People often ask me is what my favourite type of food is, and I always give the same answer. With everything from exquisite fine dining through to simple rustic classics, French cuisine is always a winner. Good French restaurants are hard to come by in this country, but Brighton has a new one which is looking to change that.
Petit Pois is based on the small sharing plate dining style, It appears that this is the only way to eat out these days. After perusing the menu online my hopes were high. Snails, frog leg goujons and duck rillettes all appear in the nibbles section, and steak tartare was also on the menu. These dishes would be disappointing if not executed properly. After I discovered that the chef, David Roy, was formerly head chef at Riddle and Finns; everything was looking up.
The diminutive restaurant is tucked away down Ship Street. The restaurant features understated décor, with an open kitchen at one end and an intimate dining space. A large chalk board shows the days charcuterie, cheese and specials. Their set lunch and early evening offer is hard to beat with three plates for a measly £13.50 and should be taken advantage of immediately. As it was the evening I was going a la carte, and dining alone was not an issue as I don’t like sharing anyway.
I kick things off with some snails (or escargot if you will) which you really should try. As far as I am aware this is the only place in Brighton you can get these, and if you love garlic and butter then you are in for a treat. Seriously give them a try, if for the fun extraction utensils alone.
I go for three plates from the menu, which is separated into meat, fish and vegetables. I start with a fish soup which is a steal at £6. This superbly flavoured soup has a depth and richness that instantly gets me hooked. This simple bowl of soup punches well above its weight and I loved every spoonful.
Up next the much-anticipated steak tartare (£9) and artichoke barigoules stew (£7). The tartare meets my expectations with meltingly soft meat and a slightly acidic dressing. The vegetable crisps are a new addition and work surprisingly well. The artichoke barigoule has all the hallmarks of French provincial cooking. A rustic and densely flavoured broth, rich with fennel, coats the savoury-sweet artichoke hearts. It’s a classic style dish that transports me back to childhood holidays.
I sample a little kintoa ham from the Basque region which is a wonderful example of charcuterie at its best, intense in flavour and marbled with gorgeous fat. This is followed by some delightful cheese, including a shockingly indulgent Roquefort and delicate goats cheese called St Maure Touraine. I finish the meal with their café gourmand (£7.50) that includes a trio of dessert tasters. The standout dessert is the pistachio crème brûlée, which is a surprise as I am not a nut fan. Almost marzipan like in texture it is a delight and I eat it wishing I’d gone for the trio of crème brûlée option instead.
I had high hopes for Petit Pois and I left feeling satisfied and with plans to return. This quiet little restaurant may find it hard to attract attention in Brighton’s increasingly competitive dining scene, but I hope it gains the recognition my meal deserves. They serve excellent French cuisine without any of the pomp or pretence that can go with it. Go for the set menu, what have you to lose at that price, and then return for the full menu; you will not be disappointed.
70 Ship St, Brighton BN1 1AE
I was invited to review the restaurant for my column in the Brighton and Hove Independent and the food was complimentary. This has no bearing on the outcome of the review which was, as always, impartial.