was invited to review as a guest and the meal was complimentary