If your eldest daughter has got herself a job in one of the best and more interesting places to eat in Brighton then it is only right that the rest of the family should get itself on a train on Friday evening and make its way down there to have a taste and see what the food might be like.
We got there late on Friday evening and some of had to reacquaint ourselves with student living. The downside was having to negotiate a collapsed loo seat that was a moveable feast in itself. The plus side being an opportunity to slip into a pub well after closing time for a quick couple of pints.
The meal was booked for Saturday evening 7.00pm sharp at Isaac At. I can probably do no better than lift a few words from their website and let Isaac say a little on what they are about.
“Hi, my name is Isaac. Food is my passion, and I have been cooking for as long as I can remember. I have been a professional chef for seven years now. Isaac At is my new restaurant, but it is more than just a restaurant – it is a food event and dining experience taking place in our permanent premises at 2 Gloucester Street every Friday and Saturday evening.”
There were four of the family eating in a full room that took about thirty covers. The fifth member of the family was standing in a clean white shirt, arms behind her back ready to do service.
Each place was set with sufficient knives and forks to do justice to the seven course we were about to eat. The set menu was rolled up with twine together with a detailed note telling us just how far our food had travelled before ending up in the kitchen and then on our plate.
The furthest travelled were the celeriac and parsnips which had come all the way from Petersborough. The closest to home were rock samphire, samphire, sea aster, sea purslane and elderflower which had all been found in Brighton.
The kitchen was barely big enough to contain the three or four cooks. I had a prime seat watching them slide past each other as the food was got ready.
As each dish was ready the plates were lined up on the serving counter and given a final wipe down. A glass was then tapped and we were given a short briefing on what it was we were about to eat and then the food was brought to our table and we tucked in.
As the evening went on the room got noisier and there were bouts of applause as the plates were brought round.
We ate sparking strawberries and bread made with beer, beef shortrib and creamed horseradish and cured mackerel with cucumber three ways.
The mackerel was a mystery. When we have it out of the sea in Ahakista it comes apart in flakes of grey flesh and is full of robust flavours. The cure had smoothed away some of that robustness and the texture was almost like mackerel pate. It could have ended up tasting of mackerel that had been left a few too many days before being cooked (cardboard in the mouth) but it worked and our plates came out clean.
We finished with a deconstructed rhubarb crumble, the constituent parts spread across the plate to be put together again in the spoon.
We stumbled replete into the night and some of us found our way into a pub where men of a certain age were playing what must have been a fortunes worth of old seven inch singles. The sort of music that gets put on a particularly good Soul Jazz compilation.
After the pub some of us went to bed and others went off to find more pubs where I bet the music was not as good.