The Salt Room – new tasting menu and prize draw
Check out what Muddy thought of the new spring tasting menu at this top Brighton seafood restaurant and be in with a chance of winning a £150 voucher to dine there!
Brighton’s much lauded seafront restaurant The Salt Room has a new five-course tasting menu for spring. Valiantly I went along to try it out, and you have a chance to do the same with our Reader Treats prize draw for a £150 dining voucher! (See end).
First impressions of the Salt Room are that it’s rather understated with a bistro-style look, all hard edges and slightly industrial chic, though the banquettes in the lower section (in my favourite colour, teal) have a more loungey feel. There’s also a curtained off area for private hire.
You can opt for a table on the terrace in warmer months and you’re across the road from the sea. There’s an open kitchen so from some vantage points you can see the chefs hard at work. The bar is the best place from which to see the kitchen and is a cool place to perch rather than lounge on high stools before or after you meal.
On the week day night we visited, close to Valentine’s Day, there was a mixture of people on dates and small groups of corporate diners from the hotel (the Salt Room sits in the bottom of the Hilton Metropole).
The tasting menu, for £40, comprises two set dishes (marked with an asterisk) from the regular menu’s starters, two from the mains and one dessert.
The first course was octopus. Not something I often order as, though I love squid, I find its cousin often like chewing rubber bands. Not so in the expert hands of the Salt Room – it was tender and added a wonderful texture to the dish combined with white beans, seaweed, gremolata (an Italian herb sauce) and bacon (which the kitchen can withhold on request). The taste is something like a French cassoulet.
Next up, monkfish – a favourite of mine I don’t see on menus this way nearly enough having gorged on it when I lived a couple of years in Devon. I’d never had it like this though before, finely sliced to create a delicate platter with almonds and grapes again providing contrasting textures.
A wonderful, richly flavoursome Sussex stone bass dish followed, with kelp, roast onion, smoked garlic and preserved lemon, it proved my favourite of the meal.
On the regular tasting menu you would have lamb at this point with black garlic, courgettes, basil and (intriguing combination) anchovy. My husband and I not being red meat eaters, the kitchen happily swapped us to halibut with miso, caramelised cauliflower, king oyster mushrooms and mussels.
This proved to be a great choice. We particularly loved the perfectly al dente cauliflower and, again, the great contrast of textures and flavours.
Our waiter told us that from the full menu, the salt baked bream proves a customer favourite. He was very knowledgeable and able to chat to us about the ingredients, the chef’s preparations, the professional barbecue grill the kitchen uses and the wine. He was also good at pacing the meal, suggesting a breather before dessert.
As we sipped our wine, beside us a couple were tackling the Salt Room’s justly famous Taste of the Pier sharing dessert with edible pebbles, scaled down ice-cream cornets and two full sized candy floss stuck in the ends!
Our own set menu option involved less of a sugar high. Described as a ‘warm chocolate mousse’ it actually turned out to be a rather wonderful giant profiterole with decorative confit orange topping and a gorgeous praline mousse and tonka bean ice-cream filling.
The £40 tasting menu works out good value when you consider the five courses separately would cost £68 and the portions are larger than your average ‘small plates’ style dining.
With fish mains hovering around £18 – £22, meat £21 – £28 and most starters and desserts upwards of £8 I’ve personally considered the Salt Room as a special occasion restaurant but there are several other ways to bring it into the range of a more regular treat.
The Weekday Set menu (Mon – Fri 12.00 – 16.00; Mon – Thurs 18.00 – 19.00) has two courses for £17.50, three for £20. On Mondays, there’s a BYO offer (£5 corkage) or £10 off selected wines from the menu. On Tuesdays you pay ‘butcher/fisherman price’ on the whole fish and aged beef steak and on Wednesdays there’s a tempting luxe-for-less option of half a dozen oysters and a glass for champagne for £20. On Sundays there’s a sharing roast (£40) and children under seven eat free before 19.00.
Having the tasting menu proved to be a much more interesting experience than when I’d picked off menu for myself on a previous visit and I felt there was something of an element of anticipation as, though I knew roughly what was coming, I hadn’t poured over the menu in the way I would when choosing for myself. Every dish was of a high standard and together they had been well thought out to provide some pleasing contrasts.
Non fish options
Though this is primarily a fish restaurant the meat dishes on the menu are no afterthought, being prepared in the same way as at The Salt Room’s carnivorous sister restaurant The Coal Shed. Vegetarians also get a couple of more interesting than usual options which currently include potato and poacher dumplings with BBQ hispi, spelt, sunflower pesto and smoked butter.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: The tasting menu is perfect for specials occasions, dates and treating yourself and, of course, seafood lovers. There are other ways to get this high quality food at decent prices if you keep tabs on the set menus and other deals. The Salt Room is also a good spot for impressing work clients. The Taste of the Pier dessert is a showstopper. Afternoon teas are also available.
Not so good for: This is delicate rather than hearty food and carb lovers will want to order bread on the side. The décor is not as showy as the food so it’s not the place for the full white tablecloth experience. It’s not a natural place to bring children except for the Sunday roast deal.
££:Vegetarian mains from £14, others from £18. Set menus available – see above.
*** WIN a £150 voucher to spend at the Salt Room! ***
To enter our Reader Treats prize draw follow this link. Closing date midnight Sun 7 April.
The Salt Room, 106 King’s Road, Brighton, BN1 2FU, 01273 929488, www.saltroom-restaurant.co.uk