If The Salt Room gave us a superb dinner last Sunday, our first meal in Brighton during this particular tour of duty had come 24 hours earlier at Al Fresco.
The menu at this Brighton legend has been modernised and lightened, which is all to the good, and while not without flaws – including, but not limited to, my bugbear of OTT portion sizes – they gained our custom essentially because of rudeness elsewhere.
Having only just arrived and got organised, we’d thought to go and have fish and chips on the prom. Now The Regency may be another local legend, but that’s primarily because it’s not as bad as most excuses for fish and chips that are served on England’s south coast.
It simply cannot compare with what we ate in Scarborough in 2001 or even the German ode to “a great British tradition” that we consumed with relish in Travemünde in 2014, yet it clearly suffers from a vast dose of arrogance.
On Saturday, it was rammed, so we asked the maître d’ if he had space.
Clearly channelling the rudest French waiter stereotype that he could muster, he enquired whether we had a reservation (who books for a chippy?) then scoffed and pointed us to a large queue outside a side door where “the naughty boys” had to wait.
Suffice it to say, he didn’t see a penny of our money during the week.
|Ice cream and sorbet|
But thankfully, we managed to wrench ourselves east of West Street, taking us beyond our usual patch and his rudeness.
On Monday night, on the back of a colleague’s recommendation, we booked for Petit Pois on Ship Street, a new French tapas eatery that had only been open for eight days.
We picked a selection of dishes between the two of us.
To a bowl of olives and a plate of bread and very nice butter, with tapenade and aîoli, we added salt cod fritters with a spicy sauce; frogs’ leg goujons with a garlic and parsley butter; chips and a béarnaise sauce; duck breast with celeriac dauphinoise, and little stuffed vegetables with a tomato sauce.
The frog was superb – delicate and so moist. If you haven’t eaten frog, the taste is as little like a sort of gamey chicken.
The salt cod fritters were also excellent – light and moist.
The courgettes, peppers and small onions, stuffed with a delicate mushroom and herb mixture, were superb.
The duck breast was lovely – properly pink with delightfully crisp skin – while the celeriac dauphinoise was quite simply divine.
The Other Half finished with a café gourmand; I opted for a combination of vanilla ice cream with blood orange sorbet.
Oh, this was very good indeed.
The cooking is excellent; the ingredients fresh and of high quality.
There is a nice wine list – no telephone directory, but some very good and interesting choices.
Service is friendly and knowledgeable; décor is simple, modern and clean, yet warm and very pleasant.
So much was this all the case that, on Thursday evening, wandering along the seafront in the duck, in search of food after a reception, we suddenly thought: ‘why eat something for the sake of it down here when we could nip up the steps and go back to Petit Pois if it’s open?’
We did – it was open and we enjoyed it every bit as much the second time around.
We partook once more of those very good salt cod fritters, also opting for excellent snails that were far more than an excuse to consume copious amounts of butter, garlic and parsley.
Then there was a halibut dish that came with potato duchesse, broccoli stems and a seaweed hollandaise.
A tarte fine of tomatoes, courgette, aubergine and rocket gave us a very pleasant side of vegetable and we welcomed more of the bread.
I finished with a trio of crèmes brulées – that’s right: three delightful mini brulées – and mini, mini madeleines, while The Other Half had a tarte tatin.
Petit Pois is very new, but goodness, it’s also very good and is, unsurprisingly, already picking up a very good buzz.
On the basis of this visit, it deserves to become another Brighton legend.
And finding a new – and not just to me – eatery of such quality in Brighton gives me renewed hope in the state of British food.
Petit Pois is also open for lunch, from noon until 3pm, with the lunchtime set menu costing £9.50 for two courses and £13.50 for three.