Isaac At | South Coast Tasting menu
Continuing a short series on Sussex produce, I discover some of Sussex’s best secrets with Isaac At.
In September, Isaac At celebrated one year as a permanent restaurant in Brighton. Founded by four friends, seasonally changing menus are based on the fresh ingredients that are sourced as locally as possible from Sussex and the surrounding areas. I was invited* along to try the South Coast Tasting Menu and wine flight. Let me take you through it.
The evening kicked off with a surprise pre-starter dish of cured mackerel, goosefoot gel, charcoal mayonnaise and lemon thyme leaves on a rye bread croute. Being unfamiliar with a few of these ingredients, I really didn’t know what to expect. The combination was light, fresh and really quite pleasant, paired with a Ridgeview sparkling wine with soft bubbles and notes of elderflower.
Next, an absolute joy to behold: a bread course. Two warm mini loaves, one treacle and stout loaf and a Trenchmore heritage grain brioche. Both divine, but the treacle and stout loaf pipped it for me.
Another dish I couldn’t quite picture from the menu – crab and charred cucumber. Dressed crab meat with charred cucumber, pickled cucumber balls, cucumber ketchup (!) and radish cress. I was really surprised with the fresh and delicate flavours this dish created, and loved the refreshing cucumber ketchup against the soft crab meat. A Davenport paired the crab, its dryness contrasting cleverly against the cucumber.
Moving onto a fish dish, we were served plaice with Desiree garlic mash and parsley infused rapeseed oil. The plaice was absolutely stunning, with a delicate and creamy mouthfeel, whilst the Desiree mashed potato was totally addictive!
Upon reading the menu, I wasn’t sure about this one: aubergine, beetroot and shallot. Not usually a fan of aubergine or beetroot, I recall observing my surprise about this one aloud. Smoky flavours from the caramelised shallot were cut through with the sweet, slightly earthy beetroot variations – and it worked. Alongside this, an Albourne White Pinot Noir, with delicate strawberry notes.
It’s also worth noting the juice pairing for this course (non-alcoholic option): an apple juice made with the apples from Isaac’s Mum’s garden. The perfect secret, because they don’t know what they are!
Hardly surprising for me, but my absolute favourite dish – simply called lamb chump and turnip. The lamb chump was juicy and rich, complemented by fragrant wilted coriander and salt-baked turnip. A Bolney Estate Lychgate red accompanied the lamb, with a velvety body and red berry flavours.
Between the main and dessert came a palate cleansing sorbet: blackcurrant and cucumber. I only wish there had been more, but I suppose it defies the point! The sorbet was both sharp and cooling, a really refreshing combination of flavours.
The final dish of the night was a pretty display of greengage ice cream, date puree, tiny shortcrust biscuits and pink peppercorn meringue. A sweet and juicy little course with a special edition dessert wine, and the biscuits were gorgeous.
Another little surprise came in the form of petit fours and elderberry liqueur. Lemon thyme fudge with a burnt apple puree and an almond sponge with Bramley apple syrup. The fudge was a tiny cube of genius, whilst the almond and apple sponge made me think of the sort of thing I might have baked at my Nan’s as a kid. Against the port-like liqueur, it was an indulgent end to our visit.
A fine dining restaurant yes, but certainly not pretentious; not only are you looked after by every member of the team, each dish and beverage is introduced to you, giving you an insight into the passion and innovation that makes this experience.
It’s not just going for a meal, it’s an evening of entertainment in its own right. Two screens within the tiny restaurant give you a birds-eye view of everything that’s going down in the kitchen, and the constant surprises of dishes and combinations make for a really fun few hours.
*I was invited to Isaac At for a complimentary visit. However, this review is based on my personal experience and reflects my honest opinion.