Well this is a new one. A review on the blog that has not previously appeared in the Brighton Independent. It has been a while, but this will may be the future for now. More on that another time, for now let’s get back to the good stuff; food.
The Set has long been on my must visit list. This, however, is where it has stayed. I have my reasons for this. Their menu and style has not always immediately appealed to me. I like to keep things simple. Good flavours and flawless execution are much more important to me than unusual ingredients and unnecessary clutter. I’ve no time for pointless showmanship. I want to eat food that tastes great. My initial impressions of The Set were that it fell into that category, so it always remained on my list without making the cut.
In recent months there have been some changes going on at chez Set. Dan Kenny is now the sole chef/patron with his colleague Semone Bonner having moved up to the big smoke. This has allowed him to have full control of the menu and style of food. Having met Dan, and tried his food at The Brighton Beer Dispensary under the guise of the Dizzy Gull, I have changed my view of what The Set may be. Last time we spoke he said I should come and check out The Set, so I did.
Many things are the same. There are still three set menus to choose from and the venue looks and feels the same as before. It is a good space and offers diners a view into the kitchen, if you like that sort of thing. It is a pleasant place to eat, although if you are more of a white table cloth and fancy silverware person it will not be for you. The staff are friendly and attentive, doing a professional job but in a relaxed way.
We go for the two meat based set menu’s, the third is vegetarian. As always, we are only allowed a mere snippet of the ingredients each course contains. As we are eating set menus this annoys me less, although I do hope this craze passes soon. I opt for the wine flight as well, I like having a variety of drinks rather than committing to a single wine.
As we await our first course we are provided with the obligatory pre-meal snacks and bread. I look forward to these as they give chefs a chance to be a little playful and creative. A cone of taco cheese and guacamole is delicately crisp and bursting with those nacho topping flavours we love. A watermelon radish parcel with plaice tartare is eye-catching and fresh. The star is a moreish, earthy and comforting chicken nugget with beetroot ketchup. These were washed down with a sweet aperitif of cocchi rosa, soda and lemon which was a pleasant start to the flight.
Course one is a vegetable starter. Yolanda’s “trifle” of carrot and celeriac is a celebration of these sweet and earthy characters. Clean and crisp flavours with a touch of creaminess from the puree all make for a pleasing dish. My chervil, onion and plum dish is an elegant and refined starter. An onion consommé and crisp parsnips add texture. It is a gentle dish. A touch more oomph in the consommé and seasoning would have lifted it to greater heights. The albariño pairing worked for me, a touch of acidity to match the sweetness of the onion.
Fish courses were up next. The haddock looks a treat. Topped with a delightful crab salad and sitting on squash puree and herb oil it tastes of the sea with zesty citrus coming from the crab. I am quite jealous of it. My scallops with parsnip are another elegantly presented plate of food. Scallop and parsnip are a classic combination and the addition of a parsley sauce adds a savoury grassy element. The charred parsnip looks a little imposing but yields sweetness in the mouth. My only gripe would be I felt it needed a little more scallop, but the addition of keta gave a great burst of fishy intensity. This is well matched with a fresh and zesty Macon-Villages with a hint of pine.
Now onto the meaty main event. First up Yolanda’s partridge dish with black pudding, hispi cabbage and quince. We all know that partridge can be a tricky bird as it dries out easily. This had been coated in a toasted quinoa and, whilst it was not dry, it was lovely and succulent in fact, it didn’t quite sing in terms of flavour. The black pudding was fabulous and hispi went down well. We felt this dish would’ve benefitted from a rich sauce, and the plating wasn’t quite up to the standard of the other dishes.
My suckling pig was a different story. The meat was superb. So soft and topped with a delightful crunch of crackling. A scotch egg was also present and correct, and I was very pleased to be served a side dish of sprouts flavoured with mustard and lardo. This all came together very well. My only negatives were a slightly too vinegary walnut ketchup, and a touch more seasoning would have really completed the dish.
The palette cleansing pre-dessert is often a bit of a throwaway dish. At The Set this was not the case. A marshmallow sorbet with sorrel granita was a revelation. It was a totally new experience for me and one that got me excited about the upcoming dessert.
Which brings us nicely onto the finale. Apple, miso and date was placed before Yolanda and looked fabulous. I felt the flavours were lovely and clear, especially in the sorbet, and the brulée apple jelly, for want of a better word, was delicious. My chocolate dessert was a sensation of flavour and texture. Plated beautifully the flavours were clean without being overly sweet. I enjoyed the variety provided by a set mousse, crisp milk foam and a creamy. Little marshmallow like blobs of caramel loveliness added some sugary indulgence. I washed this down with pedro ximenez sherry which I enjoyed greatly.
Eating at The Set was a pleasant experience and I am glad to have finally ticked this off my list. I was impressed with the refined and elegant plates that were presented to us. The food was nothing like I had thought it would be, preconceptions can be a bad thing. Clearly things have been stripped back and there is more of a focus on bold flavours and less complicated creations. This is something that pleased me greatly. The food was not perfect, a couple dishes could have been warmer, but there were plenty of positives. I thought the pastry section did fantastically. My main was near perfect and other courses just needed a tweak to really impress. Service was attentive and friendly, and the food arrived in good time. The Set is certainly up there as one of Brighton’s top dining destinations and on this showing deserves its place among names such as 64 Degrees and Pike and Pine.
33 Regency Square, Brighton BN1 2GG
I was invited to review the restaurant and was not charged for the meal. This did not in any way affect the outcome of the review which was honest and a true reflection of my experience.