The man behind Etch.
Steven Edwards came to the nations attention when he won Masterchef: The Professionals in 2013, but he was already touted as a future star before then. The Horsham based chef was crowned Sussex Young Chef of the Year in 2010, whilst working under Matt Gillan at the then Michelin starred The Pass at South Lodge hotel. He later took on the head chef role at South Lodge’s second restaurant, The Camellia, before leaving to set up Etch. After 6 years of pop ups, and a somewhat ill-fated collaboration with the Brighton i360, a location was found for Etch. to become a permanent fixture.
Choosing Hove was a bold move, with most of the city’s restaurants located in central Brighton, but one that appears to have paid off. Hove has long been the more grown up area of the city. It has an established food scene of its own, with Etch. joining restaurants such as The Ginger Pig, The Little Fish Market, Fourth and Church and Market at the forefront of the areas movement. For those seeking a slightly more sedate and quality food based weekend away, Hove is certainly a strong option.
What’s it all about then?
Etch. is a modern take on British fine dining. Guests choose between a 5, 7 or 9 course tasting menu which changes each month depending on seasonality and availability of produce. Being a Sussex lad, Steven focusses strongly on produce from the region. Think modern small plates, executed with great skill and a touch of creative flair.
Etch. is a fine place to enjoy a meal. I’ve now dined there on four different occasions and have always felt comfortable and relaxed there. It has plenty of modern detail, from the mildly industrial detailing and bold art on the walls, but this is not over bearing. My only gripe on the evening of this review was the choice of music. My tastes may be a little less mainstream than most, but I felt the pop music choices didn’t quite fit the high end feel of the food and environment.
How was it?
We arrived late on a Thursday evening, and despite it being the first week opening since Christmas, the restaurant was busy and more people arrived throughout. We had a quick peruse of the menu choices and both decided that we would go for the seven course. I opted for the optional wine flight to go with my meal, I like to try different wines with each course.
We kick off the meal with snacks and bread, as is the fashion. The highlight of this section were undoubtedly the deeply indulgent mushroom donuts. Packed with seriously umami greatness, the cheese and chive nibble and even the famous marmite brioche bread. The seaweed butter that accompanied the bread was creamy but I could’ve taken a touch more salt in mine.
Onto the menu now. At Etch. you have to wait to see how each dish is constructed, as they only provide two elements of the dish on the menu. Our first dish of parsley and crème fraiche turned out to be a voluptuous soup. Initially a fairly comfortable start, this came to life when we hit some of the hidden orange segment within. This really lifted the flavours and made things a little more exciting.
Skate with Jerusalem artichokes was a wintery take on a fish dish. Served with scraps and a caper and lemon sauce it was a solid dish. A touch more tartness from the capers and lemon would have really got me excited. Not taking anything away from it, it was still a well-constructed and considered piece of cooking.
Chicken and kale was to follow this. Another dish for a dark and cold evening, in as much as fine dining can muster, we sailed through this one with quiet contentment. The deboned chicken wing was lovely and moist. Slices of pickles hidden amongst the crispy kale gave contrast to the earthy flavours of the dish.
Next up was the most challenging of the courses. Mushroom with chocolate was all that the menu offered, a worry combo. Thankfully this was arguably the highlight of the meal. The simple dish of toasted brioche, topped with cooked and raw mushrooms and a shaving of truffle went superbly with the streak of chocolate on the plate. Bitter chocolate and truffle richness are meant to be, and this dish showed why.
Our second meat course of pork and cabbage may have sounded a little Soviet era Russia, but there was much more to look forward to than in those tough times. An intense croquette using meat from the pig’s head gave great depth to the dish. Creamy cabbage and the sweeter pork meat and crispy crackling added texture, contrast and a great deal to be happy about; unlike Soviet era Russia.
Pre-dessert of white chocolate and pistachio gets me excited about the dessert to come. It is light and refreshing with some lovely flourishes of flavour. This coming from someone who dislike nuts and would never choose any dish with a pistachio element. That is the pleasure of a tasting menu, it can challenge your ideas of what you like and dislike.
A final flourish from Steven and the team came in the form of a divine lemon tart with yoghurt in a variety of forms. As desserts go you cannot argue with the contrast of tart lemon and cooling yoghurt. What really took this to another level was the addition of pine nuts. These earthy and woody jewels took what was essentially a summery dessert and brought it right into the winter season. A great touch and one that I had not come across before.
Why you should go
Etch. came to Brighton under a cloud of much expectation. Steven is a high-profile chef, and he was opening at the same time as some other hotly anticipated restaurants. Steven has stuck to his guns in terms of delivering a fine-dining tasting menu experience; and it works. Not every dish got me excited, but there was plenty to admire. It is rare for every dish to of a tasting menu to blow you away, but what it should do is to take you on a journey and show you what a chef is about. Etch. does this well. I would happily return at another time of year to see Steven’s interpretation of ingredients from different seasons. It is costly in terms of a night out, our menu would have been £60 a head plus drinks, but it is a restaurant for a special occasion for most. I look forward to seeing where Etch. comes in this years Brighton’s Best Restaurants awards and feel that it should happily enter the top ten and worry those toward the business end of the list.
etch. by Steven Edwards
216 Church Road | Hove | BN3 2DJ
t: 01273 227485
I was invited to review Etch, by the restaurant and as such the meal was complimentary. This had no bearing on the outcome of this review which was, as always, honest and impartial.