For many years the natives of Brighton have been bemoaning the influx of Londoners, pushing up house prices and generally making everything a little more expensive. Others feel that this outside money has been a good thing for the city. There is much to be said for the positives that London money has had on local businesses.
When it comes to our food and drink businesses there is a similarly mixed opinion on the influence of London. Brighton has seen a growth in the number of high quality restaurants in recent years. This has been fantastic for us indulgent types. It has also drawn attention to the city. Alongside the growth of quality independents, we have seen an invasion of larger branded restaurants hitting the city. This is not so good. These tourist fodder eateries serve a purpose but they’re nothing to get excited about.
One of those local independents that has really gone from strength to strength are the duo of The Coal Shed and The Salt Room. In the past few years, these restaurants have become nationally recognised for their superb food offering. Having conquered the Brighton food scene, they recently decided to take the fight to London and give the Big Smoke a taste of its own medicine.
The Coal Shed at One Tower Bridge opened in the latter half of 2017 and is in a modern development just a short walk from London Bridge station. Walking the scenic route, you are treated to fantastic views of the river, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. All nice sights if you are into that sort of thing.
The restaurant is a little hidden away, on a square in amongst some ludicrously over-priced apartments. It is all glass, angles and tasteless shit that people with more money than sense like. This is not The Coal Shed’s fault. I just don’t get why people want to spend so much money living in these tasteless holes.
The restaurant has been bedecked in dark wood, somewhere between a Japanese bar and the wood panelled cabin of a rich merchants ship. It has a nice feel to it. Stylish and yet not over bearing, it is a comfortable place to sit and eat. The large open kitchen dominates one side of the restaurant, but has been tastefully partitioned so that it is not the focal point of the room.
The menu is a bit of an amalgamation of the original Coal Shed and The Salt Room. As such there is a focus on meat and fish cooked over fire on the josper grill. Lots of sharing plates feature, with steaks at different weights and fish on the specials board for people to share. You can also choose from some standard steaks and plates for one should this be more your style.
I had been invited to London with a group of fellow Brighton bloggers. As such we were a large group of 10 people, so it would be interesting to see how they handled the food. Once seated we ordered our starters and tucked into some wine. So far so good.
As we wait some little tasters are presented to the group. Crisp beef tendons with miso mayo are pleasant enough, as are stuffed olives. Admittedly I am not an olive fan. A beef tartare on crisp artichoke skins is flavoursome, if strangely reminiscent of cheese and onion crisps, but the stand out is a bowl of beef chilli. The flavours in this are intense and the meat heavenly. I’d happily have scoffed a bowl of that with a cold beer any day of the week.
From the extensive choice of starters, I am immediately drawn to the veal tartare and the scallops. The veal narrowly edges it, I am in the mood for meat. It is a fine example of this classic dish. Each of the elements has been separated on the plate, requiring some work on my part to combine, with a glorious egg yolk the jewel on the crown. I could have done with a touch more of the meat, it was a little lost in the cacophony of other elements, but the meat I did have was tender and delicious. As tartare goes I was satisfied with my choice
For the mains I was slightly disappointed to be denied the slap up steak meal that I had craved on the way up. Instead we were presented with a variety of sharing plates, including a prime rib steak, alongside monkfish, the “surf board” shellfish platter, curried goat and more sides than a dodecahedron in a hall of mirrors. The table resembled a festive banquet, and once all the photos has been taken, the meal was executed as such.
My plate was awash with an array different fish and meat, making it a little difficult to fully appreciate any single element in its own right. The impressive hunk of monkfish was a standout element. Wonderfully meaty and smoky from the flames. From the shellfish platter I am drawn to the clams which are salty but also have a wonderful charred note. My slice of steak is an attractive burst of vibrant pink with dark caramelised crust. It is tender and juicy, but is gone before I can fully appreciate it.
Of the sides the chips are as they should be and the onions rings particularly memorable. I find the truffle mac n cheese a little too much with the other flavours flying around. I skip the others as I focus on polishing off the mussels that the other have neglected.
For dessert I opt for the custard tart, desiring something simple and comforting. Laura Petersen is the young pastry chef of The Salt Room in Brighton who is attracting many plaudits. The award-winning pastry chef has created the menu and I have high hopes for the final course. Laura does not disappoint. The vanilla custard is creamy and indulgent. A gently brûléed top provides caramel sweetness and the nutmeg ice-cream that necessary depth of flavour. The tart has a modern feel, both in its presentation and execution, but the flavours are classic.
Dinner over we board our train back home and have time to reflect on the meal. I have not visited either The Coal Shed or Salt Room in a little while, and so it was great to get a feel for the food the group is putting out at present. I enjoy that this is unashamedly bold in its focus on the meat and fish. There are delicate touches, but the sight of some charred flesh is enough to get anyone excited. The quality of ingredients and skills in preparing the dishes ensures that this is not just about hunks of protein. Brighton readers can clearly receive the same experience by visiting one of the local restaurants. For those in London wishing to get a taste for what is going on in Brighton, The Coal Shed at One Tower Bridge is a fine example of how far Brighton’s food community has come.
For those wishing to get a further taste of Brighton’s food scene in the capital, The Coal Shed are hosting events featuring some of Brighton’s biggest names. This kicks off with one of the city’s biggest. Michael Bremner of 64 Degrees and Murmur has become a household name thanks to his winning main dish on Great British Menu. He will be cooking a “Brighton Rocks” dinner at The Coal Shed on Friday the 26th January. Michael is one of the brightest stars of British food at present and, having seen the menu, this promises to be a fantastic event. Follow this link for further details and to book your table.
THE COAL SHED
One Tower Bridge
4 Crown Square, London SE1 2SE
T: 020 3384 7272
I was invited to review The Coal Shed and all food was complementary. This had no bearing on the outcome of this review which is, as always, an honest reflection of my experience.