I couldn’t think of anything I really wanted nor needed for my birthday this year so I suggested to my husband, Geoff, that we could stay overnight in Hove, near Brighton, as I knew of a fantastic restaurant in the town.
I’d been following Etch. on Instagram for some time and the photos of the dishes look quite amazing and my kind of place.
We booked a night in the Best Western Princes Marine Hotel on Hove seafront, a room with a view and best of all, only a 5 minute walk to/from Etch.
We were greeted as soon as we entered by Steven Edwards, the main man himself. He was the youngest to win MasterChef back in 2013 on the 6th series.
The restaurant has around 12 tables, so it’s fairly intimate and only Steven and the sommelier, Sam Weatherill, who are serving. Half of the tables are in booths against one wall, the rest are tables for two in the centre of the restaurant and a couple toward the main entrance, they also have a private dining room, I believe. Where we were first seated, by a window, was a little draughty. Geoff swapped his seat with me but could then feel the draught himself. We asked to move to one of the centre tables close to the kitchen and as it was mid-week and so as it wasn’t busy, it wasn’t a problem. The kitchen is open and you can watch the chefs cook and prepare the dishes.
The menu changes each month and when we visited, on the 2nd of May, it was still the April menu which suited me as I preferred the sound of the menu – only slightly mind – to the May one.
There are 5, 7 or 9 course tasting menus, depending on the day and time you visit. There’s no à la carte. I like tasting menus because you tend to have things you normally wouldn’t choose. They tend to make you a little more adventurous and brave, especially Geoff anyway. Back last year in Spain we visited Benito Gomez’ one star Michelin restaurant, Bardal in Ronda which was a staggering 21 courses so we knew we’d easily manage 9.
Wine pairing can be added along with the tasting menu for extra ££’s of course. We chose to go for it as I’d found some Christmas money I’d forgotten about at home stashed behind the clock and hadn’t spent it yet. Result!
The sommelier, Sam Weatherill would serve the wine just before each course, giving you an idea of what flavours you may taste, where it was from, country and region etc.,
The food menu didn’t give a full explanation to what you were getting, just a hint (see the photo above). Steven would serve you the dish and then explain it to you.
snacks – mushroom. onion. – After a very nice Etchpresso Martini we were served some little canapés, or snacks. Twineham Grange cheese biscuit, onion cream cheese, chives & onion seeds. Mushroom doughnut, pickled mushrooms, & mushroom powder.
bread – yeast. seaweed – Next was Steven’s signature dish, and one which I was really looking forward to, Marmite brioche with seaweed butter and crispy seaweed. Marmite, love it or hate it, I can guarantee you’d absolutely love this bread. Steven was thinking about removing it from the menu, but everyone loves it and expects it. I for one would most certainly have been disappointed if it hadn’t been on the menu.
vegetable – jersey royal. wild garlic – caviar topped off these tasty little jackets, served with wild garlic soup (garlic which was prolific at that time of year).
fish – hake. artichoke – The hake was one of our favourite dishes, delicately cooked with a crispy skin. Line caught south coast hake, Jerusalem artichoke puree – I love the taste of artichokes – preserved lemon, hake cake and parsley sauce.
poultry – guinea hen. onion. Guinea hen terrine with roasted spring onion, onion mayo, pickled onions and onion crisps.
egg – hen’s egg. asparagus – Slow cooked Copper Maran hen’s egg yolk served with poached Wye Valley asparagus & hollandaise.
It was also asparagus season – I’m not a fan of it, I’ll eat it but wouldn’t buy it or order it. I’m not sure what the hype is about it to be honest. This is Etch’s take on dippy egg & soldiers.
It was beautifully presented – as all the dishes were – with just the yolk. This came with toasted brioche fingers served on a little bed of hay which you could dip into the yolk, like soldiers.
shellfish – razor clam. fennel – Razor clam tortellini with clam chowder, fennel & fennel oil.
Geoff was having just the 7 courses as he wasn’t so sure about the clam and he doesn’t like cheese. The razor clam shell was in fact edible and not a real one. Tiny pieces of the meat was cut up, cooked and replaced into the shell, decorated with bits of dill. I don’t recall what the side bit was with the foam in but do remember it was delicious. Geoff tried a little of the dish and did like it so he would have been fine with it. You see, you think you’re not going to like something and then you’re surprised when you try it and you do.
meat – lamb.broccoli – Very tenderly cooked but not raw or bloody. The knife cut through the meat as if it were butter.
cheese – IOW blue. celeriac
The local blue cheese was from the IOW, closer to my home town in fact than Hove itself. Served with super thin toast and sliced red grapes.
chocolate – caraibe. tea
A deliciously 66% chocolate dessert served with earl grey ice cream. The outer dark chocolate was a milk mouse centre, rich, smooth and creamy.
fruit – rhubarb. sorrel
Another dessert, yippee. This was similar to a set custard tart with poached rhubarb and sorrel ice cream. I first had sorrel three years ago at Amisfield Vineyard in Queenstown, New Zealand – I never did get round to writing that review but it was a lovely meal and I always remember the sorrel, because it was different and something I’d not come across to eat before then. All I knew about sorrel back then was that horses don’t like to eat it.
We ordered coffee and found we were the only ones left, apart from Steven and Sam. Even the chefs had quietly cleaned up, packed away and disappeared.
Coffee came with petit fours! And excellent ones too.
We loved the whole evening, the food, the knowledge of the Sam – and he wasn’t just reeling stuff off from memory, he knew his stuff, we asked him questions about a few things we knew about some wines and regions and not once did he hesitate. The wines were all very good. There wasn’t one we didn’t enjoy.
We were fairly full afterwards but not uncomfortably so.
We would certainly like to return to Etch. and because the menu changes each month it shouldn’t become boring.
Etch. holds a Michelin plate, 5 Good Food Guide and 3 AA Rosettes… so far. It’s also, since we visited, been listed as one of Britain’s top 100 restaurants. Which is pretty good if you think of the amount of restaurants there are nowadays.
Some people spend money going to London to see West End shows, a tasting menu is a little like that, and something which we like to do. Certainly the one in Spain was like a show, Etch. wasn’t quite as formal and it was nice to be able to chat to Steven and Sam about the food and the wine.
Ambience 7 – loses a point for the draught (I wouldn’t have been best pleased spending that kind of money had we not been able to change tables).
Quality – 8
Service – 9
Value – 7
Live life, love ‘tasting menus’!